Last season the Yankees put together what is now being called a super bullpen by putting Aroldis Chapman, Andrew Miller, and Dellin Betances together on one team. Each did their job, but it didn’t do much to help the team win in the end. Miller is gone now, but the Yankees have added Chapman back into the equation. The addition of Tyler Clippard has also given them three high-leverage relievers. It’s clearly not as good of a trio without Miller, so what if the Yankees added a fourth to offset the loss?
Right now relief pitchers are going at a premium price, especially after left-handed reliever Mike Dunn just signed a three-year, $18 million deal with the Rockies. This means that any closer-level talent out there still has a good chance of landing a bigger deal than anything the Yankees would be willing to offer. Despite this, it would make a lot of sense to court someone like Santiago Casilla for a middle relief job.
2016 Statistics: 62 G, 58.0 IP, 3.57 ERA, 3.94 FIP, 10.1 K/9, 2.9 BB/9,
Age on Opening Day 2017: 36
Position: Right-handed relief pitcher
For those who don’t know, Casilla has been the closer for the San Francisco Giants over the last few seasons. His rise to prominence seemingly mirrored Sergio Romo’s fall from grace. He was a late inning reliever for awhile, but as Romo began to fade, Casilla stepped in and snatched up the ninth inning. Though he found plenty of success in his time as the team’s closer, he wasn’t always the cleanest reliever in the game. Now that he’s gone, the Giants decided to go out and drop money on a more reliable arm like Mark Melancon.
In spite of his age, the right-hander just posted the best strikeout numbers of his career. As he’s gotten older, Casilla has backed off his four-seam fastball in order to throw a two-seamer more often. In that time he has also added a knuckle curve to pair with his slider in a nice four-pitch mix. The change has likely led to a slight drop in velocity against what he once threw, but it has also helped him generate more groundballs in his old age.
At the age of 36, it seems unlikely that any team would give Casilla a deal for more than one season. The Yankees can easily offer him the seventh or eighth innings, and if Dellin remains in a fireman role, perhaps he will be next in line as closer if Chapman were to ever go down with an injury. Clippard, meanwhile, can be bumped down a peg to give the team a pretty wide range of options for the late innings.
Casilla may sound like overkill, especially when adding a reliever in his late 30s is not always the wisest of ideas, but given their alternative options, this could work out well for everyone. Without a reliable rotation, four backend relievers would effectively shorten games to five innings, considering more of them would be able to appear in the same games that last year’s trio could not match up to.
The Yankees just designated Nick Goody for assignment, removing the last of their one time future bullpen pieces from the 40-man roster. With Goody gone, along with Jacob Lindgren, Nick Rumbelow, and Tyler Webb, Jonathan Holder and Ben Heller will have better chances to make the team. However, considering what just happened with the last crop of relief prospects, do we really want to chance it happening again? It’s likely that a team like the Nationals will overpay for his services, but until that happens there’s no reason not to pursue Casilla.