In a surprising move that left many unprepared, the Yankees traded off lefty Justin Wilson–fresh off a solid 2015 campaign–in return for two middling starting pitchers. It didn't look like much, but it was at least a commitment to the in-house left-handed options. They didn't need Wilson because they had Jacob Lindgren, James Pazos, and Chasen Shreve, but after the first round of cuts in spring training, is it already looking like a mistake?
Lindgren had elbow surgery last year, but there was every indication that the Yankees would give him a chance to impress in spring training. Unfortunately he didn't, so they cut him. These statistics are meaningless, but the Yankees were not interested in watching him struggle with command after walking four in just 2.1 innings. Maybe he wasn't first in line for a roster spot, but it is shocking that he didn't make it beyond the first week in camp.
If Lindgren isn't going to be the team LOOGY, the job could easily go to James Pazos, who impressed last September. Then again, he hasn't done well either, allowing a 10.13 ERA on five hits and four walks in just 2.2 innings. He's essentially been even worse than Lindgren has, but somehow he's still around. Aroldis Chapman's suspension means that someone not originally expected to make the team has a chance now. Carrying an extra lefty could make Pazos an easy candidate, but he's not looking very good so far.
Of course, neither is Justin Wilson himself for that matter. With the Tigers, he's allowed three runs on five hits and a walk in 3.0 innings. Nothing great, but also nothing terrible. It's your typical spring line from a reliever already expected to make the team. Wondering whether the Yankees made a mistake is less about how well he does, and is more about what New York's alternatives do. Lindgren and Pazos have done poorly so far, but thankfully Chasen Shreve has stepped up to hopefully push away any doubts.
After falling apart last September, it was at least worth wondering who the real Shreve was. Would he be given a roster spot, or would he have to earn one? Right now that questions doesn't really matter because he's already earned one after throwing 4.1 innings of no-hit ball with five strikeouts. It's good to see him turn back into the pitcher he was with the Yankees for most of the season. There's no real indication as to what his role will be, but as a left-handed reliever behind the likes of Chapman, Andrew Miller, and Dellin Betances, he could slide into that lefty matchup role that was once held by Wilson.
Right now Betances, Miller, and Ivan Nova have secured positions in the Opening Day bullpens, and Shreve is probably the next closest. That would leave another three spots for the likes of Nick Goody, Nick Rumbelow, Branden Pinder, Bryan Mitchell, and Johnny Barbato to compete for. It's doubtful at this point that they would really need to carry three lefties, so it probably comes down to Shreve or Pazos, and we know who is already winning that contest.
While the Yankees could have used Wilson's reliability (though how reliable is he?) he hasn't proven to be someone who is irreplaceable yet. Lindgren and Pazos have been disappointing so far, but Shreve is doing enough to fill the gap. A majority of the bullpen's innings will be filled by the Big Three, so Shreve might not even have to give the 61 innings Wilson did in 2015. He's shown that he can be more than just a LOOGY, but with the talent in this bullpen, he might not have to do a whole lot to be just as useful. Don't call it a mistake yet.