New York Yankees: Who would be the best reliever pickup for the Yankees? You choose

With the New York Yankees centered on re-signing DJ LeMahieu, it will probably leave little money to sign a true number two starting pitcher. That will put more strain and stress on the Yankee bullpen. With each passing year, the bullpen of all teams takes on more significance, with starters not going as deep into the game as the one did. And for the Yankees, it will be even more important this season with a starting rotation that will lack experience following ace Gerrit Cole.

Today I will examine my picks for the New York Yankees’ best options to replace the important Tommy Kahnle, who has had Tommy John surgery and is now a free agent unable to pitch in the 2021 baseball season. Any replacement for Kahnle takes on even more significance because of the unknowability of Adam Ottavino bouncing back from a dismal season in 2020. Here are my picks in no particular order.

1.) Liam Hendriks: ($5M) Liam Hendriks is the best reliever in baseball over the last two seasons. Since 2019 Hendriks has an ERA of 1.79 in 99 games with an astounding 13.1 strikeouts per 9 innings pitched. Acquiring Liam Hendriks, the closer for the Athletics, would give manager Aaron Boone the ability to mix and match Hendriks, Britton, and Chapman to suit the opposing hitter in must-win games. I have never been and still am not a big Chapman supporter; although his stats are good, he most often seems to fail in the most important moments. Having three closer types might seem extreme, but it seems really good to me. Hendriks would also not put a huge dent in the New York Yankee finances.

2.) David Roberson ($7M) Yes, he has been with the Yankees twice already, and each time he left, the Yankees lost out. Here is where the risk comes in, D-Rob is now 36 years old and is coming back from Tommy John surgery, but in my opinion, the potential reward far outweighs the risk involved. Before the 2019 season, he became a Philadelphia Philly for $23 million and a two-year contract. Unfortunately, his time with the Phillies was not a productive one; he required Tommy John surgery and pitched in only seven games in 2019 and none in 2020. The Phillies did not exercise his $12 million option for 2021. For the Yankees, few pitchers have pitched better than David Robertson during the last 12 years. He has a 38-22 record with the Yankees with a tiny ERA of 2.75.

3.) Brad Hand ($6M) For the New York Yankees, it’s intriguing that Brad Hand is available. The Indians declined Hand’s $10 million option in a cost-cutting measure, and now the man who led MLB in saves in 2020 and has a 2.70 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, 12.2 K/9, and a 157 ERA+ over the last five years is on the market. It should be a no-brainer for the Yankees.  A southpaw, Hand is particularly stingy against left-handed hitters. They haven’t hit better than .196 against him over the last four years, and a lefty hasn’t taken him deep in two seasons. What makes Hand most remarkable is that he is insanely consistent in an art that is seldom consistent.

4.) Mark Melancon ($6.5M) Last year with the Braves, he helped bring them to a near World Series win going 2-1 with an ERA of 2.78 in 19 games, allowing only one home run on the season. Although primarily a closer, he has pitched middle innings for the Braves. Obviously, the Yankees don’t need a closer, but Melancon would be an excellent replacement for free agent Tommy Kahnle as a setup man for both Zack Britton and Aroldis Chapman and could fill in closing any game for the Yankees. Melancon is a perfect fit for the Yankees and Yankee Stadium’s short right porch. Hitters can’t take advantage of the short porch if they can’t get the ball in the air. Mark is a ground ball pitcher, getting ground balls 56% of the time. He has an excellent curveball and cutter and will throw an occasional fastball and changeup.

5.) Shane Greene ($5M) Greene throws a mid-90s two-seam fastball with great movement and a nasty slider effective against both lefty and righty batters. Greene has a “short-arm” throwing motion, which is deceptive to hitters and can provide a fastball’s sneaky fast feeling. In 2018, he recorded 32 saves but had a 5.12 ERA. The next season, he bounced back with 22 saves and a 1.18 ERA before the trade deadline. When Greene arrived in Atlanta, he was used as a late-inning reliever and did okay. Most recently, Greene bounced back with a 2.60 ERA in 28 games during the shortened 2020 season. He was an important member of the solid Braves bullpen in 2020 and will be wanting a good contract offer during the offseason.

My pick to shore up the New York Yankee bullpen would be Liam Hendriks due to his record over the last two seasons, but I will put him as my number two choice. Here is my reasoning for choosing David Robertson as my number one pick. Robertson we know can pitch under the bright lights of New York and the demanding fans that sit in its stands. A lot of good pitchers have failed in New York. Hendriks has never pitched for a huge market team that eats up its players with extreme scrutiny.

