Over the first half of last season, the New York Yankees had one of the most dominant bullpens in baseball. Some stated if the Yankees were leading a game after six innings, the game was officially over for the opposing team.
That’s because the Yankees had what they coined “No Runs D.M.C”, which consisted of Dellin Betances, Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman. The three of them in the back-end of the bullpen was a shining spot on an otherwise abysmal team. The Yankees figured they were dead ducks by the August trade deadline, which forced the Yankees to sell.
They sent Carlos Beltran to the Texas Rangers, Ivan Nova to the Pittsburgh Pirates, Aroldis Chapman to the Chicago Cubs and Andrew Miller to the Cleveland Indians. What was once “No Runs D.M.C.” ended up being just Betances. Betances struggled in the closer role during the month of September, but that had more to do with the Yankees overusing him.
Flash-forward to the 2017 season, and the Yankees re-added Chapman after he helped the Cubs win their first World Series in 107 seasons. However, Andrew Miller is still with the Indians, meaning the Yankees no longer have his sweeping slider in their pen.
While the loss of Miller is huge, the Yankees still have a good bullpen. And technically they still have a modified version of the “Three-Headed Monster”. It’s just not as scary as Betances, Miller and Chapman.
For starters, the Yankees have Tyler Clippard. He was the lone Major League midseason acquistion in 2016, a move that has eventually paid off. He went 2-3 with a 2.49 ERA and a 1.224 WHIP in 29 games. He’s not Miller, but he has an effective fastball and a deceptive slider.
Aside from Luis Severino, the losers of the rotation competition would immediately join the bullpen. That means either Adam Warren, Bryan Mitchell, Luis Cessa and Chad Green would join Clippard, Betances and Chapman.
Warren is the Yankees secret weapon; he could either start or relieve with ease. If Warren doesn’t win a starting job, he would become a reliever, which is a role he’s familiar with. Not having a role was the reason he struggled with the Chicago Cubs over the first-half of last season.
Mitchell and Cessa both had dominant outings in their first appearances of the Spring, and so far they appear to be the frontrunners in the rotation competition. But if Severino takes the job from Mitchell or Cessa–which would be hard since Severino will spend most of March with Team Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic–the other pitcher would become a dominant reliever versus a dominant starter.
Green didn’t have the best cup of coffee with the Yankees–2-4 with a 4.73 ERA in 12 games–but he had a 10.1 K/9 and 3.00 BB/9. He has the stuff to be a dominant reliever for the Yankees. He just has to learn how to apply it while he’s in Spring Training.
Then there’s Jon Niese, who is being considered for a bullpen spot in Yankees camp. If he makes the team, he adds veteran presence, and he could resurrect his once steady career. However, that all depends on how Niese’s knees hold up after undergoing surgery last year.
Sure, the Yankees bullpen isn’t as dangerous as it was when Miller was on the roster. But that doesn’t take away the fact the team has reliable alternatives. The way the bullpen shakes out will be determined at the end of Spring Training. But for those that don’t win the rotation spots, they shouldn’t hang their heads. They’ll be in one of the most underrated bullpens in all of baseball.
The names aren’t fancy, but they’ll get the job done. Even without Andrew Miller and his sweeping slider.