Yanks Should Take Look at Escobar for Bullpen

Yesterday, Ken Rostenthal tweeted that Kelvim Escobar, who has been offered a minor league deal by the Mets, would be throwing in front of big league clubs this week in Venezuela. The Yankees should make sure they are in attendance and give Escobar consideration for a bullpen role in 2010. Jerry Crasnick reported on December 3 that Escobar would be a relief pitcher going forward:

On the recommendation of Dr. David Altchek — the surgeon who repaired his labrum in July 2008 — Escobar has decided to come back strictly as a relief pitcher…”We all thought it was a good idea for him to come back as a reliever, and we all believe he will eventually be a dominant closer again,” Peter Greenberg, Escobar’s agent, said in an e-mail.

Escobar relieved in at least parts of seven seasons in his career, though he started in the last two full seasons (’06 and ’07) of his career, with the Angels. Despite the risk involved in signing a guy who essentially hasn’t pitched since 2007 and is coming off back to back shoulder injuries, I think the Yankees should offer Escobar a low-base ($1-$1.5MM?), incentive-heavy Major League contract.

On the surface, this seems like a big risk because of Escobar’s recent injuries. However, if it’s a deal that cheap, even up to $2MM, it’s a risk the Yankees can definitely afford to take. The other factor that mitigates the risk a bit is that, unlike Ben Sheets, Escobar would not be expected to start or pitch many innings. He’d be a mid (and sometimes late) game option in the bullpen, and probably wouldn’t give more than about 60 innings over the course of the season, if everything went right. Of course, if Escobar gets hurt or doesn’t pitch well, his small contract and relatively small and easily replaceable role would make a potential hit easier to take.

With Escobar, I’d imagine the bullpen would look something like this:

Rivera
Robertson
Marte
Escobar
Aceves
Gaudin
Melancon

That’s a pretty strong bullpen, with two options who could go multiple innings in the middle. Also, lefty Mike Dunn could be swapped with Mark Melancon if need be. The Yankees have the money and the room, as they only have 37 men on the 40 Man Roster, and I think Kelvim Escobar is a good risk to take. I’ve generally advocated against free-agent relievers, but a move like this is the type of free agent RP move I’d like to see the Yankees make. They obviously don’t have to give up a draft pick and Escobar on a small and short deal would work just like the Yankees strategy over the past two years of using cheap, interchangeable options to piece together the bullpen.

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