Why the Yankees should prioritize going after this left-handed closer

MLB: Miami Marlins at New York Yankees
Credit: Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

Tanner Scott has been one of the best left-handed relievers in the game over the past two seasons, and with the Yankees needing some more power arms in the bullpen, he’s a perfect fit. One of the biggest issues with their bullpen has been the lack of swing-and-miss, but with Scott providing two dynamic pitches with high strikeout upside he could fix a lot of those needs. While the command isn’t as good as it was last season, it’s gotten better as the season has gone on, and the other skills he brings to the table are beyond valuable.

A potential option to close out games to come in as a fireman to wipe out opposing batters in high-leverage, the Yankees should be all-in on acquiring Tanner Scott’s services this upcoming trade deadline.

Tanner Scott Is a Perfect Fit For the Yankees

MLB: Chicago White Sox at Miami Marlins
Credit: Rhona Wise-USA TODAY Sports

The first metric that might stand out to you is his 14.9% walk rate, which is nearly double what we saw in 2023 when he had his best season to date. You might look at that and use it as a reason not to trade for Tanner Scott, and while I do believe that’s a fair criticism, his walk rate has gotten lower and lower as the season has gone on. Through his first eight games, the Marlins’ closer had 12 walks compared to 23 walks on the season, meaning over 50% of his free passes came in the first few games of the season.

His command has only gotten better and better as the season has gone on, and you’re trading for what a player will, not what they’ve already done. Perhaps that sounds a bit backward because prior production plays a role in your value, but the point I’m making is that Tanner Scott has only gotten better as the season has gone on, and I’d be stunned if his walk rate was over 14% with the Yankees.

We’re also seeing this positive trend with his strikeouts, as Tanner Scott has only missed more bats as his command has gotten better, which makes a ton of sense. Better command means you can put good pitches in the right spots to miss bats more reliably, and his weapons to do so are limited yet effective. His two-pitch combination is overly dominant, and I think people often underrate just how insane these two pitches are.

READ MORE: Yankees could go after these 3 players to fill their needs at the deadline

Among qualified relievers, Tanner Scott has the sixth-best Stuff+ (143) among all relievers, and he has the overpowering arsenal that allows him to carve through lineups by missing barrels. Batters whiff at his pitches at a 32.2% clip, which ranks in the 91st Percentile, and when they aren’t looking foolish on his pitches they’re generating harmless contact for outs.

Let’s take a look at some key batted ball metrics because Tanner Scott doesn’t just excel at limiting soft contact, he’s one of the very best in all of baseball at it.

By limiting damage contact, Tanner Scott can both punch guys out, but also get double play balls thanks to his excellent stuff, which keeps hitters guessing at all times. He’s also deadly against left-handed batters, whom the Yankees have had an impossible time getting out because of their lack of left-handed depth in the bullpen. They added two left-handed relievers over the winter in the form of Victor Gonzalez and Caleb Ferguson, and the two have combined for a 4.73 ERA and -0.4 fWAR across 51.1 innings.

Sure, the Yankees could probably find an unbelievable steal on the market, but it’s also important to have an already-established arm to make sure you shore up the backend of your bullpen. For every Tim Hill and Michael Tonkin, there’s a Dennis Santana and Albert Abreu, projects don’t always pan out and that’s something even the best pitching coaches are aware of. This isn’t to say the Yankees dumpster dive too much, but rather to emphasize the need for someone who is already very good.

I don’t even have to mention the fact that he has the seventh-lowest ERA among relievers (1.42) or the fact that he has led all bullpen arms in fWAR since the start of the 2023 season (3.3) to make my case. What he’s done for the Miami Marlins already makes him an attractive trade piece, but why he’s been able to do that makes him even more enticing for the Yankees because they would love to pair Clay Holmes and his sinker with Tanner Scott and his riding four-seamer.

MLB: Boston Red Sox at New York Yankees
Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Holmes, who is currently the Yankees’ closer, has fallen on tough times as of late with a backbreaking two-run blast against the Boston Red Sox that sits fresh in the minds of every fan. That doesn’t make him a bad reliever, he’s one of the premier options in the league and should be viewed as an excellent late-inning arm, but he has some flaws. The first is that he doesn’t throw his slider enough (although that’s an article topic for another day), but the other seems to be his performance with long layoffs.

When the Yankees are really good or really bad they don’t use Clay Holmes as much because they’re not in save situations, but getting him work is important. Having Tanner Scott could allow Aaron Boone to vary his looks at the closer position, and this could allow the team to deploy him in a more versatile manner. I think this could work best for all parties, as this gets Holmes in games more frequently, and it allows the team to change who they bring in based on the matchup.

In October it’s important to have multiple firemen, and while Holmes and Weaver are a strong one-two punch, they become even more devastating when you can add Tanner Scott to the mix. That trio of high-leverage weapons all come with a good fastball and secondary pitch, but they are fundamentally different pitchers when you look at their movement profiles and their release points.

Suddenly, your bullpen becomes even deadlier, because teams are getting different looks in the seventh, eighth, and ninth innings with no way to adjust in just one at-bat. Lineup diversity is overstated, but bullpen diversity can often get overlooked. The Yankees don’t have many guys with good riding fastballs that generate whiffs, especially from the left-handed side, and Tanner Scott could give them more variety alongside the already incredible value he brings to the table.

Mentioned in this article:

More about: