Yankees are expected to target a reunion in free agency for their bullpen

MLB: New York Yankees at Miami Marlins
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With the Yankees looking to add bullpen depth, the team is still searching for options on the free-agent market. Jack Curry was on YES Hot Stove to discuss the team’s plans in the bullpen, and he dropped some nuggets that could indicate that a reunion is likely in free agency. The Yankees are in contact with both Wandy Peralta and Keynan Middleton, with the team more likely to end up with one of the two than end up with a reliever like Hector Neris, who the team has been linked to by various reporters.

He added that one text or phone call could always change things, but he foresees that the Hector Neris will be headed elsewhere in the winter and that one of the two aforementioned reunion candidates could don the pinstripes again in 2024.

Yankees Leaning Towards a Reunion Over Hector Neris

MLB: New York Yankees at Detroit Tigers
Aug 31, 2023; Detroit, Michigan, USA; New York Yankees relief pitcher Keynan Middleton (93) pitches in the sixth inning against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Keynan Middleton has an excellent pitch mix that the Yankees maximized when they had him use more sliders against right-handed batters. The 30-year-old had a 1.88 ERA and struck out 30.4% of batters faced across 14.1 innings pitched, generating high groundball rates (71%) and sporting a strong three-pitch mix. All three of his pitches had a Whiff Rate above 30% this past year, and the depth of his movement profile allows him to project well for the future.

His most-used pitch was his changeup (42.9%) and he generated a 37.7% Whiff Rate on the offering. Middleton had a slider that the Yankees felt was underutilized, especially against right-handed batters, and his 3.38 ERA across 50.2 innings was extremely overlooked. It isn’t expected that he would demand an incredibly large contract on the market, and affordability could give him the edge in the Yankees’ eyes.

mlb: milwaukee brewers at new york yankees, wandy peralta
Sep 9, 2023; Bronx, New York, USA; New York Yankees relief pitcher Wandy Peralta (58) pitches in the seventh inning against the Milwaukee Brewers at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

The reliable veteran has been one of the key figures of the Yankees’ bullpen since being acquired back in 2021, and he’s been consistently great as well. Wandy Peralta has been one of the best left-handed relievers in baseball and has been the Yankees’ go-to southpaw in the bullpen as well. Similarly to Keynan Middleton, his most-used pitch is a changeup (44.4%), and it plays well with his hard sinker, allowing him to generate plenty of groundballs.

Where he differs from Middleton is that he doesn’t get a lot of strikeouts (although he does get a lot of whiffs), and that could be a reason for the Yankees to move off of him. Peralta walked more batters and allowed more home runs in 2023 compared to 2022, and that resulted in a FIP north of 5.00 despite his sub-3.00 ERA. Perhaps he’s due for regression, but a lot of his issues seem to stem from command, and not a matter of deteriorating stuff, which would be far more alarming.

mlb: alcs-texas rangers at houston astros, yankees, hector neris
Oct 22, 2023; Houston, Texas, USA; Houston Astros relief pitcher Hector Neris (50) reacts in the eighth inning during game six of the ALCS for the 2023 MLB playoffs against the Texas Rangers at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Despite the rumors, the Yankees aren’t expected to sign Hector Neris according to Jack Curry, although he left the door open for the possibility that one of the two sides could change their demands or offers. The 34-year-old has spent the last two seasons with the Houston Astros, winning the World Series in 2022 and posting a 2.69 ERA across 141 appearances with the team. Andy Martino of SNY reports that the right-hander is looking for a one or two-year deal in free agency, ranging between $7 million and $11 million in terms of AAV.

The Yankees are expected to add bullpen help ahead of Spring Training, but expect it to be a reunion if they do make a final move in free agency.

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