Now that the Yankees missed out on Cliff Lee, clearly they have money to spend and many have assumed that that money would go into shoring up the Yankees’ middle relief. Yet yesterday, Kerry Wood signed with the Cubs for 1 year and $1.5 million and Bobby Jenks went to the Red Sox for 2 years and $12 million. I was a little surprised initially, but there are some important things to keep in mind:
– Regarding Kerry Wood: he was desperate to go back to the Cubs. If Cashman could have signed him at that number he would have.
– The bullpen, despite the occasionally early season hiccups, is not really an area of need for the Yankees. If, as they claim, the Yankees plan on keeping Joba Chamberlain in the bullpen, then they will still have him and David Robertson to begin the season. Sure, having more quality arms out there is never a bad thing, but they are not lacking for middle relief options.
– Both Cashman and Girardi know they can improve their bullpen as they go. They can make a trade – like they did last year for Kerry Wood – or they can bring up prospects. The Yankee system is flush with RHPs, and those guys will need experience in the big leagues at some point. Even those that are starters now will likely get their first taste of the majors as relievers. As such, it’s stupid for Cashman to limit his flexibility in December.
– Just because the Yankees are not at their payroll limit doesn’t mean they should blindly spend. If the Yankees go into the season with around $20 million in flexibility, that will give them a giant advantage when making trades.
I would expect the Yankees to continue to monitor the market for left-handed relievers, since the Yankee system is short on lefties, but any interest in the likes of Rafael Soriano is probably little more than due diligence (since also they would forfeit a draft pick in a very good draft). If the Yankees do sign someone, I’d think it would be Pedro Feliciano or Brian Fuentes. Cashman knows relievers tend to be an overvalued commodity and, Cliff Lee or not, he is not going to panic and break from his normal way of evaluating contracts.