Yankees lose out on 2 top free-agent bullpen arms

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The Yankees have been heavily linked to a number of quality bullpen arms in free agency. They had inquired about Josh Hader, who signed with the Houston Astros, and Robert Stephenson, who landed a new deal with the Los Angeles Angels on Friday afternoon

The Astros continue to get better, landing Hader on a five-year, $95 million deal. This is the largest contract for a reliever in the history of baseball, so clearly, Houston wanted him for their high-leverage moments in the playoffs. The Yankees will have to settle for Ian Hamilton and Clay Holmes as their primary closers.

Stephenson secured a three-year, $33 million deal from the Angels, nothing too crazy, and something the Yankees likely could’ve considered a bit more seriously.

Reports have suggested that general manager Brian Cashman is weighing the idea of landing Hector Neris, but he’s 34 years old, and a multi-deal is likely off the table. Instead, the team picked up Diego Castillo on Friday, waiving former Red Sox utility infielder Jeter Downs.

The Yankees Don’t Need Hector Neris

The Bombers routinely have one of the best bullpens in baseball, so passing on Hader and Stephenson was always a possibility. Cashman and manager Aaron Boone both suggested that new acquisitions and roster shuffling would be an ongoing process. They didn’t rule out the idea of bringing in more support, but it doesn’t seem as though Cashman is keen on overspending in free agency, especially for players over 30 years old, already trending in the wrong direction.

If they do like what Neris offers, a two-year, $20 million deal may get the job done since he rejected a player option at $8.5 million from Houston.

If the Astros are letting him walk, it is safe to say that the Yankees shouldn’t be paying him even more. Alternatively, the Astros would’ve simply brought him back, so their analytical model isn’t supporting his expectations for the 2024 season.

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