2016 Statistics: 55 G, 67 IP, 2.82 ERA, 4.19 FIP, 8.5 K/9, 4.4 BB/9, 140 ERA+
Age on Opening Day 2017: 35
Position: Right-handed relief pitcher
The Yankees don’t have much in the way of a bullpen right now. If they are looking to improve on what they do have without spending too much money, the Yankees will have to call upon the unlikeliest of allies. Of all the relievers out there on the market this winter, one of those could be Dustin McGowan.
The Yankees have seen plenty of McGowan over the years back when he was a starting pitcher with the Toronto Blue Jays. As much talent as the former first-round draft pick has, he could never stay healthy enough to put it all together. He needed Tommy John surgery as a prospect, underwent knee surgery to repair a meniscus tear, and has required multiple shoulder surgeries to keep his shoulder together. It cost him the 2009, 2010, and 2012 seasons, yet here he remains.
Since 2013, McGowan has pitched nearly 200 innings, mostly in relief, and it’s been a mixed bag of results. This past season was arguably his best to date, pitching to a 2.82 ERA with an 8.5 K/9 over 67 innings of work for the Marlins. His success can likely be attributed to an increase in the amount of sliders he threw this year, reaching just over 30% when his career average is just under 22%. Throwing more pitches that fall out of the zone resulted in less contact and more swing-and-misses as good sliders can do.
Unfortunately, he has always been plagued by questionable control, and 2016 was no different. He walked 4.4 batters per nine innings, throwing less pitches in the strike zone than he has averaged over his career. More sliders that dive away from the hitter can be a double-edged sword after all. It must also be mentioned that McGowan has historically struggled against left-handed pitchers to the point that his exposure to them should be limited whenever possible. It’s a weakness that could end his consideration by the Yankees.
The thing to remember, though, is that signing McGowan would lack really any kind of risk at all. Offer him a one-year deal in the $1 million range, maybe offer some incentives, and it should be an easy sell. At best he would be a high-leverage situational reliever capable of going multiple innings at a time in order to get the ball to the back end of the bullpen. At worst he would walk too many batters and get himself injured again. On such a small contract, the Yankees can afford to take the risk without relying too heavily on the outcome of the deal.