Yankees watching top bullpen arm deteriorate at a surprising pace

jonathan loaisiga, yankees
Apr 5, 2023; Bronx, New York, USA; New York Yankees pitcher Jonathan Loaisiga (43) delivers a pitch during the eighth inning against the Philadelphia Phillies at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Yankees have one of the best bullpens in baseball, and that is an occurrence on a yearly basis. Pitching coach Matt Blake has done a phenomenal job getting substantial value out of underappreciated talent.

However, the rapid deterioration of one of their top open arms has been surprising. 28-year-old Jonathan Loáisiga was once considered a top relief pitcher in the game, hosting a 2.17 ERA, 2.58 FIP, a 79.1% left-on-base rate, and a 60.9% ground ball rate across 70.2 innings back in 2021.

Loáisiga recorded a 4.13 ERA across 48 innings in 2022, seeing a massive reduction in strikeouts and left-on-base rate. His walk rate skyrocketed, increasing nearly 100%. Loáisiga only pitched 17.2 innings this past campaign, recording a 3.06 ERA, a career law 3.06 strikeouts per nine, a 70.4% left-on-base rate, and a 53.3% ground ball rate.

Unfortunately, a myriad of different injuries, ranging from shoulder to elbow issues, has derailed his career up to this point. Nonetheless, Loáisiga is expected to stick around in the final year of arbitration, which is estimated to be a $2.5 million salary. That is a reasonable cost for a player who provides value when healthy since the Yankees can bank on insurance if he misses a lot of time.

The Yankees Shouldn’t Give Up On Jonathan Loáisiga

Giving up on a player of this magnitude would be silly for the Yankees, especially since they’ve gotten great value out of options like Ian Hamilton and Clay Holmes. Spending a bit more on Loáisiga, given what he displayed in the past, is a worthwhile risk.

Manager Aaron Boone voiced his confidence in Loáisiga, noting his versatility out of the bullpen.

“When he’s going well, it’s as good as there is because he’s efficient, he’s got great stuff, he can get both-handed out,” Boone said in September. “He can go one-plus [innings] for you. He can fill any role, whether it’s closing out a game or in the biggest spots. When he’s going good, I don’t know if there’s much better in the league, frankly.”

The Yankees did acquire Tommy Kahnle last off-season to help bolster the bullpen, dishing out a two-year, $11.5 million deal. Kahnle recorded a 2.66 ERA across 40.2 innings, some decent numbers for the high-strikeout pitcher. Of course, the organization needs to be bolstering the batting order, so every bit of salary space helps reinforce that strategy.

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