Now that David Robertson has signed with the Phillies, the Yankees need to bring Zach Britton and Adam Ottavino to the Bronx.
The Yankees have spent a lot of time and energy improving their starting rotation this winter, but now it’s time for Brian Cashman to turn his attention to relievers. New York cannot afford to enter the 2019 season with any uncertainty in their bullpen.
David Robertson’s decision to sign with the Phillies makes retooling the Yankees relieving corps a little more difficult for Cashman and company. There are legitimate questions about whether or not the organization wanted to bring him back, but there’s no debate that his departure leaves a significant gap in the team’s late-inning options.
The free agency of Zach Britton also remains an issue for the team. Fortunately, the talented southpaw seems to favor a return to the Bronx. Most observers believe he’ll be the next big name reliever to come off the board. The Yankees need to make sure he doesn’t leave for greener pastures. The team may be forced to pay him like a closer, but the ability to deploy him against elite left-handed hitters late in games makes him worth the investment. Cashman must bring Britton back even if he’s forced to overpay slightly for his services.
Bringing Britton back into the fold will only help the team maintain the bullpen they had down the stretch in 2018. It doesn’t do anything to fill Robertson’s void. That’s why the Yankees need to sign two big time relievers before the winter is through. The only other quality option available is Adam Ottavino.
Giving the New York native a big money contract is a risk, but it’s one the Yankees need to take. Specifically, Ottavino’s wild performance fluctuations from season to season should be a serious concern. He’s only one year removed from a season where he posted an ugly ERA of 5.06 in 53.1 innings for the Rockies.
On the other hand, he was nothing short of electric for Colorado last season. His devastating slider is the stuff of legend on social media. It helped him strike out 112 batters in just 77.2 innings pitched. If he can replicate that in 2019 he’ll be one of the best setup men in baseball.
The Yankees are heavily linked with Ottavino, but there doesn’t seem to be a firm favorite for his services. You can safely expect him to pitch for the highest bidder. Again, Cashman needs to make sure he reels him in unless the bidding gets astronomical.
If the Yankees do miss on one of those elite free agents, look for them to work to turn Sonny Gray into a quality reliever. The organization would prefer to obtain a high-end prospect for the enigmatic righty, but their focus could change quickly if they can’t fill up the bullpen in free agency.
The bottom line for Cashman is that he needs to spend significant resources to sure up the bullpen before Spring Training arrives. It isn’t the sexiest story of the Yankees offseason, but it’s definitely one of the most important.