The New York Yankees had to clear two roster spots for the signings of Carlos Rodon and Tommy Kahnle on Wednesday afternoon. Surprisingly, they designated lefty bullpen arm Lucas Luetge for assignment, despite coming off two consecutive campaigns with sub 3.00 ERAs.
Luetge had been solid for the Bombers, but the Yankees had to make one more move, electing to designate flame-throwing bullpen arm Junior Fernandez, for assignment, despite believing that he could earn a crack at the starting roster in 2023. It is possible they bring him back on a minor league deal to compete instead of holding him on the 40-man roster.
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The Yankees could bring Junior Fernandez back on a MiLB deal:
Fernandez is coming off a solid 2022 season, hosting a 2.41 ERA and 6.75 strikeouts per nine with the St. Louis Cardinals and Pittsburgh Pirates. He pitched just 18.2 innings, a small sample size that doesn’t erase the inadequacy he put on the mound a few years back with St. Louis in 2021 and 2020.
However, Fernandez features incredible velocity with his pitches, utilizing a sinker, slider, 4-seam fastball, and change-up sequence. This past year, Fernandez relied heavily on his sinker/slider combination. His fastball generated a .282 batting average against, a 14% whiff rate, and a 20% put-away rate. His slider produced a .304 batting average, including a 44% whiff rate and 18.4% put-away rate. His numbers aren’t very good, but he does average about 99 mph with his FB, which might’ve been a catalyst for pitching coach Matt Blake.
Instead, the Yankees will look to the future to fill the bullpen spot, especially since Kahnle is coming off three consecutive years of barely pitching at all. He still managed to land a two-year, $11.5 million deal to return to the Bombers, which is certainly interesting.
Nonetheless, the Yankees are incredibly excited about Carlos Rodon, injecting yet another star pitcher into the rotation. Rodon will take the place of Fernandez on the 40-man roster after earning a 2.88 ERA this past season across 178 innings with the San Francisco Giants.