Yankees have added incentive to roster talented bullpen arm

jimmy cordero, yankees
Mar 12, 2023; Fort Myers, Florida, USA; New York Yankees relief pitcher Jimmy Cordero (70) leaves the game against the Boston Red Sox in the fifth inning during spring training at JetBlue Park at Fenway South. Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

The Yankees have seen impressive bullpen performances from a plethora of arms in camp, and while the ERA isn’t pretty, Jimmy Cordero has shown off elite-level stuff. The 31-year-old right-handed reliever has a power-sinking fastball with ridiculous extension and height that allows him to jam right-handed batters while flashing a changeup that he can use against left-handed batters and a hard gyro slider for two-strike counts. It’s evident that the Yankees have a bias for sinker-slider arms, and they could have another option with this Dominican-born fireballer.

According to Brendan Kuty, Cordero doesn’t have MiLB options, and thus they’ll have to either roster him on the MLB roster or outright him off of the 40 Man Roster and allow other teams to have a shot to grab him. Is this added incentive to keep him around potentially an avenue to roster him?

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Showing the Yankees Elite Pitch Shapes

Jimmy Cordero has recorded a 114.1 Stuff+ so far, with his best-graded pitch being that hard sinker that generates run and sink to keep the ball on the ground. It’s a pitch that Cordero also gets plenty of extension on, with the perceived velocity on the pitch exceeding 99 MPH in camp so far, and it’s the single hardest pitch anyone in camp is throwing on the Yankees. His arm is simply ridiculous, and the Yankees clearly value that in some capacity. He excelled in Triple-A during the 2022 season, and I imagine that the Yankees are viewing him as someone they can rely upon to get tough outs from the back of their bullpen.

While 2020 was a disaster for Cordero, in 2019, he posted a 2.89 ERA in 31 appearances with a 3.70 SIERA, and while the K-BB numbers and GB% haven’t been on par with his norms in Spring, it could just be a situation where Cordero is trying to find the feel of his pitches. Results are important for confidence, but the underlying numbers like Stuff+ and Pitching+ have been encouraging enough for me to believe that the Yankees have a genuine back-of-the-bullpen arm with plenty of upside.

yankees, jimmy cordero
Feb 17, 2023; Tampa, FL, USA; New York Yankees relief pitcher Jimmy Cordero (70) works out at George M. Steinbrenner Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

While this isn’t a Clay Holmes situation where the Yankees are converting damaged goods into an elite reliever, I do believe they could get solid production here. Cordero plays into what the Yankees do well, and with their infield personnel providing elite-level defense across the diamond, Cordero can keep the ball on the ground and even with limited shift rules see those grounders turn into outs. You’d ideally like to see more swing-and-miss in Cordero’s game, but as long as he has sustainable run prevention, you aren’t going to complain much.

This creates an interesting roster crunch since Cordero now could get priority over arms with MiLB options. The Yankees don’t want to give away depth for free, so how does this bullpen end up shaking out for the Bronx Bombers?

Making Tough Roster Decisions

The roster spots of Clay Holmes, Jonathan Loaisiga, Wandy Peralta, Michael King, and Ron Marinaccio are more than safe. These five arms are the best the Yankees have in their bullpen, and making any of them start in Triple-A would be a disaster for high-leverage situations. The final three roster spots come down to Albert Abreu, Matt Krook, Greg Weissert, and Jimmy Cordero, but I think the final shakeup ends up being pretty anti-climactic. No dramatic trades or shocking DFA’s, I think they just start Greg Weissert in Triple-A. Weissert still has command issues that plague him, and while his pitch mix is nasty, they could find his role redundant.

Abreu and Cordero both don’t have options, so in this situation where they don’t want to trade their depth, these two are locks to make it. Matt Krook has outpitched Weissert in camp, but he’s also been someone the Yankees have liked for a while. Bryan Hoch reported that the Yankees considered adding him to their postseason roster as his MLB debut, showing the level of faith they have in him. He went as far as to say the trade of Lucas Luetge was made a lot easier by Matt Krook, who they believed could easily replace him.

matt krook, yankees
Mar 22, 2022; Dunedin, Florida, USA; New York Yankees pitcher Matt Krook (77) throws a pitch in the fifth inning against the Toronto Blue Jays during spring training at TD Ballpark. Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

This makes a lot of sense since Krook is a left-handed arm, has a sweeper, and can provide bulk innings as a starter in 2022. For as much as I like Clarke Schmidt and as much as the Yankees may trust Domingo German, if anyone goes down with injury they’ll need to either go with a bullpen game or potentially start Jhony Brito/Randy Vasquez, and Krook can give them multiple innings to hold the fort down. Krook does have the worst Stuff+ of the group, but I do believe that he can overperform that mark and excel with his groundball rates and BABIP control.

He has command issues, but the Yankees have a liking for the LHP, and he’s less expendable (for now) than Greg Weissert is. When Tommy Kahnle returns they’ll have more roster questions to answer, but if Cordero/Abreu slump early, we could see one of them DFA’d or potentially just see Krook demoted. It’ll be an interesting roster crunch, and they could trade an arm like Albert Abreu or just refuse to roster Cordero, but that means losing depth for a bullpen currently suffering some big-time injuries.

Jimmy Cordero is an arm worth giving a look at in the regular season, and I trust that the Yankees wouldn’t roster a pitcher with obviously poor pitch data, but his lack of MiLB options could force them to take that leap of faith with Cordero.