The Yankees greatest remaining need is in their bullpen, but it looks like two of the last remaining top free agent relievers might be heading to other teams in the American League East.
We learned earlier today that Grant Balfour has signed a two-year deal with the Rays, and now Johah Keri reports that Fernando Rodney is “making progress” on a deal with the Orioles. Makes sense considering the Orioles tried to sign Balfour earlier in the winter, backed out because of medical concerns, and would presumably be still in the market for a potential impact reliever (I’m not sure short-term Yankees lefty Aaron Laffey counts as an “impact” reliever).
Also, Jon Rauch is off the board, signing a minor league deal with the Royals.
At this point, the free agent relief market is down to a bunch of risk-reward options. Proven closer Joe Nathan signed pretty early with the Tigers, and one-time closers Chris Perez, Joaquin Benoit, John Axford, Jose Veras, Edward Mujica and Brian Wilson also signed quite a while ago. What’s left are a bunch of guys coming off injuries (Ryan Madson, Joel Hanrahan, Andrew Bailey) and a bunch of guys who have been pretty inconsistent in recent years (Jose Valverde, Mitchell Boggs, Carlos Marmol).
As the crowd thins out even more, it seems less and less likely that the Yankees will be able to land a reliable, feel-good-about-it reliever on the free agent market. There are plenty of could-work-out options available — which might fit the team’s financial plans — but Balfour seemed to be the closest thing to a sure thing, and he’s off the board.