Yankees reinforce bullpen with former star Toronto bullpen arm

MLB: Toronto Blue Jays at Kansas City Royals, yankees
Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

It is no secret the Yankees desperately need reinforcements in the bullpen, and while General Manager Brian Cashman is expected to be active at the deadline, the team made one move on Wednesday, signing former Toronto star Tim Mayza to a minor league (MiLB) deal, according to Brenden Kuty of The Athletic.

What Can Mayza Offer the Yankees?

The lefty relief arm is now 32 years old and hosted an 8.03 ERA over 24.2 innings this season for Toronto before being released. In contrast, over 53.1 innings in 2023, Mayza was still at the top of his game, enjoying a 1.52 ERA, including 8.94 strikeouts per nine, an 88.4% left-on-base rate, and a 58.2% ground ball rate.

The Bombers are hoping that they can extract any remaining value from Mayza, who has seen his walks per nine double this season and his ground ball rate plummet nearly 20%.

MLB: Baltimore Orioles at Toronto Blue Jays
Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Mayza’s Pitching Struggles and Potential Adjustments

Mayza ranks in the 1st percentile in both expected ERA and expected batting average, not to mention the 2nd percentile in whiff rate and strike-out rate. He’s one of the worst pitchers in baseball based on those numbers, but the Yankees may want to slightly tweak his pitch usage. This year, he’s seen a 6% decrease in sinker usage and a 6% increase in his slider usage. Opposing batters are demolishing his sinker, which has dropped 1.5 mph in velocity. His slider has maintained its shape for the most part, but it’s not getting the same deviation, with his sinker simply ineffective.

Optimizing Mayza’s Performance

Despite the significant drop in velocity, Mayza’s sinker is still producing similar movement. In fact, it has 1 inch more vertical drop and is within the margins of his career averages with a horizontal break. If he can boost his velocity even slightly, he might be able to turn back the clock and offer the Yankees value at a cheap price.

Yankees’ Strategy for Bullpen Reinforcement

The Yankees can’t lean on deals like this to get them over the hump long-term, but they’re finding stash moves to reinforce the bullpen when they need support. Instead, eyeing a dominant arm at the trade deadline in late July could be a more productive move. At some point, the team does expect to get back Scott Effross, Clarke Schmidt, Ian Hamilton, and Cody Poteet, so they will have plenty of choices to pick from when it comes to bolstering the bullpen.

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