Yankees are focusing on the reliever market in free agency according to MLB insider

MLB: ALCS-Texas Rangers at Houston Astros
Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

As the Yankees continue to search for pitching help, they look to the reliever market to find bullpen support for a unit that finished at the top of the league in ERA (3.34). They have an interest in reunions in free agency with either Keynan Middleton or Wandy Peralta based on reports from Jack Curry, but Jon Heyman reports on some other potential options the Yankees have spoken to. Hector Neris, Ryan Brasier, and Phil Maton are all players the Yankees have been in contact with, and they could be upgrades for the team in the bullpen.

Spring Training is a month away, and players want to find homes with time to report to camp and get built up for the season, and the Bronx Bombers could pounce on a myriad of reliever options.

Yankees Casting a Wide Net of Interest in Bullpen Market

MLB: ALCS-Texas Rangers at Houston Astros
Oct 23, 2023; Houston, Texas, USA; Houston Astros pitcher Phil Maton (88) throws during the first inning of game seven in the ALCS against the Texas Rangers for the 2023 MLB playoffs at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

The Yankees will explore the vast array of arms on the free-agent market, and while we’ve extensively discussed Keynan Middleton and Wandy Peralta, the other names haven’t been discussed as much. Phil Maton has spent the past two-and-a-half seasons with the Houston Astros after being traded from the Cleveland Guardians for Myles Straw is a name to watch for New York. He was brutal in his first season, posting a 4.97 ERA across 27 outings for the Astros, but since then, he’s steadily improved.

Going from a four-seamer to a cutter has been a huge change for the right-hander, and he’s used his breaking balls more as well to generate swings and misses alongside more soft contact. Phil Maton pitched to a career-best 3.00 ERA across 68 appearances, striking out 74 batters and ranking in the 100th Percentile in Hard-Hit% (23.5%). He’s an interesting reliever who possesses a lot of interesting traits that could serve well for the bullpen, and Maton may not cost much.

Stuff+ loves his curveball (131) and sweeper (123) which generate plenty of horizontal sweep and soft contact, and allow his profile to play against both right-handed and left-handed batters. It doesn’t like his ‘four-seamer’ (51) at all, but the pitch should be recategorized as a cutter so I’m throwing that grade away. He’s a buzzsaw against right-handed hitters, and the more he’s relied on the breaking ball the better he’s performed, so expect the Yankees to be aggressive with his usage of the curveball and sweeper.

Phil Maton does come with some concerns though, as he’s been shaky against left-handed hitters and had an elbow issue during the season that sidelined him for a couple of weeks. He was brilliant after his return, but sometimes elbow issues are an indication of a much more severe injury down the road. Regardless, he would be an inexpensive addition who seemingly found new life with a heavier emphasis placed on his unbelievable breaking pitches.

MLB: NLDS-Arizona Diamondbacks at Los Angeles Dodgers
Oct 9, 2023; Los Angeles, California, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers relief pitcher Ryan Brasier (57) throws a pitch against the Arizona Diamondbacks in the fourth inning for game two of the NLDS for the 2023 MLB playoffs at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kiyoshi Mio-USA TODAY Sports

Ryan Brasier was horrific with the Boston Red Sox, posting a 7.29 ERA and 18.9% K% through 20 appearances for the team, and he would end up with the Los Angeles Dodgers after they cut ties with the veteran reliever. As expected, he went on to post a 0.70 ERA and 1.1 fWAR across his 39 appearances with LA, and he could be an interesting addition for the Yankees in free agency.

With the Dodgers, he’d add a cutter that would help his profile specifically against left-handed hitters, as he would distribute his pitch usage rather evenly between his four total offerings. Brasier mixes in his sinker more to righties and cutter more to lefties, and he still has a four-seam fastball with plenty of vertical ride that gets swings-and-misses in the zone. Having three fastball variants that you can command with above-100 Stuff+ metrics can allow each fastball to overperform their stuff grade thanks to how well those pitches often tunnel with each other.

The Dodgers even began trusting Brasier in bigger spots, as he had a +2.10 Win Probability Added with the team, and that’s in large part due to how much better he is at preventing damage contact. His .268 xwOBACON with Los Angeles is incredible, generating groundballs a a 51.1% clip and allowing just one home run in Dodger blue. Projections believe he’s a sub-4.00 ERA pitcher in 2024, but is age enough of a concern to concern the Yankees?

Brasier still has under 1,000 innings on his arm despite turning 37 years old next August, and on a one-year deal, he could be an excellent value signing. His ability to dominate right-handed hitters and handle left-handed hitters makes him versatile for the Yankees, and he can go multiple innings if needed as well. Ryan Brasier would serve as a middle-of-the-bullpen reliever and could be one of the best relievers in baseball if his changes with the LA Dodgers stick in 2024.

MLB: New York Yankees at Houston Astros
Sep 2, 2023; Houston, Texas, USA; Houston Astros relief pitcher Hector Neris (50) reacts at the end of the seventh inning against the New York Yankees at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports

Hector Neris has been discussed plenty as an option for the New York Yankees, so his segment will be much briefer than the previous two names, but the value here is obvious. He posted a 1.71 ERA in his age-34 season, striking out 77 batters across 68.1 innings pitched in what was arguably his best season in the Major Leagues. Neris was remarkable for the Astros, and just like Phil Maton was on the 2022 and 2023 squads, winning a title with the organization over his former ballclub in Philadelphia.

An excellent splitter has anchored his profile for a while, but adding vertical ride to his four-seam fastball has allowed him to limit damage contact and become even more effective on the mound. Hector Neris had a 1.30 HR/9 in his career before signing a three-year deal with the Astros, where he’d improve the four-seamer and limit his HR/9 to just 0.67, resulting in a 2.69 ERA across 133.2 innings over his two-year run there. He’d opt out of the third season, and will now test free agency.

Jack Curry of YES Network has reported that it’s unlikely that the Yankees sign Neris however, so he’s probably the least likely candidate to sign with the team. The Yankees will likely add a reliever ahead of Spring Training, and they have a vast array of options to choose from as they draw closer to the start of the new season.