Yankees’ bullpen is finally starting to take shape

New York Yankees, Kyle Higashioka
Aug 4, 2019; Bronx, NY, USA; New York Yankees catcher Kyle Higashioka (66) and relief pitcher Chad Green (57) react after defeating the Boston Red Sox at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports

After signing left-handed reliever Justin Wilson, the New York Yankees‘ bullpen is starting to take shape after losing Tommy Kahnle, Jonathan Holder, and Adam Ottavino.

Let’s remember that Yankees’ manager Aaron Boone could only trust three relievers when the season was on the line against the Tampa Bay Rays in the division series: Aroldis Chapman, Chad Green, and Zack Britton.

With just a few hours from pitchers and catchers reporting to spring training, here is the state of the Yankees’ bullpen:

The circle of trust: Aroldis Chapman, Zack Britton, Chad Green, Darren O’Day, Justin Wilson

After a productive offseason, we can say that the circle of trust now has five guys instead of three. Darren O’Day may be old, but he had a 1.10 ERA (2.76 FIP) in 2020 and was death to right-handed hitters.

Wilson had a 3.66 ERA in 2020, but it came with a much better 3.04 FIP. In 2019, over a larger sample, he had a 2.54 ERA.

Wilson knows what it’s like to succeed with the Yankees, as he was brilliant with them in the 2015 season. He has been averaging more than ten strikeouts per nine innings for the last four seasons.

The middle relievers: Luis Cessa, Jonathan Loaisiga

Cessa and Loaisiga should have a secure spot in the Yankees’ bullpen. Cessa’s floor is higher, but Loaisiga’s ceiling trumps Luis’.

Both should be primed for good seasons, but aren’t yet in the same “automatic”, set-and-forget status as Chapman, Green, Britton, O’Day, and Wilson.

The multiple-inning options: Asher Wojciechowski, Jhoulys Chacin, Mike King, Nick Nelson, Deivi Garcia, Clarke Schmidt, Domingo German, Nestor Cortes

Most of these guys won’t make the opening day roster. German and Garcia may or may not start the year in the rotation, though.

Schmidt will likely be in Triple-A for at least a couple of months, while Woj, Cortes, and Chacin are emergency options.

King and Nelson could be up-and-down guys but both have the potential to stick if they perform well.

The depth options: Kyle Barraclough, Albert Abreu, Brooks Kriske, Addison Russ, Tyler Lyons, Adam Warren

Barraclough and Lyons have been successful in the past, but for the Yankees’ sake, it would be best if they aren’t needed because it would mean that a string of injuries or underperformance took place.

Abreu is actually a starter, but makes sense as a bullpen option down the road. Warren has been successful with the Yankees before, and if he is healthy and right, could ascend to the middle relievers tier.

Kriske and Russ could be ready to contribute in the summer, and they have considerable potential as high-octane relievers.