Aaron Boone isn’t going to have any shortage of options in the Yankees bullpen next season. Signing Adam Ottavino gives him a dominant group of relievers.
Manny Machado may be holding up a lot of free agency moves in MLB, but the Yankees clearly aren’t bothered by his indecision. Instead of sitting around and waiting for Machado to make up his mind, Brian Cashman has been working hard to give Aaron Boone the best bullpen in baseball.
The news that the Yankees have inked Adam Ottavino to a three-year, $27 million deal on Thursday completes the dominant group of relievers available to Aaron Boone. The massive amount of talent that Cashman has accrued in the Yankees bullpen may be the best example of the franchise putting their financial might to good use.
It’s not as if the Yankees were devoid of bullpen talent heading into free agency. Aroldis Chapman struggled with a knee issue during most of last season, but he still pitched at an elite level. It’s entirely reasonable to believe he’ll be even better in 2019 after a full offseason of recovery. That’s a frightening thought for the rest of the American League.
Dellin Betances is also back in pinstripes to serve as Chapman’s primary right-handed setup guy. He endured a slow start to his 2018 campaign, but he was back to his dominant self by the time the All Star Break came around. He may never have the mental makeup to close out games for the Yankees, but he’s hugely valuable in the seventh and eighth innings. His devastating breaking ball can make elite hitters look foolish on a regular basis.
Of course, Cashman didn’t sit back and hope for that to be enough to end the club’s World Series drought. Zach Britton was an effective southpaw setup guy after coming over at last year’s trade deadline, and New York made sure he didn’t leave the Bronx via free agency. Having a healthier Britton for a full season should make Boone’s late game choices much easier.
In fairness, the Yankees did also lose a prominent bullpen guy this offseason. David Robertson’s move to the Phillies created a hole of sorts. Signing Ottavino is clearly designed to fill that void. He’ll be the guy Boone turns to when he needs to get tough righties out before the game is ready to turn over to Chapman. He held opposing hitters to a miniscule .158 batting average with the Rockies last season.
There’s depth in this group too. Chad Green and Jonathan Holder are both guys who could easily serve as setup men for other teams. Having them to use in the middle innings is a real luxury for Boone and his coaching staff.
There’s even the possibility that guys like Tommy Kahnle, Domingo German, Ben Heller and Stephen Tarpley can pitch at an above average level. Having guys that low in the bullpen who have a legitimate chance to perform as above average regulars just isn’t present in other bullpens.
Yankees fans may still have hard feelings about the team’s apparent unwillingness to spend big on Machado or Bryce Harper, but Cashman has invested heavily and wisely in the bullpen. Keeping that group as one of the team’s big strengths heading into 2019 could win New York a lot of important games during the regular season and in October.