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Yankees keep the seat warm with Andrew Heaney

With the clock running down, the Yankees brought in a placeholder for their recovering hurlers, and seemingly nothing more.

Los Angeles Angels v New York Yankees Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

After making a pair of big splashes for Joey Gallo and Anthony Rizzo, the Yankees turned their attention to pitching. Most rumors had them focused on both starters and relievers, and some smoke emerged out of the Jose Berrios camp. Ultimately, though, the team decided to just move the ball forward. They acquired left-hander Andrew Heaney from the Angels, in an effort to keep the seat warm for their injured, better hurlers.

The topline stats do not paint a pretty picture for the 30-year-old. Heaney owns a 5.27 ERA for the year, good for an 88 ERA+. His respective career marks sit at 4.57 and 94. Those figures scream “serviceable fifth starter” and nothing more.

And that might be exactly what the Yankees are looking for here. Heaney is a pure rental, and he cost the Yankees just one of their top-30 prospects, right-hander Janson Junk, who slotted in at number 27 ahead of the trade per MLB Pipeline. It appears the Yankees just wanted someone even vaguely competent who could eat enough innings while their “real” trade deadline pitching additions recover.

Those recovering pitchers, of course, are Luis Severino and Corey Kluber. Should both, or perhaps even one, come back healthy and effective, Heaney’s role with the club will be of little consequence. In essence, the Yankees really may just want Heaney to take the ball a handful of times in August and not blow things up.

What are the odds he can manage that? Heaney’s 2021 ERA obviously offers an unappealing answer, but to his credit, he does flash at least a couple of intriguing signs in his profile. Most simply, he has a 10.8 K/9 rate on the year, and has struck out more than a batter per inning for his career. Both his fastball and curve rate very well in terms of spin per Statcast, and he’s never had much trouble generating whiffs.

The trouble comes when hitters make contact, as Heaney has always had a propensity for yielding hard batted balls and dingers. Heaney also has a limited repertoire; he possesses a four-seamer, curveball, and changeup, but the latter has posted extremely inconsistent results over the years. Heaney really only has his heater, which generally sits in the lower 90s, and his curve to truly rely on.

From that perspective, maybe the Yankees’ best hope is to get creative with Heaney. With his aforementioned high-spin curve and heater, Heaney could be better served in more of a hybrid role in which curtails his poor offspeed and relies on his best two pitches. Such an arsenal would make him a bad choice to turn lineups over three times. But as a sort of multi-inning reliever/piggyback starter? Heaney’s riding fastball and tricky curve could give opposing batters a different look from some of the Yankees’ harder throwers, and cutting the fat off his repertoire and just using his best offerings in shorter stints would hopefully help Heaney get his stuff to play up.

At the end of the day, it’s most likely the Yankees ask Heaney to eat some innings as best he can while they hope that their best pitchers get healthy in time for a playoff run. The team gave up little to bring him in, and getting just one more live arm on the staff makes the team a little bit better than it was yesterday. And if they’re so inclined, there could be room for the club to get creative, to wring something interesting out of Heaney as the season heads down the stretch run. Time will tell how Aaron Boone and his staff see fit to deploy their newest lefty.