When Adam Warren was dealt to the Chicago Cubs in the trade that saw the New York Yankees land Starlin Castro, most focused on the new Yankees' second baseman. However, one aspect of the trade that received little attention was the loss of Warren. On the surface, it does not appear to be a huge loss. Though when considering the fact that no full-time Yankee starter threw over 170 innings in 2015, Warren's departure as the dependable long reliever and occasional spot starter (and the valuable innings he soaked up in that role) leaves a big hole in the Yankees' 2016 bullpen. His absence does, however, create an opportunity for someone to step up and take on a difficult but necessary role. Remember, Warren stepped into this very role after David Phelps was traded away in the Nathan Eovaldi/Garrett Jones trade last offseason. Here are a few potential replacements:
Mitchell is the most obvious candidate to take Warren's spot based solely on stuff and past usage. Like Warren, Mitchell has shown the ability to start games (17 starts for the Yankees in 2015) and come out of the bullpen (26 relief appearances). They even have a similar pitching repertoire (fastball, slider, curveball, change, and cutter). The problem, however, is that there may not be enough room on the big league roster for Mitchell, at least to begin the 2016 season, since the Yankees already have six starters. At the very beginning of the season, Mitchell will likely start the year at Triple-A to keep him stretched out, as opposed to getting irregular work out of the bullpen in the majors. Ultimately, he will be seen at some point in 2016 due to injury and/or ineffectiveness from some of the big league arms.
As of this very moment, Nova is projected to bring up the very rear of the team's rotation, following Masahiro Tanaka, Nathan Eovaldi, Luis Severino, CC Sabathia, and Michael Pineda. Looking at his numbers in 2015, it's easy to see why he's considered no more than rotation insurance. However, Nova could be of some use to the 2016 Yankees by slotting into Warren's previous role of spot starter/middle-reliever. Nova's velocity was back to where it was prior to his Tommy John surgery (93.2 MPH on his fastball in 2015, averaged 92.85 MPH in his four healthy seasons from 2010 to 2013, according to Fangraphs). As a reliever, shorter outings typically mean higher radar gun readings, which was seen with Warren when he relieved as opposed to starting. With a hard, heavy sinker, backed up by a curveball, which has shown at times to be a plus offering, Nova could excel in this swing role, and he may be the favorite early on to replace Warren.
Out of all the relievers on the near-daily Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders shuttle, Pinder threw the most innings in the big leagues in 2015 (27.2 innings) and was arguably the most effective, striking out 25 and pitching to a 2.93 ERA. Across his 158 career minor league games, Pinder does actually have nine starts under his belt, though all nine were in A-ball and none came after the 2014 season. Still, even though Pinder would not be an option to start like Warren used to be, he has shown the ability to work multiple innings in the middle of games, which is very valuable.
Despite running out of gas in the final month of 2015, Shreve showed a lot of potential during his rookie campaign. The lefty showed he had the ability to throw multiple innings when needed (remember that 19 inning game against the Boston Red Sox in April? Shreve entered in the 12th inning and tossed 3.1 innings of scoreless baseball, striking out 4 along the way). However, just because he could throw multiple innings does not mean that he did very often. Before he becomes a multi-inning reliever, Shreve will have to prove that his ugly month of September was just fatigue from a long season and not a true sign of the league catching up to him.
Part of the Yankees' revolving last-man-out-of-the-bullpen door, Rumbelow made 17 appearances out the bullpen in his rookie season, pitching to 4.02 ERA in 15.2 innings (he struck out 15 while walking 5). In the minors, Rumbelow was not simply a one-inning reliever, as evidenced by his 134 innings of work in 100 career minor league games, including 52.2 innings in 37 games during his time in the minors in 2015. If Rumbelow heads north with the team to begin the season, Rumbelow will likely be used for one-inning in his appearances as Joe Girardi evaluates and decides who he can rely on.