Assuming Nestor Cortes’ hamstring heals up as expected, the Yankees will enter play next month with one of the highest-ceiling rotations in recent memory. Gerrit Cole and Carlos Rodón are good bets to ultimately finish 2023 with Cy Young votes, Cortes actually finished ahead of Cole in last year’s voting, and fans all know the potential in Luis Severino’s right arm.
That ceiling comes with some downside risk, however — Cole is as close to a workhorse as there is in baseball today, but with Frankie Montas out for most of the season and question marks around how many innings Rodón and Sevy can provide, there’s a chance that the depth could be tested by the time the dog days roll around. Fortunately, there’s a trio of arms in the vaunted Yankee bullpen that can hedge some of that downside risk, with Michael King, Wandy Peralta, and Ron Marinaccio all providing an opportunity for the most optimal use of the club’s starting pitchers.
King was well-known for pitching more than three outs in his breakout 2022 campaign, with more than half his appearances seeing him retire at least four batters. The other two relievers were called upon to work more than a single inning 31 percent of the time in the regular season. MLB-wide, just 23 percent of relief outings were for more than three outs, giving the Yankees not just depth to the bullpen but a plethora of options.
This really epitomizes what’s been discussed around baseball for the better part of a decade now — that relievers will be deployed with more creativity and fewer constraints, capable of retiring both lefties and righties while working more than just their assigned inning. Quietly, the Yankees have begun to proliferate that ability throughout their relief corps, and not only does it increase the danger the position group poses to opponents, it boosts the output that we can expect from the rotation.
Every single Yankee fan should be excited for what Carlos Rodón brings to the team, but it’s impossible to get around the fact that he threw more innings in 2022 than in the previous three seasons combined. That’s why, despite his sky-high talent, he fell short of that $30 million per year tag in free agency — the injury risk is priced in. One of the ways to mitigate that kind of risk is, when the Yankees play seven games against the Nationals and Tigers in mid-August, you plan ahead and conserve Rodón’s work against teams that will be less than competitive. How do you pick up the slack? By having King, Peralta, or Marinaccio go six outs.
This same concept applies to Severino and Cortes, who are exactly like Rodón: all the talent in the world but legitimate worries about how much work they can bear in a 162 game season. Not only does the length and flexibility of the trio of Yankee relievers give the club options to decrease some of those worries, but if there is a worst-case scenario and one of those starters goes down, the ability to work more than an inning also makes it easier for those three to help pick up the injured slack.
Jonathan Loáisiga and Clay Holmes will likely stay in some combination of the setup and closer roles, and while neither of them have shown the propensity for multi-inning work (20 percent for both guys) that Ron, Mike, and Wandy have, they can be counted on to lock down the end of the game. Having that taken care of opens up so many options for the most creative and devastating deployments of three guys who can get batters out from either side of the plate and can get five or six outs without too much concern. All that makes the Yankees’ bullpen possibilities really, really exciting.