Yankees’ reliable left-handed reliever drawing interest from crosstown rival in free agency

MLB: Washington Nationals at New York Yankees
Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

The Yankees are targeting help in their bullpen, and while they missed out on Hector Neris this past week, they seem honed in a tier of lower-cost free agents. Relievers are hard to evaluate due to their smaller workload compared to everyday players or starting pitchers, but a great bullpen is important for winning games. In recent years the Yankees have often generated surplus value from bullpen acquisitions, finding hidden gems in free agency or on the trade market.

One of the most prominent examples of the Yankees’ ability to get surplus value in the reliever market has been Wandy Peralta, whom they acquired from the San Francisco Giants. Jon Heyman of the New York Post now reports that the Mets, who are hunting for left-handed relief help, have targeted Wandy Peralta.

Yankees and Mets Showing Interest in Wandy Peralta

MLB: New York Yankees at New York Mets
Jun 13, 2023; New York City, New York, USA; New York Yankees relief pitcher Wandy Peralta (58) delivers a pitch during the eighth inning against the New York Mets at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Wandy Peralta turned in another strong season, as the Yankees were able to call upon him 63 times this season and rely on him to be their best left-handed weapon in the bullpen. He pitched to a strong 2.83 ERA and had a 57.4% groundball rate in his 54 innings of work, but issues with projectability could give the team some pause about bringing him back on a multi-year contract. Peralta’s FIP spiked to 5.05 as a result of an increased walk rate and home run rate, as batters converted more barrels against him in 2023.

This didn’t affect his performance in high-leverage last year, sporting a strong +1.13 Win Probability Added, but how he fares in the future remains to be seen. He’s another year older and was shut down in mid-September due to a tricep strain, but in a more optimistic lens, none of the core skills for Peralta have faded. There wasn’t a decline in velocity or Stuff+ that would indicate that he can’t correct some of the issues he had last season, and command often varies from year to year for relievers.

MLB: New York Yankees at Miami Marlins
Aug 13, 2023; Miami, Florida, USA; New York Yankees relief pitcher Wandy Peralta (58) looks on as he leaves the game against the Miami Marlins during the eighth inning at loanDepot Park. Mandatory Credit: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

The Yankees have interest in a reunion with Wandy Peralta still, and it’s expected that they’ll add a reliever before Spring Training kicks off, with options remaining on the board. Keynan Middleton, who was acquired at the trade deadline last season, is another reunion target for the Yankees, as he displayed a lot of impressive skills that should project well. His 17% Swinging Strike Rate ranks among the top 10 for pitchers with at least 50 innings thrown last year, and his groundball rate (56.6%) was extremely impressive as well.

He worked on throwing his slider more to right-handed batters while with the Yankees and pitched to a sub-2.00 ERA in 12 outings as a result. High-strikeout arms typically project well, and the interest in Middleton makes a lot of sense given what he does well and his younger age in comparison to Peralta. Phil Maton and Ryan Brasier are external targets for the Bronx Bombers, as both pitchers are expected to sign short-term deals with low AAV numbers, and that’s right in the team’s current budget.

It remains to be seen who the Yankees will add or if Wandy Peralta will don a different uniform next season, but the reliever market has certainly begun to heat up.