Yankees could make major improvement to bullpen with free agent signing

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

If New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman wants velocity, he should look no further than free agent Jordan Hicks, formerly of the St. Louis Cardinals and Toronto Blue Jays. Hicks is a 27-year-old free agent, a young age for a player who still has substantial upside.

Hicks projects to be one of the more expensive bullpen arms on the market, but his makeup is extremely enticing, especially with a coach like Matt Blake, who could do wonders with his sequence.

According to The Athletic, the Yankees have an interest in Hicks, along with several other teams. Of course, after landing Juan Soto and his estimated $30 million in arbitration, the Yankees will have to allocate financial resources more efficiently. They desperately need another starting pitcher, which could end up being Yoshinobu Yamamoto, or a lesser option where they can spend a bit more at other positions, like Hicks in the bullpen.

Why the Yankees Have Their Eyes on Jordan Hicks

Taking a look at Hicks, who pitched 65.2 innings last season, enjoying a 3.29 ERA, 11.1 strikeouts per nine, a 72.1% left-on-base rate, and a 58.3% ground ball rate. He’s had a few inconsistent seasons, but his fastball touches over 100 mph regularly. He features a sinker, sweeper, four-seam fastball, and dabbles with a change-up. Last season, his sinker produced a .259 batting average, and his sweeper a .136 batting average.

Going from a 100 mph sinker to an 87 mph sweeper certainly causes some deception. His sweeper generates about league-average movement, but Blake may be able to tweak his fundamentals and get more break on his pitches. A sinker at that velocity with 6% more horizontal movement than the average pitcher is incredibly difficult to hit. He can be a bit erratic with his accuracy, but that is expected with that level of velocity. He ranks in the 96th percentile in ground ball percentage and 100th percentile in fastball velocity.

Oddly, his whiff rate is only in the 66th percentile, and he walks too many batters. Some hyper-specific coaching and fundamental tweaks could further improve his arm, but he will be a costly acquisition. The Yankees signed Tommy Kahnle last off-season to a two-year, $11.5 million deal. He had tremendous success finding cost-efficient arms and building them up into productive players. They may prefer to spend more on a starting pitcher and take a cheaper option in the bullpen.

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