Yankees add interesting reliever to bolster pitching depth

MLB: Chicago Cubs at Philadelphia Phillies
Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

The Yankees continue to go through in the depths of the free agent market to add bullpen depth at a low cost, and this time they add hard-throwing right-hander Nick Burdi to their roster with a Spring Training Invite according to Jack Curry. Burdi has an upper-90s fastball that he releases from a lower slot and can play up in the strike zone well due to its solid vertical movement. He also possesses a sweeping slider with mid-80s velocity, and this could be a pitcher who takes off with the Yankees if he stays healthy.

A hard-throwing righty with plenty of upside, the Yankees could get a steal with this 30-year-old right-hander in their bullpen.

Yankees Find a Stuff+ Machine in Nick Burdi

MLB: Chicago Cubs at Philadelphia Phillies
May 20, 2023; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Chicago Cubs relief pitcher Nick Burdi (49) pitches in the eighth inning against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park. The Phillies won 12-3. Mandatory Credit: John Geliebter-USA TODAY Sports

Nick Burdi has found himself bouncing around different organizations his entire professional career, but the Yankees could potentially be a permanent stop for him if he can maintain a relatively clean bill of health. The hard-throwing right-hander sported a 122 Stuff+ in Triple-A due to his dominant two-pitch mix that includes a great four-seam fastball and sweeping slider. His four-seam fastball generates roughly 16″ of carry at over 2,400 RPMs of spin from a -4.5° Vertical Approach Angle.

The 97-98 MPH velocity on the pitch truly makes it elite, and the Yankees could see him plenty of strikeouts from that very offering. His sweeping slider generated 12″ of horizontal break in Triple-A at 86 MPH, with a 50% Whiff% as well this past season for the Iowa Cubs. While Burdi is an older project, pitching age has become less relevant for development in the modern age than it’s ever been, and his stuff suggests there’s plenty to like for 2024. He also sports a sinker with 14″ of run that geld batters to a 53.8% GB%, but it also got hit pretty hard.

When it comes to getting surplus value out of relieves the Yankees reign supreme, and while Burdi has a career 9.39 ERA in 15.1 IP at the Major League level, he also has a 36% K% and 3.48 SIERA, and Steamer projects him for a 3.88 ERA next season. This is a pitcher who can really excel in a Major League role if given an ample amount of time to get acclimated, and the Yankees can certainly plug him in their bullpen and give him the opportunities to succeed. This is a reliever with plenty of upside, and one that Yankee fans should pay attention to for a potential breakout season.

Any Minor League free agent should be viewed as a player who shouldn’t be relied upon to succeed, but I think Burdi is a near-lock to at least get MLB innings next year for the Yankees. Barring an injury, this is somebody that the Yankees clearly had eyes for, and there’s a lot to like that would indicate they’re making a smart choice. The safest bet for getting hits on your lottery ticket signings would be to acquire as many high-upside arms as possible, and Burdi would certainly be that.

He has the power fastball, he has the slider the Yankees tend to develop well, and he’s entering an organization with Matt Blake and Sam Briend overseeing his development. It seems like a long shot, but I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw Nick Burdi find his way onto the roster in a similar manner to Ian Hamilton this past season and exceed all expectations. The upside here is legit, and I believe the Yankees might have found a perfect lottery ticket for the backend of their bullpen.