Building a bullpen for a contending team is always a constant process, and the Yankees have shown a willingness to be aggressive in adding to their relief corps both midseason and in the offseason. They have found a solid level of success developing relatively unknown names, as well as going out and exchanging legitimate prospects for big league talent.
At this past deadline, Cashman went out and acquired a struggling Lou Trivino, and with the help of Matt Blake, turned his season around. He also coughed up a very promising arm in Hayden Wesneski to acquire Scott Effross. Trivino became a trusted member of the pen, and Effross, though is time with the Yankees has been derailed by injuries, showed lots of upside in his brief stint with the New York.
Players like these two demonstrate just how volatile year-to-year production from relievers can be, a sentiment that leads many to argue that you shouldn’t give all that much up in exchange for relievers. Teams can find diamonds in the rough in their own building and externally and try and develop them.
However, when running a ball club, one must leave room to be flexible. Everything is on the table, if the situation ultimately makes sense. The Pittsburgh Pirates have a high-leverage arm who sits in the upper echelon of his position and would elevate this Yankees’ bullpen to a whole new level, and his name is David Bednar.
Bednar has been the topic of trade rumors for a while now as the Pirates are in the middle of a long rebuild and their window of contention doesn’t exactly look near. That means a reliever like Bednar — one with multiple years of team control — would and should be available.
Since joining the Pirates, Bednar has a 32.7 strikeout rate, and an opponent's OPS of .597, over 112.1 innings pitched. His effectiveness and general skill set have been well-established by Pinstripe Alley’s own, Sam Chapman, who did a piece covering him at the deadline. Long story short, Bednar can sit around 96-97 mph on his fastball, and comes armed with two devastating secondary pitches, a curveball and a splitter that each generate heaps of swings and misses from opposing hitters.
It speaks volume about the talent of Bednar that even in a talented pen such as the Yankees have, he could easily come in as the lead dog in the unit and could fill the role of closer. Bednar also has a proven ability to go multiple innings, particularly in the postseason, if needed, taking some pressure off players like Wandy Peralta, and Clay Holmes in particular.
Any trade to acquire him would likely mean a significant blow to the Yankees’ farm system. Bednar won’t even hit arbitration until after next season, and has four more years until he can reach free agency. No, relievers don’t fetch as much as stud starters and batters on the trade market, but any quality player with so much distance between themselves and free agency will require a significant prospect package. It’s a package the Yankees can compile, but it’s worth questioning whether they’re better off using prospects such as Oswald Peraza or Jasson Domínguez in deals for different players, or simply letting someone like Peraza play at the big league level right now.
That said, the Yankees aren’t likely to go out in the trade market for a starter with the trio of Cole, Severino, and Cortes coming back to lead this rotation, and the trade market for quality position players doesn’t appear very robust this winter. If there’s a trade to be made to improve this team, it could very well be a trade for a reliever. Bednar would be at the top of the wishlist in that department. It would cost a lot, but there aren’t many other plausible relief targets that could make the same impact as Bednar.