It seems like the Yankees are bowing out of the starting pitching market, unless the price for the outstanding free agents drops considerably. I can’t blame them for not being bidders on Josh Hader after the lefty signed for 5/$95 million from the Astros. Still, there’s a need for a little more pitching depth, if nothing else but to hedge some risk from the development of guys like Will Warren and Clayton Beeter.
To that end, Wandy Peralta could make sense as a low-risk bulwark, as he’s notched a 2.82 ERA in 153 innings with the Yankees over two and a half seasons. The two sides have remained connected throughout the winter, most recently a few days ago, per Bryan Hoch. Peralta’s not someone that’s going to command much of a commitment — MLBTR didn’t have him among the top 50 free agents, and FanGraphs didn’t include him in their crowdsourcing estimates — but whether he’s worth it or not probably boils down to what you think about fWAR for relievers.
By that metric, Peralta was a net loss for the Yankees last year, driven by a FIP two and a half runs higher than his ERA. That’s not a new phenomenon for a guy who has never really relied on strikeouts, controlling the edges of the zone to induce contact rather than blow guys away with a 99 mph sinker. His FIP has been considerably higher than his ERA in every season since 2019.
Given that FIP is the main driver of fWAR, it makes sense that that particular benchmark doesn’t love Peralta’s performance. By bWAR, which starts with actual runs touching the plate and works backward from there, Peralta was worth 1.4 wins, which would make him a pretty desirable reliever all things considered.
What was different in 2023 was the walk rate, nearly doubling from the previous season at 13.2 percent. That certainly vibes with how I think about Peralta’s performance last year, where he let runners on for free despite a career-low batting average against. His strikeout rate was the best of his career, but I don’t know if he boasts the raw stuff to live on that going forward.
The alternatives to Peralta is a guy like Hector Neris, who has better top-line performance than Wandy but comes with his own concerns about projected performance. The other move is to focus on filling the bullpen with the still-strong crop of pitching prospects the team boasts.
I don’t think a pitcher like Peralta really blocks those players from coming up, though. If Will Warren takes a big step forward at Triple-A, and by August clearly looks like he can help the team, either Peralta is a better option, which is a boon for the Yankees because he must be pretty terrific, or his contract status won’t be so complicated that it’s difficult to move him off the roster.
I’ve really grown to appreciate Wandy Peralta, especially when he was in a bullpen with guys like Clay Holmes and Mike King. I know I couldn’t get a hit off Holmes’ sinker when it’s on, and when you watch Peralta you think you should be able to crush him, but frankly MLB hitters haven’t been that great at it the past few years. I think that the different look he offers in the whole bullpen corps also matters, but not so much that you make more than a two-year commitment.
Ultimately Wandy falls into the camp of guys who can probably help the 2024 Yankees, but around the margins. I’m not sure he’s a guy that’s worth getting into a serious bidding war over, even if he is a guy that I trust for 50ish innings of good run prevention. With the Mets reportedly also in the market for Peralta’s services, we may not have to wait long for a conclusion to his story.