Don’t get me wrong the Yankees would do well to pick up any of these five fine players. The dollar amount you see after each name is how much I believe will be required to sign them in this depressed market.

New York Yankees News/Rumors: Could the Yankees bring back another former Yankee?

It has been said a million times over that the New York Yankees‘ main priority is re-signing batting champ DJ LeMahieu. There is no question that LeMahieu is one of the best baseball players presently playing, and the Yankees should re-sign him. But beyond his signing, the Yankee’s next priority should be to strengthen their once-dominant bullpen, as it appears there will be no big-time acquisitions to bolster the starting rotation.

Yesterday on the same bent, I wrote about another former Yankee that the Yankees should consider, that being David Robertson, that has pitched very effectively in the Bronx. Today I would like to examine other former Yankees to bolster the bullpen. The Yankees drafted Mark Melancon in 2006. He made his Major League debut for the team in 2009 and continued to pitch through 2010 with mixed results. He pitched in 13 games in 2009 and only two games in 2010 but went home with a World Series ring.

At the beginning of 2011, he was traded by the Yankees to the Houston Astros. Over the years with the Astros, the Red Sox, the Pirates, Nationals, Giants, and the Atlanta Braves, Melancon has become one of the best relievers in baseball. He is a three-time All-Star and a Cy Young nominee. For the Pirates, he was their primary closer in multiple years postseasons. He racked up 51 save for the Pittsburgh team in 2015.

Last year with the Braves, he helped bring them to a near World Series win going 2-1 with an ERA of 2.78 in 19 games, allowing only one home run on the season. Although primarily a closer, he has pitched middle innings for the Braves. Obviously, the Yankees don’t need a closer, but Melancon would be an excellent replacement for free agent Tommy Kahnle as a setup man for both Zack Britton and Aroldis Chapman and could fill in closing any game for the Yankees.

Melancon is a perfect fit for the Yankees and Yankee Stadium’s short right porch. Hitters can’t take advantage of the short porch if they can’t get the ball in the air. Mark is a ground ball pitcher, getting ground balls 56% of the time. He has an excellent curveball and cutter and will throw an occasional fastball and changeup.

Because this is a good season to take advantage of the depressed market for free agents, the Yankees could get a good deal on Melancon, particularly on a one-year deal. MLBtrades.com estimates his value at $4 million and FanGraphs at $11 million. Realistically he is probably worth halfway between the two estimates.

With the loss of Tommy Kahnle for the entire season and the lack of surety that Adam Ottavino can rebound from a dismal season in 2020, acquiring either David Robertson or Mark Melancon for insurance seems like a no brainer for the New York Yankees.

 

New York Mets Best Relief Pitching Options on the Free Agent Market

New York Yankees, Justin Wilson

The New York Mets may not need extra bullpen help but the more,, the merrier. Like the starting pitching market, there is a clear-cut top guy in Liam Hendriks, but the Mets already have a dominant closer. What are the other strong, late-inning options for the Mets to bring in for the 2021 season?

1. Liam Hendriks 

Liam Hendriks is the best reliever in baseball over the last two seasons. In 99 games since 2019, he has a 1.79 ERA, 39 saves, and an astounding 13.1 K/9. Hendriks only allowed six home runs in that span of games and would undoubtedly make the Mets bullpen the best in baseball. He is well within the Mets budget, but Hendriks may not be as high on their list as George Springer or Trevor Bauer.

Adding Hendriks would create a three-headed monster with Edwin Diaz and Seth Lugo. It allows the Mets to mix and match their bullpen, similarly to the Tampa Bay Rays. Pitchers are creatures of habit, but all three have shown versatility to pitch prior to the ninth inning.

2. Brad Hand

Moving to the bullpen was the greatest thing that ever happened to Brad Hand‘s career. Since 2016, Hand has a 2.70 ERA, 104 saves, and three All-Star appearances. Despite the Cleveland Indians attempt to save money, it was still a surprise for the team to waive him after the season.

The Mets bullpen is desperate for a left-handed reliever after Justin Wilson became a free agent and the Mets non-tendered Chasen Shreve. Hand would create a different breed of a three-headed monster in the bullpen with his ability to neutralize lefties. Left-handers have no success against Hand; they have hit well under .200 since Hand became a reliever. Hand would be the perfect neutralizer for NL East lefties Freddie Freeman, Bryce Harper, and Juan Soto.

3. Alex Colome

Alex Colome is a more likely right-handed option for the Mets. The 32-year old veteran only allowed two earned runs in 22.1 innings pitched. Colome is as close to Mariano Rivera 2.0 as anyone can get. He only features a cutter and 4-seam fastball, ditching everything else.

