LHP Jonathon Niese finalized a one-year minor league deal with the New York Yankees on Sunday with hopes of making the majors at the end of camp.
Niese signed a minor league deal with the Yankees that will pay him $1.25 million in base salary if he makes the team out of spring training with the possibility of $750,000 more in incentives, according to the New York Daily News' Mike Mazzeo. He can opt out of his contract if the Yankees do not offer him a $100,000 retention bonus five days before Opening Day, according to Mazzeo.
Manager Joe Girardi said Niese would compete for a bullpen spot, as the 30-year-old pitcher comes off a season in which he went 8-7 with a 5.50 ERA in 29 appearances (20 starts) with the New York Mets and Pittsburgh Pirates.
"I thought it was a really good fit," Niese told Mazzeo. "I thought I had a good chance to make the ballclub, and that's my goal."
Niese has a 5.89 ERA and 12 strikeouts in 18 1/3 innings in 14 career relief outings. He is 69-68 in his nine-year MLB career, most of which he spent as a starting pitcher.
Niese's numbers from last season are not exactly anything to lead one to believe the Yankees found a difference maker, but this is not about that. Like any other minor league deal with a spring training invite, Niese is being brought in for depth, specifically in an area of need, or actually needs.
The Yankees have plenty of inexperienced arms vying for the last two rotation spots, and Niese provides a bit of insurance should injuries or poor performance unhinge the club's plans. However, it's the bullpen where I see Niese having potential value as either a situational left-hander or as a swingman. The Yankees may not be entirely comfortable with Tommy Layne as their go-to lefty or they may desire another southpaw in the bullpen. The depth in this particular area of the roster is weak.
What's clear here is the Yankees felt there was a chance that a veteran left-handed pitcher was a solid backup plan, and it's a move I can't find fault with.