Few teams in Major League Baseball understand the importance of a good and deep bullpen like the Yankees. Year after year, they prioritize having a dominant group that can help them navigate through tough situations in the late innings and give them a competitive edge.
If we judge the unit by ERA, they have been the best in the league with a 3.24 mark. That might be a bit misleading, though. New York ranks 15th in bullpen fWAR with 2.4, 10th in FIP at 3.99, and 18th in K% with 23.4 percent.
The Yankees’ bullpen hasn’t been bad, but we all know it could be better. It has surrendered multiple leads in recent games, it has suffered injuries, and it has been overused due to a plethora of problems in the starting rotation outside of ace Gerrit Cole. That’s why it would behoove the Yanks to consider allocating some resources to the area ahead of the trade deadline.
If the Yankees are going to go for a reliever, Jason Foley would be someone they should be taking a look at. With a power sinker that checks in the high-90s, the right-hander fits the mold of bullpen arm the organization loves.
Foley plays for the Detroit Tigers, a team that should sell at the deadline but could theoretically elect not to because it is just six games out of first place in the miserable AL Central despite a 44-53 record. If they do opt to trade some players, Foley becomes a very enticing target.
Foley has four and a half seasons of team control remaining and is making the minimum, which makes him very valuable. So in that aspect, he’s fairly similar to Scott Effross, who the Yankees acquired at the deadline last year from the Cubs before Tommy John surgery took him out. Foley is also very good: last year, he had a 3.88 ERA in 60.1 innings, but he has taken a step forward in 2023 and his ERA is now 2.13, with a 2.25 FIP.
The 27-year-old doesn’t allow homers (he is yet to concede one this season and his HR/9 was 0.30 last year) and rarely walks people (1.91 BB/9 in 2023). He is a ground-ball machine, with a 59.7 percent ground-ball rate, and he has struck out 37 hitters in 42.1 frames.
Foley’s sinker is filthy. It has 22.9 inches of drop, 17.3 inches of break and averages 97.1 mph. Naturally, it’s the pitch he uses the most at 71.2 percent, and hitters have a .224 wOBA against it.
Foley complements his arsenal with a slider and a changeup, having ditched his ineffective four-seamer this year. Stuff-wise, there is a lot to like.
Unlike Clay Holmes (a pitcher with similar stuff than that of Foley but without the change), who was mediocre when he came to the Yankees from Pittsburgh in 2021 and the organization “fixed” him, Foley is already very solid.
While the Tigers might very well keep Foley for their next run at contention, a few years might have to go by until that becomes a reality. The record, again, might be misleading: they have a -78 run differential, most of their prospects have stalled in their development, and they got themselves into a couple of troublesome contracts a few years ago.
Another reason Detroit they could be open to dealing Foley is because he will turn 28 in November. While he has lots of cheap control years left, this might be the peak of his value. Perhaps new GM Scott Harris would want to take advantage of that, especially since he inherited the reliever and has no particular attachment to him.
The Yankees could look to add to a decimated bullpen by trading for Foley. They would be adding an instant contributor with excellent stuff and command. He might cost a mid-level prospect, but he could be a worthwhile addition.