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It’s time to give Wandy Peralta his flowers

Wandy Peralta has been a great find for the Yankees, and he deserves some praise.

MLB: ALDS-Cleveland Guardians at New York Yankees Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Every so often, the Yankees make a trade that elicits one of two responses:

(1) Huh?
(2) Who?

An example of the first response would be the Jordan Montgomery-for-Harrison Bader deadline deal (though it has made more sense in recent days), or even the offseason move that saw Gary Sánchez and Gio Urshela dealt for Josh Donaldson and Isiah Kiner-Falefa. The second would be a deal like prospects-for-Clay Holmes, where a couple lower-tier names are moved for some guy you’ve never heard of, but who turns out to be a huge factor almost immediately for the team.

In the past couple years, though, there's been one deal that elicited both of those responses simultaneously: The deal that brought Wandy Peralta to New York.

At the time of the trade, Peralta was pitching to a fairly solid 3.29 ERA and 3.89 FIP with the Giants. For his career, though, he had pitched to a 5.00 ERA and 5.03 FIP with the Reds and a 3.70 ERA and 4.16 FIP with the Giants respectively. Since coming over to New York, Wandy has done nothing but shove. In 102 games in pinstripes, Wandy has pitched to a 2.82 ERA and 3.52 FIP en route to becoming one of Aaron Boone’s most trusted bullpen arms.

So how’d we go from amateur free agent to career subpar reliever to one of the most trusted relievers on a team with World Series aspirations? Let’s recap.

In August 2009, the 18-year-old Peralta signed with the Reds as an amateur free agent out of the Dominican Republic. He was never considered a top prospect, but he made his way to The Show anyway in September 2016. It was an underwhelming debut, as Peralta posted an 8.59 ERA and 6.83 FIP over just 7.1 innings. He stuck it out with the Reds for two more subpar years before being claimed off waivers by the Giants late in 2019. In very limited action across 2019-20, he posted a respectable 3.27 ERA in 33 combined innings. In 2021, though, he got off to an unpleasant start, posting a 5.40 ERA in 8.1 innings (insert disclaimer about small sample sizes here). Still, there was no indication that he was going anywhere.

On April 27, 2021, just three weeks into the young season, the Yankees swung a trade with the Giants that saw backup outfielder Mike Tauchman shipped off to San Francisco for Peralta straight up. Even YES Network announcers were a bit taken aback.

In some regards, the trade kind of made sense, despite Tauchman buying himself some fans after a strong 2019 campaign with the club. Entering the 2021 season, Tauchman’s roster spot was by no means guaranteed — the outfield already featured Aaron Judge, Aaron Hicks, Jackson (née Clint) Frazier, and Brett Gardner, after all, and he was out of options — and Peralta had a minor league option to play with. But it came as a bit of a surprise when Tauchman was dealt so early in the season for a reliever with not-so-great career numbers (hence the “Huh?” reaction) who most people had never heard of before (hence the “Who?” reaction) despite being just one shortened season removed from posting some very good numbers.

Needless to say, this trade was the focus of some ire online, with some folks thinking the Yankees could get more for Tauchman. Admittedly, I had literally never heard of Wandy Peralta before, and I remember jumping over to his Baseball Savant page and thinking “Eh, okay.”

I’m happy to report that I was very wrong about Wandy. As I noted above, he’s done nothing but pitch well for the Yankees since coming to the Bronx. He’s been on the mound for some massive moments, like when he used nothing but changeups to out-duel one of the best hitters in the league with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth in a one-run game, or when he made a great play in a threatening late scenario during a pennant-stretch showdown against the Red Sox. Oh, and he also makes some of the funniest plays you will ever see on the baseball diamond.

Since coming to New York, Peralta has drastically changed his pitch mix, noticeably increasing his change up and sinker usage while decreasing his slider usage. These alterations have led to increased groundball, chase, and whiff rates, and his changeup has actually developed into a well-above-average pitch over the last two seasons.

This season in particular, Wandy has been great. In 56.1 innings pitched — just shy of his career high of 64.2 set in 2017 with the Reds — he has pitched to a 2.72 ERA and 2.86 FIP with a 21.1 percent strikeout rate and a career low 7.6 percent walk rate. He dealt with a bit of an injury late in the season, but his appearance against the Cleveland Guardians on Tuesday night certainly made it seem like he hasn’t missed a step. I’m not the only PSA writer who was impressed with him, either.

As we prepare to get up to our knees in postseason coverage — and after a sparkling inning of work on Tuesday night that, for me, came to really underpin just how good he’s been this year — I think it’s high time we gave Wandy Peralta his flowers. He has transformed himself from amateur free agent into one of the most trusted arms in the Yankees bullpen, and he is set up to be one of the most important pieces on a World Series contender.