Versatility is the name of the game for relievers this offseason and Colome fits the mold. He has 138 career saves but is likely an eighth inning reliever with Lugo. The Mets have a lot of hard throwing, swing and miss relievers; Colome is a good change of pace in comparison. He is a master of inducing weak contact due to his tremendous cutter. Hitters had a 3.1% barrel rate in 2020.

4. Justin Wilson

The market is a lot quieter on Justin Wilson than it would have been last offseason. Wilson would agree 2020 was not his finest season but had a 3.66 ERA in 23 games. He fits perfectly into any role the Mets have and even lefty/righty splits in his career. Wilson was a big part of the Mets resurgence in 2019 and is an underrated part of their bullpen.

5. Keone Kela

Keone Kela comes with plenty of injury and personality baggage which is a huge risk in New York. His bad clubhouse reputation is well documented but partnering with the culture with the Mets could benefit him. The lights out stuff is proven with a career 3.27 ERA and 11 K/9 but he ranks low due to injuries and past suspension. Kela is primed for a one year deal with an option for a second due if the risk pays off.

 

New York Giants: Is week 15 contest against Cleveland a ‘must-win’ for Big Blue?

New York Giants, Joe Judge

When the New York Giants beat the Seattle Seahawks in week 14, most penciled them into a playoff spot, with the rest of the NFC East struggling. However, the Washington Football Team has seemed to get hot at the perfect time, overtaking the top seed in the NFC East this past weekend with a win over the San Francisco 49ers.

If the Giants had beaten the Arizona Cardinals, they would’ve replaced them as a Wild Card team, but they are currently in 12th place, just above the Eagles and Cowboys.

Realistically, the Giants need to win the NFC East, and with Washington missing their starting quarterback and running back this week, it is a perfect opportunity for them to draw neck and neck with Washington. They are set to play the Seahawks, a difficult matchup but one that actually might favor Washington based on their stellar defense.

The New York Giants are dealing with a ton of setbacks:

The Giants, though, have already ruled out Daniel Jones against Cleveland and will start Colt McCoy, the quarterback who extracted the improbable win over Seattle. He won’t provide above-average play but simply manage the game’s tempo and check to his run and pass plays. The team is also scheduled to be without starting cornerback James Bradberry and slot corner Darnay Holmes.

With Freddie Kitchens calling offensive plays due to Jason Garrett contracting Covid, we should expect to see plenty of quick throws and easy first reads for McCoy.

It will be a miracle if the Giants can pull off an upset victory on Sunday night against a surging Browns team. After Cleveland, the Giants will have to play the Baltimore Ravens, who posted 46 points this past game-week against the Browns.

After Baltimore, the Giants will host the Dallas Cowboys, which could end up being an exceedingly important game. Washington, on the other hand, will play the Panthers and then the Eagles to finish their season, two beatable teams. With Washington one game ahead of the Giants in the NFC East, Big Blue simply can’t afford to lose any more games, making this as close to a “must-win” as it can get.

With how close the NFC East is right now, every game remaining on the schedule is important.

New York Knicks: 3 players who could have breakout 2021 seasons

Immanuel Quickley, New York Knicks

The New York Knicks have started the 2021 preseason strong, winning 3 of 4 total games. Against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Friday night, they held them to just 83 points and put up 119.

Thanks to a bevy of young players and aggressive basketball, the Knicks have instilled some faith for the regular season. Six different Knicks players reached double-digit points on Friday, with the entire starting unit earning positive +/- grades.

However, it is the Knicks’ youth that seems to be making a significant impact early on. Notable players like RJ Barrett, Obi Toppin, Immanuel Quickley, and Mitchell Robinson have displayed solid quality and growth.

Three New York Knicks who could have breakout seasons:

1.) RJ Barrett

Barrett averaged just 14.3 points over 30.4 minutes per game in 2019. As a 19-year-old, it was difficult for him to compete against some of the bigger NBA players, especially when it came to his defense. He did connect on .402% of his shots from the floor but struggled at the free-throw line and was inefficient at times passing the ball.

Nonetheless, he seems to be more aggressive and confident this preseason, scoring 15 points on 5-for-10 shooting in the final game of the preseason against the Cavs. However, he’s also passing the ball a bit better and stretching the floor.

There is no doubt that Barrett can become a dominant player at the NBA level, and from what we’ve seen this year already, he seems bigger and stronger, which should translate to better defense and play-making ability in the paint.

2.) Kevin Knox

Kevin Knox has been extremely inconsistent since his inception into the NBA in 2018. Last season, he averaged 6.4 points per game and saw his minutes per contest drop by over 10 compared to his rookie season.

