The Yankees are well known for being able to fill their bullpen internally. They may not be good at developing prospects, but you can't say they don't turn out their fair share of relievers. In 2013, out of the seven most used relievers, all but two of them were produced internally, and they were all young too (except for Mo, obvs). The Yankees' entire relief corps combined for 3.7 WAR last year, which was about middle of the pack at No. 16 in the league, which is fine, but now they have lost both Mariano Rivera and Boone Logan without adding anyone of substantial merit in return. Many believe the Yankees should aim for an all-internal bullpen, but I think they should have added someone who could have made up for their losses in 2014.
Last year's bullpen was extremely expensive:
|2013 Bullpen||2013 WAR||2013 $ Amount|
Thanks, Mo. The Yankees paid about $5.7 million per WAR, and while conventional wisdom says that 1.0 WAR is worth around $5 million, Lewie Pollis of Beyond the Box Score determined that 1.0 WAR might be worth as high as $7 million instead. So, the 2013 bullpen could have either been a bargain or an overpay, depending on who you trust.
Obviously, the team was very cost conscious this offseason. They wanted to get under the $189 million budget and tried to save as much money as they could for Masahiro Tanaka, which ultimately seemed like a foolish way of handling things, since they went over anyway. They let some of the better relievers sign elsewhere and decided to stick with their internal options, which is completely fine. Relievers are fickle things, and investing millions of dollars and multiple years into someone you can't trust is not really a smart business plan. The problem comes when you see who the Yankees are entrusting to make up for the 3.5 WAR they produced last season.
|2014 Bullpen||Projected WAR||2014 $ Amount|
* All league minimum salaries are estimations. According to the CBA, it rises to $500,000 in 2014. All WAR estimations are the average of Steamers and Oliver projection systems.
The Yankees can barely put together a total of seven relievers. I stuck Phelps in the bullpen just so we had someone concrete to put in there, but he might end up in the rotation for all we know. Then what? Using this seven, and their 2014 salaries, it looks like the Yankees will be paying around $3.7 million per WAR out of the gate. Whichever value for 1.0 WAR you want to use, it's obvious the Yankees are going cheap, but they're doing it at the cost of a better bullpen.
Using Joba so much cost them the chance at a 4.0 WAR bullpen last season, but the loss of Mo's 1.5 WAR kind of offsets that. Then there's D-Rob's low WAR estimation, and suddenly you have a pretty weak bullpen, $10 million cheaper or not. A 2.9 WAR bullpen in 2013 would have teetered on the edge of the bottom third among bullpens in the league and it would probably be the same in 2014. Add the random smattering of +/- 0 WAR fodder they will surely need just to get through the season, and it's clear that right now they will have a worse bullpen this year.
The Yankees brought in 14 different relievers to compete for a bullpen job this spring and not one of them is anything close to a reliable major league option.
|Spring Training Invitees||Projected WAR|
Even if you swap out, say, Dellin Betances for Mark Montgomery, you end up with a 3.2-WAR bullpen, which would rank just behind last year's Yankees. Consider that these 14 are really all they have to pull from during the 2014 season and it doesn't look like they'll being getting much help.
Of course, someone can surprise us. Montgomery offers a dominant 1.0-WAR season, Betances isn't as bad as his projections, or Robertson is much better than people think he will be. But surprises are a two-way street and things could go south in a hurry. That's why another reliever, though not in itself a definitive value, would at least give the Yankees another arm from which to potentially extract value from.
I'm not saying they should have matched the Rockies' ridiculous $16.5 million contract they gave to Boone Logan. Hell no. The Yankees need to find a way to acquire a reliever that could provide some value for them. They did it last year with Shawn Kelley, they're going to need to do it again if they want to nail down this bullpen, because the scrap heap isn't going to cut it. Someone from Zoilo Almonte to Austin Romine to Corban Joseph has to equal a serviceable, cost controlled reliever that can help the Yankees more.
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