In a head-scratching move by the Yankees, the team traded left-handed reliever Justin Wilson to the Detroit Tigers for right-handed pitching prospects Luis Cessa and Chad Green. With Wilson and Adam Warren out of town the Yankees lost their man for the seventh inning, and they'll have to look at some young kids to come and fill in the bullpen.
Wilson got off to a slow start last season, pitching to a 5.17 ERA in April/May. Then June came along and Wilson really turned the corner. Wilson gave up no earned runs in 11.2 innings in June, and he had a 1.80 ERA (2.43 FIP) in July. Wilson's second-half ERA was a 3.54 (2.28 FIP), thanks to a 5.40 (0.93 FIP) in August. Wilson's overall ERA and FIP last season was 3.10 and 2.69. Wilson was brought here for catcher Francisco Cervelli, who had a great season last year in Pittsburgh. The players acquired in this trade, Cessa and Green, were both in MLB.com's Top 30 Tigers' prospects rankings. Cessa, their sixth ranked prospect, spent time in the Mets' Triple-A system before being dealt to Detroit in the Yoenis Cespedes deal. Cessa had a rough year, with a 6.97 ERA in both the Mets' and Tigers' systems. Green, the number 19 Tigers' prospect, pitched at Detroit's Double-A level where he had a 3.93 ERA (3.22 FIP). Following the deal, Cessa was placed at number 18 on MLB.com's Yankees' prospect rankings, and he will join the Yankees' 40-man roster.
While many pitchers are vying for 2016 bullpen spots, the biggest name belongs to youngster Jacob Lindgren. Lindgren, (AKA, The Strikeout Factory), arrived to the big leagues with much anticipation last season. After all, in 22 Triple-A innings in 2015, Lindgren, MLB.com's eighth ranked Yankees prospect, had a 1.23 ERA (1.88 FIP) and an 11.86 K/9 rate. Lindgren has been known to struggle a bit with his control with a career-worst BB/9 rate of 6.94. The 22-year-old missed much of last season after undergoing bone spur removal surgery following a seven-game stint with the Yankees. Lindgren is expected to make a full recovery from the procedure, and Yankees fans hope that the Factory is up and running again soon. FanGraphs' Steamer projection system projects Lindgren to have a 3.76 ERA, a 3.99 FIP, a 9.32 K/9 rate, and a 4.25 BB/9 rate in 40 innings in 2016.
Nick Rumbelow was another fringe reliever in the Yankees' system who made a brief appearance in the majors. Rumbelow spent a majority of last season in Triple-A Scranton where he had a 4.27 ERA, a 2.72 FIP, a 9.74 K/9 rate, and a 2.22 BB/9 in 52.2 innings, and he also racked up eight saves. The 24-year-old also appeared in 15.2 innings in MLB last season where he had a 4.02 ERA and a 3.84 FIP. Rumbelow bounced up and down a few times over the course of the season, including a September call-up toward the end of the season. Steamer projects Rumbelow to have a 3.70 ERA and a 3.89 FIP in 2016, as well as a 8.62 K/9 rate, and a 2.87 BB/9 rate in 25 innings.
Bryan Mitchell is a guy who looked like a man amongst boys in Triple-A but struggled in the majors. Mitchell had a 3.12 ERA, a 3.18 FIP, a 7.23 K/9 rate, and a 4.44 BB/9 rate in 75 innings in Scranton. Mitchell is a guy who could step in and make a spot start, if needed. Mitchell was a full-time starter in Triple-A, but started two games in the majors. This type of pitcher is valuable to a bullpen, even with his big struggles. Mitchell had a whopping 6.37 ERA, a 4.75 FIP, a 8.80 K/9 rate, and a 4.85 BB/9 rate in 29.2 major league innings. Mitchell has been included in many fans' fake trade proposals for a couple seasons now, and it could possibly be in the Yankees' best interest to try and package him along with another player for a reliever, possibly. But a long-reliever who isn't Chris Capuano is always a good thing. Steamer projects Mitchell to have a 3.77 ERA, a 3.93 FIP, a 8.37 K/9 rate, and a 3.67 BB/9 rate in 55 innings in 2016.
One man that got plenty of appearances when he arrived to the big leagues was Branden Pinder. Pinder pitched 35.1 innings at Triple-A last season where he had a 2.80 ERA, a 3.07 FIP, a 9.17 K/9 rate, and a 2.55 B/9 rate. When he arrived in the Bronx Pinder slowly became a guy that Joe Girardi trusted to come out before the three-headed dragon of Wilson, Dellin Betances, and Andrew Miller. Pinder had 27.2 big-league innings last year where he had a 2.93 ERA, a 4.72 FIP, a 8.13 K/9 rate, and a 4.55 BB/9 rate. Pinder was used heavily in August, pitching 11 innings with a 2.45 ERA (5.68 FIP), but cooled off significantly in September/October where he only had 4.1 innings with a 4.15 ERA (3.13 FIP). While his FIP heavily improved it seemed as though Girardi lost a bit of trust in Pinder, thus why he did not make the postseason roster. Steamer projects Pinder to have a 3.95 ERA, a 4.25 FIP, a 8.14 K/9 rate, and a 3.46 BB/9 rate in 45 innings.
James Pazos pitched in both Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton in 2015. Between both, Pazos pitched a combined 42.2 innings, where he had a 1.27 ERA. Pazos did especially well in Double-A where he had a 1.86 ERA (2.13 FIP) in 9.2 innings, including a 11.17 K/9 rate and a 0.00 BB/9 rate. This great stat-line earned Pazos a promotion to Triple-A where he also did very well, with a 1.09 ERA (2.46 FIP), a 10.09 K/9 rate, and a 4.09 BB/9 rate in 33 innings. Pazos was a September call-up for the Yankees where he pitched in five innings (eleven games) in which he gave up no earned runs. This September/October was good enough to earn him a playoff roster spot, although he did not pitch against the Astros in the Wild Card game. Steamer projects Pazos to have a 3.77 ERA, a 4.04 FIP, a 8.79 K/9 rate, and a 3.92 BB/9 rate in 20 innings in 2016.
All four are likely candidates to get a spot on the big club with the departures of Wilson, Warren, and Capuano, but they will have to deal with other guys like Andrew Bailey and Nick Goody. While I think the five relievers above look to be MLB-ready, or very close to it, none of them are ready to step into Wilson's role just yet. Chasen Shreve eventually gave Wilson the role he held, but Shreve was lights out in the first half. Meanwhile, Ivan Nova will have his first full year in the bullpen (barring any long-term injuries to a starter). Girardi, Brian Cashman, and Larry Roethschild have been known for being able to put together a very good bullpen out of small-name pitchers. With the acquisition of Starlin Castro, Rob Refsnyder is most likely going to just sit in the minors. Some have put into question if a smart idea would be to trade Refsnyder for a reliever, or possibly place him in a package for a good starter. After all, if there's one quote from the Winter Meetings that will stick in my mind, it's this:
Cashman after Wilson deal: I'm not done— Andrew Marchand (@AndrewMarchand) December 10, 2015