Are the Yankees targeting a ‘super-charged’ bullpen as the worst-case scenario?

MLB: Toronto Blue Jays at New York Yankees
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Yankees routinely have one of the best bullpens in baseball due to their tremendous developmental program and finding value where others don’t look. Notably, acquiring Clay Holmes from the Pittsburgh Pirates several years ago and Ian Hamilton becoming one of their best relief pitchers are just two examples of what bullpen pieces can do to support a team.

However, the Yankees need starting pitching and their top target is Yoshinobu Yamamoto. Some believe the Yankees lead the pack for his signature, but it is entirely possible they miss out on his services and have to pivot toward a different strategy.

Either way, the Yankees project to be aggressive, and they could look toward a “super-charged” bullpen in support of their starting rotation, according to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic.

A super-charged bullpen would mean the Yankees sign one, if not two, of the top relief arms on the market. Josh Hader, Jordan Hicks, and Robert Stephenson remain available.

The Yankees Could Target a High-Velocity Bullpen Arm

The Yankees have been connected to Hicks on several occasions this off-season since the 27-year-old is hitting the agent market and coming off a good year. Hicks has been relatively inconsistent throughout his career, though, but he regularly touches triple digits on his fastball and saw his strikeouts increase significantly last season.

His 3.29 ERA, 11.1 strikeouts per nine, and 58.3% ground ball rate across 65.2 innings suggest he could be a perfect fit with the Yankees. Pitching coach Matt Blake would maximize that velocity, which can sometimes lead to excessive walks due to a lack of accuracy. Alternatively, Hader is one of the best bullpen arms in the game.

The 29-year-old enjoyed an electric 1.28 ERA, 13.58 strikeouts per nine, an 88.8% left-on-base rate, and a 35.5% ground ball rate across 56.1 innings. Hader utilizes a fastball/slider combination, which is precisely what Blake prefers.

Of course, these two pitchers will be expensive to acquire, representing a pivot if the Yankees don’t spend big on a starting pitcher like Yamamoto. Conceivably, they could acquire Jordan Montgomery on the free agent market for half of what Yamamoto is expected to land and secure a top bullpen piece, which isn’t the worst alternative.

The issue is that the 25-year-old Japanese native has ace upside and brings durability along with the qualities to dominate in clutch moments. This isn’t an ordinary international prospect, this is a superstar in the making the Yankees desperately want.

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