Yankees lose out on top free agent bullpen target

MLB: Houston Astros at New York Yankees
Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Yankees have been actively exploring the bullpen market in recent weeks. Their initial interest in Hector Neris, however, did not materialize into an acquisition. Neris, formerly with the Houston Astros, has now signed a one-year deal with the Chicago Cubs, as reported by Jeff Passan of ESPN.

Neris’ Deal with the Cubs and Yankees’ Decision

The Chicago Cubs secured Neris with a contract that includes a club option for the 2025 season. Notably, the $9 million team option for 2025 will become a player option if Neris pitches in 60 games, with the potential to earn up to $23.25 million in incentives.

For the Yankees, the decision to pass on Neris was influenced by their reluctance to invest heavily in a 34-year-old reliever, particularly given his recent peak performance. Despite Neris’ impressive 1.71 ERA last season over 68.1 innings, his fluctuating performance in previous years, including a period where his ERA did not dip below 3.00, raised concerns about potential regression.

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Yankees’ Bullpen Alternatives and Payroll Considerations

With Neris off the table, the Yankees, led by General Manager Brian Cashman, are likely to focus on retaining internal bullpen assets like Wandy Peralta and possibly bringing back Keynan Middleton. Both pitchers had a successful tenure with the Yankees and could provide valuable support to the bullpen.

Cashman’s approach reflects a cautious spending strategy, especially considering the team’s current payroll situation. The Yankees have already reached a $300 million active total payroll, and there’s a need to reserve funds for Juan Soto’s anticipated extension next year.

The Yankees’ most significant offseason deal was with Marcus Stroman, who agreed to a two-year, $37 million contract. While Stroman was not the Yankees’ top pitching target in free agency, he is expected to be a solid addition, supplementing the rotation, particularly if Carlos Rodon and Nestor Cortes successfully recover from their injuries. This acquisition underscores the Yankees’ strategy of balancing talent acquisition with financial prudence as they prepare for the upcoming season.