Even those who love Joe Torre will admit his one glaring deficiency: bullpen management. Torre overworked the guys he liked and alienated the ones he didn’t. For the 2008 Yankees, the only thing left to be addressed (outside of the return of Andy Pettitte) is the bullpen.
The Yankees currently have one major bullpen free agent: Luis Vizcaino. There have been rumors of him seeking a 3 year / $18 million deal, which seems way too high. If that is indeed his asking price, the Yankees would be wise to offer him arbitration and let him walk. He is a type B free agent, so the Yankees would receive a bonus pick after the first round.
So who will be in the Yankee bullpen next year? They have a plethora of in-house candidates to build the “bridge to Rivera.”
They also have the likes of Matt DeSalvo, Tyler Clippard, Chase Wright, Jeff Karstens, and Darrel Rasner, though those guys would likely be better served as starters, albeit probably poor ones. They don’t really have any pitches that are plus out pitches and therefore make better inning eater / AAA guys. Though Chase Wright could potentially become a lefty bullpen piece down the road.
The free agent class for pitchers is weak and is highlighted by the likes of Scott Linebrink and Ron Mahay, neither of whom inspire a lot of confidence.
So how does Girardi play into this? Pre-Torre, Farnsworth was one of the top 10 relievers in all of baseball. Therefore he is certainly capable of being an elite setup man. Last year however, his confidence was shattered and he never got along with Torre. Bruney suffered a similar fate. For a time, Bruney was probably the Yankees best middle reliever, however infrequent use and a lack of confidence ruined him too. Both Farnsworth and Bruney are strikeout guys who walk batters. This is the nature of how they pitch. But Torre showed such little faith in them that if they walked one batter they would be pulled. This led to a lot of straight fastballs. If Girardi can get those two pitching up to their potential, it will be a huge bonus for the bullpen. Ramirez, Britton, and Ohlendorf are all young and capable of improving as well. The bottom line is, it is much more likely that one of them steps forward as a good middle reliever than that the Yankees bring one in from the outside.
It is likely you’ll see the Yankees sign one veteran anyways, rather it is Linebrink or bringing back a Ron Villone. Middle relievers are an inconsistent bunch, and you never know who will be good from year to year. Just look at the career numbers for Linebrink and Villone if you don’t believe me. Which is why Cashman likes to, as he says, “throw some things against the wall and see what sticks.”