At 21 years old, he is still young and developing, but his last two seasons have been disappointing. He’s another young player that has looked great in preseason, connecting on six of seven three-pointers and scoring 20 points in the finale.

Knox is one of those polarizing players that has the athleticism to be a fantastic power forward, but just like the consistency and has too many mental lapses. If he can correct those issues and improve his defense, Knox can be extremely beneficial for the Knicks to utilize off the bench. I think this could be his best season yet as a supplemental option, taking some of the pressure away.

3.) Immanuel Quickley

The Knicks have been desperately looking for a point guard the past few seasons, and they might’ve found their answer in Immanuel Quickley, who was most recently selected in the first round of the 2020 NBA draft.

Quickley started against Cleveland on Friday night, playing in 29 minutes, the most of any player. He scored 22 points on 7-of-12 shooting from the floor, earning five assists to go with it. He now has 13 assists in two games, to couple with 31 points.

Quickley seems to stretch the floor and space out his players adequately, driving the lane with confidence and showing great quickness in the back-court. He can move off the ball and keep the defense on their heels, which is a trait the Knicks have lacked at the point guard spot. Of course, the sample size is small, so cementing him as a starter would be premature.

However, based on his skill-set and desire to continue working and improving, Quickley could easily become the starting point guard in just a few weeks.

Yankees Free Agent Targets: Jake Odorizzi, Chris Archer to solve pitching problems?

New York Yankees, Jake Odorizzi

New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman has worked tirelessly to find a compromise with DJ LeMahieu on his future extension, and while the negotiations have carried into the hot stove months, their attention hasn’t waivered. However, with the extension taking a bit longer than expected, LeMahieu’s representatives have begun listening to other offers, notably from the Toronto Blue Jays, who are aggressively pursuing the star infielder.

The Yankees have the leverage, as they wait for other teams to offer LeMahieu’s value, which could end up working in Cashman’s favor. Ideally, alternative teams fail to offer more than the Bombers, which would force DJ’s reps to settle for the best offer, which seems to have in the four-year range at $25 million per season.

Aside from LeMahieu’s contract, the Yankees are still looking to add starting pitching and potentially a relief pitcher, as well. There are several options on the market at both positions that could intrigue Cashman, who’s looking to stay beneath the $210 million luxury tax threshold. With James Paxton, J.A. Happ, and Masahiro Tanaka departing, the Yankees have about $52 million opening up, but ownership prefers to keep the spending to a minimum, at least until DJ’s situation is figured out.

Two free agents the New York Yankees should consider:

Jake Odorizzi:

With the Yankees needing starting pitching, Jake Odorizzi represents a solid option they could take a flyer on in free agency. While he only pitched in 13.2 innings this past year with the Minnesota Twins, he had a solid 2019 campaign, earning a 3.51 ERA with 10.08 strikeouts per nine.

The only downside regarding Odorizzi is his ground-ball rate, which hovers in the 33% range. At Yankee Stadium, pitchers who produce high ground-ball rates are usually preferred, but he does have a stellar range of pitches.

Odorizzi features a fastball, slider, cutter, curveball, and changeup. His primary pitchers are his fastball, cutter, and slider, but he likes to utilize a variety to keep hitters on their toes.

He would likely be a cheaper option for the Yankees, and at 30 years old, he still has plenty of juice left in his arm.

Chris Archer:

After failing to land a tendered contract by the Pittsburgh Pirates, Chris Archer hit free agency with plenty of interest. He last pitched in 2019, finishing with a 5.19 ERA, but has had more successful seasons in the past.

Archer has solid strikeout numbers and doesn’t walk too many batters, but does give up more hits than you would prefer. He also allowed 25 homers in 2019 over 119.2 innings. He is a low-cost option the Yankees could look at to provide depth in the rotation, especially with some higher-priced options struggling in 2020 and injuries plagued the unit all season long.

 

New York Yankees Analysis: Optimistically the 2021 season could be 1961 all over again

New York Yankees, Aaron Judge

With all the questions facing the New York Yankees going into the 2021 season, today, I thought I would take a wildly optimistic look at what the season could look like for the Yankees. The Yankees have the potential to have one of the greatest years in baseball history.

This is an unusual article for me to write because I am a strong believer in Murphy’s law.  And my belief in that law has been pretty well cemented by the Yankee’s performance during the past decade. But also buried in the back of my head is the thought that with a stroke of luck, my Murphy’s law stance could be blown out of the water.

