While the Yankees were finalizing and announcing their Brian McCann signing, the rest of baseball was setting the bullpen market into motion.
• Last night, Jim Johnson was traded to Oakland.
• This morning, the Tigers signed Joe Nathan.
• The Dodgers are reportedly close to a deal with Brian Wilson.
There are still significant relievers on the free agent market (Grant Balfour, Joaquin Benoit, Fernando Rodney, plus a few non-tender guys who hit the market yesterday) but it’s become clear that the Yankees are focusing their early efforts — and early spending — on other positions of need. They’ve upgraded at catcher, locked up some infield depth, entered negotiations for a new right fielder, and made it clear that they’re going after two starting pitchers. With Dave Robertson in place, late-inning relief work hasn’t been a priority.
This is part of the problem of significantly overhauling a roster.
Even with Robertson in place, the Yankees have some need for bullpen help. Based on the current roster, Shawn Kelley looks like the eighth-inning guy, Cesar Cabral might be the top lefty, and relatively unproven options like Preston Claiborne and Dellin Betances could be forced into key situations whether they’re ready or not. It could work, but there’s little sense of security with a group like that, so it makes sense for the Yankees to add an experienced reliever or two.
But priorities have been set, and money isn’t infinite, and there are greater needs at the moment. We’ve all seen teams sort out a bullpen during the season — this year’s World Series featured two teams that did exactly that — and the Yankees could be following that model, at least in terms of early offseason maneuvering. Seems unlikely that they’ll stumble into a power-hitting catcher, or a standout second baseman, or a productive right fielder, or a No. 2 starter. So those positions become priorities, and while the rest of baseball seems to be jumping into the relief market, the Yankees have to focus their resources elsewhere.
Speaking of focusing those resources elsewhere, might take more than two years worth of resources to sign Carlos Beltran. Buster Olney reports that at least one team is willing to go three years, $48 million. I’m not stunned that there’s a three-year market for Beltran, but three years at that price seems awfully aggressive. If the Yankees aren’t willing to do that, their priorities could shift to either a different outfielder or toward other roster holes.
Associated Press photo