The New York Yankees bullpen has been an unmitigated disaster lately. Between Aroldis Chapman losing his closer role, the struggles of Chad Green and Zack Britton, and the recent COVID-19 outbreak, bullpen help is something this team desperately needs. The bullpen has long been a strength for the Yankees. On the season, the ‘pen ranks third in baseball in fWAR, eighth in ERA, and fourth in FIP. However, the team’s relievers have collectively posted a 5.19 ERA in the month of July, with a 4.08 FIP. They also happen to be tied for second with five blown saves in the month. Despite Chapman pitching better of late, this team could use one or two impact relief arms. With the upcoming trade deadline, there are always impact relievers on the market. Let’s look at some possible trade candidates for the Yankees bullpen.
Craig Kimbrel, Chicago Cubs
As unlikely as a trade for Craig Kimbrel might be, he is the best reliever on the market. The Chicago Cubs look like sellers right now and Kimbrel is having one of the best seasons of his career. In 35 1/3 innings pitched, Kimbrel has posted a 0.51 ERA, 1.10 FIP, 15.5 K/9, and 22 saves. The Cubs would understandably request a haul for Kimbrel. Similar to 2016, the Yankees traded Aroldis Chapman to the Cubs for their best prospect, which was Gleyber Torres. They also traded Andrew Miller for two of the Cleveland Indians (renamed the Guardians, effective in 2022) best prospects. A deal for Kimbrel would likely include at least two top-10 prospects, as high-end relievers will always be necessary for contending teams. Not to mention, adding Kimbrel would take the Yankees over the $210 luxury tax threshold, which they might not want to do just for one reliever.
Richard Rodriguez, Pittsburgh Pirates
It seems like Richard Rodriguez has been on the market all season long. The Pittsburgh Pirates appear to be sellers as they look to keep adding to their core of young talent. Rodriguez has two more years of team control after this season, which makes him an attractive trade target. He has had a very good career to this point, with a 3.27 ERA and 3.78 FIP over five major league seasons. Furthermore, he has been great in 2021, pitching 37 1/3 innings to the tune of a 2.65 ERA, 2.60 FIP, 0.80 WHIP, and 13 saves. He is a contact-oriented pitcher whom the Yankees could slot into a middle relief role. A package including one top-10 prospect and two mid-level prospects would seem to be enough to get a deal done. New York’s farm system is rich in young, right-handed pitchers with high ceilings. Some of which are already at Double-A or Triple-A and could reach the majors soon.
Ian Kennedy, Texas Rangers
A free agent after this season, Ian Kennedy would be a low-cost rental addition to this bullpen. He is one of the few players the Texas Rangers have on the market. Since becoming a full-time reliever at the start of 2019, Kennedy has seen his fastball velocity increase from 91.9 mph to 94.3 mph. It is also the pitch he has thrown 82.5% of the time this season, to great effect as batters have hit .207 with a .315 SLG against the pitch. He is not someone the Yankees would throw into the closer role but he does have experience doing so, notching 30 saves in 2019 and 15 so far in 2021. A package for Kennedy might include something along the lines of two mid-level prospects at most, which seems very doable. Let’s also not forget that Kennedy came up with the Yankees in 2007 as one of their top prospects. A move like this would probably be a welcome reunion for Yankees fans.
Greg Holland, Kansas City Royals
Similar to Kennedy, Greg Holland is a free agent after the season. He is also 35 years old and on the back half of his career. With that said, his numbers on the season do not look pretty. His 4.74 ERA and 97 ERA+ reflect a below-average pitcher. However, he did have a 3.86 ERA through his first 30 outings of the season. While that is not the best stat by which to judge a reliever, Holland’s ERA inflation is due to a couple of bad outings recently. After all, he is still striking out more than one batter per inning this season and could add some much-needed veteran experience to that bullpen. Especially with Justin Wilson’s miserable season and Darren O’Day’s season-ending injury, Holland is another arm that would not hurt to acquire. Considering his rental status, and where the Kansas City Royals are in the standings, it would not hurt to see which teams might want to acquire him.
Raisel Iglesias, Los Angeles Angels
Raisel Iglesias has had a very good career to this point. In fact, 2021 has been one of his best seasons. He has put up career bests in K/9, K/BB, BB/9, and WHIP. He has also racked up 20 saves, which is one of the best figures in the American League. All in all, he is a rental that the Los Angeles Angels could look to ship if they do not start winning soon. While Iglesias is a tier below Kimbrel (as are most relievers), he is someone that would net a nice package for the Angels. What Los Angeles needs most is pitching, so they could cash in Iglesias to younger pitchers with plenty of team control. As mentioned, the Yankees don’t lack the type of young arms that could intrigue the Angels in a possible deal.
Final Thoughts on the Yankees Bullpen
Relief pitching is, and will always be, in high demand at the trade deadline. Guys like Kimbrel and Iglesias have the ceilings to make a truly deep impact on a bullpen. Whereas Holland and Kennedy are two rentals that could provide that necessary late-inning experience that every contending team needs. Elsewhere, Rodriguez brings plenty of upside and team control, making him an attractive trade target to practically every team in the league. While the Yankees bullpen is still very talented, they need some help right now. While the likeliness of acquiring any of these five relievers varies, each would bring something valuable to the table and contribute to the ‘pen.
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