The New York Yankees were pretty much a non-participant in the baseball Winter Meetings. Their main priorities, although they may have been addressed, there were no results. They didn’t re-sign DJ LeMahieu and didn’t add a much-needed starting pitcher. The only real good news coming out of the meetings is that no team made an offer good enough to steal DJ LeMahieu away from the Yankees as of yet. Still, that remains to be seen.
The only area that may be firming up and giving us a look at the 2021 season is in the Yankee bullpen. Here is what we do know. Tommy Kahnle will miss most if not all of the 2021 season rehabbing from Tommy John surgery. The top five listed below will carry most of the 2021 load coming out of the bullpen. But if there is anything close to a 162 game season, those stalwarts will need a lot of help. After such a short season this year, the Yankees will have to be careful with all of them, being cautious with how many innings each pitch to prevent injuries. If the Yankees don’t add a number two or three starter that can go deep into games, that will put even more stress on the bullpen.
Although the bullpen may be shaping up, the New York Yankees still need a bullpen arm that can be Tommy Kahnle-like. Especially with an Adam Ottavino, the Yankees find it questionable if he can return to the reliever he was in 2018.
Aroldis Chapman is Aroldis Chapman, you know what you’re going to get, and that is not a Mariano Rivera-like closer. He generally gets the job done but scares the hell out of you doing it. Last season he lost a bit of velocity but is still overpowering. Another question with Chapman is how he has given away the winning run in the postseason for the last two seasons in a row.
You may see Zack Britton take a more leading role in closing games this season. He will definitely be the setup man for Chapman. Britton was really impressed last season when in place of Chapman, who had tested positive for the coronavirus, Britton eight straight saves and ended the 60 game season with an ERA of 1.89 in 20 games. There is no question, Britton outpitched Chapman during the last season. Chapman pitched in 13 games with an ERA of 3.09.
Chad Green will again be an integral part of the bullpen. The season may see him open games, be a middle reliever, and even a setup man. Green is manager Aaron Boone’s most versatile reliever. Green had a very similar year to his performance in 2019; although he improved his ERA to 3.51, he also saved a game for the Yankees this past season. Chad Green will surely play a big part in the 2021 season.
The Yankees tendered Luis Cessa an offer for a contract this year and good reason. Although Cessa’s 2020 campaign was not as good as his best year in, 2019 he is still a workhorse that can be generally counted on in mid relief. You may find his role being shared with the just re-signed Nestor Cortes Jr. They are very similar pitchers.
Unfortunately, Adam Ottavino is a huge question about whether he will be effective during 2021, especially considering it may very well be a longer season than in 2020. Ottavino lost steam as the 2019 season progressed. In this shortened season, he lost steam even quicker to the point that he was nearly useless. Ottavino pitched 18.1 innings giving up more than a hit per inning with an elevated 5.89 ERA. He followed that up, turning into a disaster in the postseason. He pitched 2/3 of an inning using 16 pitches, walking one, not getting an out, and given up a run for an ERA of 13.50.
Ottavino, like Kahnle, is most often used as a late-inning setup to the setup man. With Kahnle out of the season and Ottavino in question, the Yankees really need that one more quality arm to firm up the season’s bullpen.
The Yankees have several arms they will have to depend upon. One of the biggest pitching questions is what role Jonathan Loisiga will play. He pitched in twelve games, including three games as a starter. Loaisiga, although not consistent, has shown brilliance at times. He had a 3-0 record last season with an ERA of 3.52. What happens with the starting rotation may play a role in where Loaisiga pitches in 2021.
Because of an expected season going for 100 to 162 games and the stress this will put on the bullpen, the Yankees will have to watch how many innings each reliever pitches so that they won’t be worn out for the hopeful postseason. Brook Kriske, Nick Nelson, Ben Heller, Miguel Yaujer, and newly acquired Nestor Cortes Jr. will be called up to help out.
Again according to what happens with the starting pitching, Clarke Schmidt, Micheal King, Albert Abreu may be used as starters or could aid the relievers. It is most likely that Jordan Montgomery and Deivi Garcia will find their place among the starters no matter what happens.