During 1961 the entire baseball world watched the New York Yankees, and it’s two stars that battled the entire season to see who would have the most home runs. As it turned out, Roger Maris beat out Mickey Mantle for the title. Maris had the most home runs ever for any team with 61, and Mantle, who had injuries at the end of the season, ended up with a very respectable 54 home runs.

Continuing with my optimistic approach to the 2021 season, the Yankees could have a year like that this season, and maybe even greater. In 2017 Giancarlo Stanton had 59 home runs and was named the National League MVP. That same year Yankee slugger Aaron Judge burst onto the baseball scene, hitting 52. They hit 111 home runs between the two sluggers, just four short of Mantle and Maris’s feat.

But the Yankees this season could do even better than that. During 2019 Gleyber Torres leads the Yankees with 38 home runs. In 2020 Luke Voit led all of baseball with 22 home runs in a shortened season. That during a normal season beats Stanton MVP year with 59.4 home runs. During 1961 the New York Yankee team hit 240 home runs and won the World Series over the Cincinnati Reds in five games. Putting together the four present Yankee player’s best home run years, it totals 208 home runs without another Yankee hitting a long ball. So, although not realistic, the Yankee could exceed the 1961 season.

But unfortunately, getting back to reality, we get back to Murphy’s law. In order to accomplish the above-described feat, you have to stay on the field to hit those home runs. Also, home runs alone do not win a World Series. Although Mantle was injured a bit more than Maris, they basically stayed on the field. The opposite is true of Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge. We’ve seen Stanton play a grand total of 41 regular-season games out of the 222 the Yankees played over the past two seasons. Judge was a bit better playing  130 of those games; still, he was off the field 92 games.

There is no question that both of these stars can hit home runs when healthy, even still today. In 2020 Aaron Judge led all of baseball in home runs before he went on the IL. Stanton, for his part, hit a near-record six home runs in the postseason when healthy. I say near-record because those who have hit more only did it because they participated in a World Series that Stanton didn’t.

If you noticed in my slugger totals, I did not include Gary Sanchez, who has the ability to hit 30, 40, or more home runs a season. Unfortunately for Sanchez, other than this year, he can’t stay on the field either.

We have been talking about home runs, but you don’t win a World Series on home runs alone, as I said earlier. You have to have hitters that can get on base to make those home run even more important. And folks, you also have to have good pitching, which at the moment the Yankees sorely lack. The 1961 rotation included Whitey Ford 25-4, Luis Arroyo 15-5, Ralph Terry 16-3, Rollie Sheldon 11-5, and Bill Stafford 14-9.

If anyone believes we can get that pitching production this upcoming season, and can at the same time have a 1961 type hitting year, then my friends, you haven’t heard of Murphy’s law.

VIDEO: Bills Mafia greets division champs upon return to Buffalo

Precipitation and the wee hours of Sunday morning were no match for Buffalo Bills fans welcoming their team home.

The Buffalo Bills received a welcome fit for division champions as they arrived home from Denver early Sunday morning.

A contingent of fans, many of whom appeared to adorned in masks and face coverings, braved darkness and rain to greet the Bills at Buffalo Niagara International Airport upon their return from a Week 15 win in Denver. The victory allowed the Bills (11-3) to clinch their third playoff berth over the last four seasons and their first AFC East division title since 1995.

Bills fans, known as “Bills Mafia”, have been known to gather at the airport after big victories on the road, most recently doing so when the team returned from a Sunday night win in Pittsburgh last season. Social distancing protocols in the wake of the ongoing health crisis have prevented Bills Mafia, often referred to as one of the most entertaining and passionate fanbases in the NFL, from visiting Bills Stadium in Orchard Park this season. But they apparently sought to capture the game day experience, if only for a short while, after this monumental occasion.

With games in Orchard Park staged in front of empty stands, many newcomers to the team experienced the passion of Bills Mafia for the first time.

Among the chants uttered by the crowd were “Super Bowl” and “MVP”, the latter in reference to quarterback Josh Allen, who referred to the gathering as “wild” in his Instagram story. In other social media shares, Dion Dawkins and Josh Norman documented their drive out, where some overzealous, unmasked fans get somewhat close to their open windows. Trumaine Edmunds also shared his exit, though he kept his windows up.

Despite this, many fans appeared to be masked at the event. A socially distanced viewing party of Saturday’s game, a 48-19 win over the Denver Broncos, was held at the Transit Drive-In, which also hosted a viewing of the University of Buffalo’s football tilt in the Mid-American Conference Championship Game in Detroit the night before. The Bulls fell to Ball State 38-28.

The Bills return to action next Monday night against the New England Patriots (8:15 p.m. ET, ESPN) before their regular-season finale in Orchard Park on January 3 against Miami.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags