Even before Friday night’s season-ending injury to Michael King, the Yankees probably would’ve considered some sort of deal for a bullpen arm, for the simple reason that you can pretty much never have enough pieces in the bullpen. After Friday, though, getting another bullpen arm is now a bit of a priority, as King’s absence leaves a pretty big hole in the Yankees’ bullpen.
Although the Yankees still have good pitchers in the bullpen, the bridge to Clay Holmes is now a potential issue full of “buts.” The likes of Wandy Peralta and Lucas Luetge are both pretty good, but not as consistent as you’d hope for the second-best member of the bullpen. Ron Marinaccio has shown pretty good potential, but he’s just returned from the IL and has fewer than 20 big league innings under his belt. Jonathan Loáisiga could be a good setup man, but he’s missed time with injury and hasn’t gotten close to back to 2021 form yet. Aroldis Chapman is borderline unusable in important situations, no buts about it. Zack Britton could be back late in the season, but you can’t Sharpie him into important innings considering that he’ll be coming back from Tommy John surgery.
As good as Holmes is, you probably can’t have him getting multi-inning saves all throughout the rest of the season and the postseason. The Yankees probably need someone. The good news for the Yankees is that there will be some solid options out on the trade market, should they choose to try that. Should Daniel Bard be a name they consider?
One of the best stories in baseball in recent seasons, Bard has been a borderline All-Star closer for the Rockies this season. A 2006 first-round pick by the Red Sox, he became a top prospect for them before making his debut in 2009. Over the next three seasons, he became an extremely reliable bullpen option for Boston, putting up a 154 ERA+ from 2009-11. Before 2012, the Red Sox attempted to stretch him out and turn him into a starter, which he had been in college at the University of North Carolina.
That gambit did not work out. Through 10 starts, Bard had a 5.24 ERA, which saw him get demoted to the minors. A return to the bullpen later that season did not work out either, and after further struggles to start 2013, Boston ended up DFAing him. The next couple years became a journey as he went from organization to organization, completely unable to get back on track and any level of the minors leagues as he dealt with the dreaded “yips.” After several years and several seasons of MiLB ERAs over 10, he retired after 2017, taking a job in the Diamondbacks’ organization. It was there that after playing catch with players that he began to feel comfortable again.
After a couple seasons in that job, Bard eventually decided to make a comeback. A February 2020 throwing session for scouts led to a minor league deal with the Rockies, for whom Bard has now spent the last three seasons. He won NL Comeback Player of the Year in 2020, but he’s truly broken through this year, putting up a 1.96 ERA in 36.2 innings.
Bard has done all that while also remaking himself, even from 2020.
After being a fastball-dominant pitcher — especially so early in the first part of his career — Bard has used a sinker more in 2022, with hitters slugging just .259 against the pitch. Meanwhile, he’s generated 28 K’s with his slider, helping him strike out 28.7 percent of all opposing batters as a whole (with a 10.6 K/9). Bard has also given up just 3 home runs in 36.2 innings, all while playing his home games in Colorado. That’s no easy feat.
As for the potential trade cost, Bard is set to be a free agent after the season. The Rockies’ front office bizarrely chose not to deal similarly pending free agents Trevor Story or Jon Gray at last year’s deadline, so there are no guarantees that Bard would be dealt this go-around, but it’s undoubtedly in the organization’s best interest. It’s hard to imagine a trade for him costing a king’s ransom, even though other teams will be intrigued by both his talent and relative minimal cost.
Although there are other bullpen options out there and maybe some arms that the Yankees might prefer more, it wouldn’t hurt to kick the tires on Daniel Bard.