The Yankees have the makings of a top notch back-end of the bullpen with Tyler Clippard, Dellin Betances, and Aroldis Chapman handling late innings, but adding another veteran reliever might go a long way in lengthening the club's relief efforts.
Before delving into the options available, it is important to stress that the Yankees could likely benefit from the excess of starting pitching options who will not secure one or both of the remaining rotation spots. In my view, one of the rotation candidates, Adam Warren, is more likely to work out of the bullpen, but his services should not preclude the Yankees from investigating the addition of one more reliever.
Further, if the Yankees decide to go after a left-hander, they need to determine if that reliever will do anything more than current southpaw Tommy Layne, who demonstrated the ability to handle same-side batters in his stint with New York last summer.
The right-handed relief market is filled with thirty-something hurlers with varying degrees of recent success. Each of the names I'll cover might be willing to take one-year deals, or two-year contracts at a lower average annual value but a larger total cost.
Former Royals closer Greg Holland is trying to come back from a season away from the game, but he might also represent the highest upside of the bunch. Holland was once a dominant reliever before succumbing to Tommy John surgery in October 2015. He is seemingly healthy and being courted by several teams.
The cost for Holland might end up being out of the Yankees' price range, especially if he requires a two-year deal. At 31 years old and coming off the injury, Holland is an obvious risk -- one the Yankees could take if they want to alleviate pressure that might surface from a rotation potentially unable to pitch deep into games. If he returns to his previous form, Holland could push Clippard and maybe even Betances down the pecking order to get to Chapman.
Brad Ziegler is not an electric late-inning option, but he continues to get the job done by generating a ton of ground balls (63.3 percent rate in 2016, 66.3 percent for his career). Ziegler, 37, could also find a spot with a two-year deal, but his price tag might still be reasonable considering the rates of late-inning relievers.
With Clippard a free agent after this season, the Yankees could see having Ziegler already on board in 2018 as a replacement and a way to refrain from the same reliever market next season should one of the younger in-house bullpen options make strides in 2017.
Sergio Romo is another soft-tosser and has had some success with the Giants. Romo's fastball is akin to a batting practice pitch and last season's 1.5 home runs per nine innings rate is a scary proposition in Yankee Stadium. Romo, who turns 34 years old in March, could also seek a two-year deal for a lower average annual value or a one-year contract with a higher AAV.
Romo's former teammate Santiago Casilla is also on the free agent market after a few seasons as the Giants' closer. Casilla had his ups and downs over the years, but has strung together success over long periods. Casilla, 36, pitched much better against right-handed hitters in 2016 (.622 OPS against, which is in line with his .620 career mark), while he was crushed by lefties (.849 OPS against, .751 career), which seems to make him a speciality pitcher at this stage in his career.
Some other right-handed relievers who have not been linked to the Yankees as yet are Joe Blanton, Neftali Feliz, Luke Hochevar and Joe Smith. Each of those pitchers has similar upside and risks as the group detailed above.
With right-handed set-up men already on the roster -- Warren, Clippard and Betances -- it might make more sense to sign a southpaw if the Yankees feel inclined to add to the bullpen depth. Boone Logan, a former Yankee, has been front and center in rumors this winter. Logan put up a 4.64 ERA in three years with the Rockies after leaving the Bronx following the 2013 season.
Logan pitched to a 3.69 ERA in 2016, but he proved to be much more effective pitching against left-handed batters (.477 OPS against in 2016), while having difficulties pitching to right-handers (.855 OPS against).
After Logan, other left-handed options are not all that exciting in the sense that each of them fares much better against lefty hitters. Other notable left-handers on the market include Jerry Blevins and J.P. Howell.
The Yankees have young lefty and righty relievers on the 40-man roster who have experience in the majors as well as some others who have made noise in the minor leagues. \
New York must fully examine the costs to sign any of the free agent relievers and the role they expect to have the pitcher fill. Then the team must determine if signing a reliever impedes the progress of pitchers in their own system or makes the team any stronger for the additional cost with no assurances of success.