When I talked to Brian Cashman this afternoon, I told him that — apparently — all he needs to do is make a quick, easy trade for Joakim Soria and all his bullpen problems will be solved. He knew I was kidding. I could tell because he didn’t hang up the phone right away.
“It’s going to be a very difficult trade market,” Cashman said. “Limited options and high price tags. I wouldn’t be all that optimistic.”
The bullpen reportedly ranks below the bench in terms of trade priorities, and some of that might be the reality of the two roles. The Yankees proved last summer that it’s pretty easy to add solid bench pieces — Eric Hinske and Jerry Hairston were minor pickups who played quality roles down the stretch — but the bullpen is tricky.
Most lockdown relievers who could step confidently into the eighth inning would cost an arm and a leg. Literally. Kansas City and Florida would be well within their rights to ask for a significant hitting and pitching prospect for someone like Soria orLeo Nunez. A guy like Scott Downs — who has fairly significant left-right splits — might be more likely as a trade target.
Part of the problem with assembling and patching a bullpen is that even the best relievers are not always predictable. Last year the Yankees stumbled into their top setup man when they converted Phil Hughes. The Royals originally landed Soria in the Rule 5 draft. The Brewers have found success with closer John Axford, who was an absolute no-name in the Yankees minor league system three years ago.
It’s the nature of the beast in the bullpen, and the Yankees might be more likely to stick with Joba Chamberlain — trusting that his old dominance is still in there somewhere — than make a deal for a big name setup man to take his place.
Associated Press photo of Chamberlain.