Trying to supplement the loss of Zack Britton was always going to be a major challenge for New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman. Britton is regarded as one of the best relief arms in baseball, but he is likely to miss virtually the entire 2022 season after succumbing to Tommy John surgery.
Finding cheaper relief arms with upside and relying on youth prospects seems to be the strategy, but they might have struck gold with 31-year-old relief pitcher, Manny Banuelos.
Banuelos featured with the Chicago White Sox back in 2019, making his last appearance in the majors. Over 50.2 innings, Banuelos hosted a 6.93 ERA and 7.82 strikeouts per 9. In fact, Banuelos featured with the Yankees between 2008–2014, reaching their Triple-A affiliate. Banuelos flashed solid attributed before undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2013, disrupting his progression.
However, the Yankees have brought him back and given him reps this spring training, posting a 0.00 ERA over three appearances, allowing two hits and striking out seven batters. Banuelos averaged a 91.7 mph fastball back in his heyday and mixed in a slider, curveball, and change-up. Banuelos had great potential before the injury with a solid array of pitches to utilize.
The veteran relief arm spent time in the Chinese professional baseball league and Mexican league before making the transition back to the MLB.
Against the Toronto Blue Jays on Wednesday night, Banuelos lasted three innings, allowing two hits, striking out three batters and not giving up a single walk over 33 pitches.
Featuring a lefty arm, the hope is he can offer a bit of diversity in the bullpen and help supplement the loss of Britton this year. It is a tall task for a player who has struggled considerably when called upon, but Brian Cashman has managed to strike gold on players before who still have gas left in the tank.