Friday, February 7, 2014

PALM COAST, Fla. -- Bullpens win championships. It's as simple as that. We saw how far the Boston Red Sox's bullpen got them in the playoffs, becoming a big part of their World Series run, and we even saw how the St. Louis Cardinals bullpen helped them get to the Fall Classic.

And while the Yankees have done a lot to rebuild their roster, they seem to have left fixing the bullpen off the of list.

The great Mariano Rivera is gone, and there is no doubt that replacing him won't be easy, even if David Robertson is waiting in the wings to fill his shoes.

The Yankees will come into spring training next Friday with a slew of young pitchers that will battle it out for some of the wide-open bullpen jobs. At the moment, it looks like Robertson, Shawn Kelley and Matt Thornton are the only relievers with guaranteed spots.

Both Fernando Rodney, who reportedly signed with the Seattle Mariners on Thursday, and Grant Balfour, who agreed to a deal with the Tampa Bay Rays, have come off of the market in the past couple of weeks, but there are still a handful of good relievers out there that the Yankees could consider looking at.

Francisco Rodriguez, RP: age 31, 46.2 IP, 3-2 W-L, 10 saves, 2.70 ERA, 54 K.

K-Rod use to be one of the game's top closers, but has fallen far from that since his record-setting season with the Los Angeles Angels awhile back. I think that Rodriguez can still be a good reliever in the league, but just not with the Yankees.

Not once this winter have I heard of any interest in Rodriguez on the Yankees' part. I'm sure they have sent a call or two to his agent, just to see what the asking price is, but probably nothing more.

Luis Ayala, RP: age 36, 33.0 IP, 2-1 W-L, 0 save, 3.27 ERA, 22 K.

Ayala could be an interesting signing for the Yankees. He is a ground-ball pitcher, and obviously that would fare well for him in Yankee Stadium, but at the same tie, there are a lot of concerns with the Yankees' infield, the quality of defense being the main factor.

I kind of like the idea of signing him. Could be a middle-innings reliever out of the bullpen, maybe a 7th inning pitcher, too, if things play out that way.

Andrew Bailey, RP: age 29, 28.2 IP, 3-1 W-L, 8 saves, 3.77 ERA, 39 K.

Yes, get this deal done, Cashman. I like Bailey, I think he is a good pitcher, and he can be a very good piece of the Yankees' bullpen.

He broke into the league with the Oakland Athletics, and was very good in his few years there before being traded to the Red Sox a couple years ago. 2013 wasn't his year, but in a new setting, he might be able to get back in track, and return as one of the top relievers in the game.

Bailey would be perfect late-inning reliever for the Yankees, especially right now when Shawn Kelley has the best chance, in my opinion, to be the setup man for Robertson as the closer. Bailey could come in, assert him self in the 8th inning, and give the Yankees a good one-two punch with Bailey and Robertson in the 8th and 9th.

Kevin Gregg, RP: age 36, 62.0 IP, 2-6 W-L, 33 saves, 3.48 ERA, 56 K.

I think this guy has gone under looked by many this offseason. His first half with the Chicago Cubs in 2013 was very good, but he slipped a little bit in the second half, probably dropping his value coming into the offseason.

This is the kind of guy that can get good is things go right for him, and he puts it all together. Again, he could be a good late-inning reliever, maybe someone that could pitch in the 7th or 8th inning. He spent most of his time with the Cubs last season as the closer, so that experience could help him as well.

Joel Hanrahan, RP: age 32, 7.1 IP, 0-1 W-L, 4 saves, 9.82 ERA, 5 K.

This guy can be a pretty good idea. We all remember how good Hanrahan was with the Pittsburgh Pirates before he was traded to the Red Sox last offseason. Tommy John Surgery definitely set him back, but these days it's just considered a bump in the road because of how often pitchers undergo the operation.

The Yankees could sign Hanrahan on a minor league deal, let him work his way back, and maybe he can come back some time mid-may, and really be an asset to the Yankees' bullpen.

If he ends up being one of the many pitchers that have Tommy John and come back to be just as successful, then the Yanks can really be adding a good piece with Hanrahan.

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There will be a lot of good pitchers to keep an eye on during spring training as the bullpen battle goes on through March. Dellin Betances can make a big difference this season is he's able to keep the walks down. Rumor has it that Manny Banuelos can make the major league club as a reliever out of spring training, but I think it would be better if they start him in Triple-A and work his way back as a starter down there.


Gavin Ewbank is the Lead Writer of Yanks Beat Blog, and you can follow him on Twitter (below).


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