Free Agent Forecast-Remaining Relievers
One hole the Yankees have yet to fill is their bullpen, which has lost Mariano Rivera and Boone ogan. Luckily, there are some good relievers that are still on the market. Here are some relief pitchers that the Yankees may consider:
1) JOAQUIN BENOIT
Benoit saved 24 games for the Tigers in 2013 with a 2.01 ERA. He had been mostly a setup guy until then, and he substantially helped his free-agent cause with ninth-inning effectiveness. He's 36-years-old but still features a mid-90s fastball and a very good splitter. He's pitched in the American League his whole career and will most likely look to stay there. Problem is, Detroit just signed Joe Nathan, making a return to his former team very unlikely.
Benoit is seemingly perfect for the Yankees. He can close and set up, and given the uncertain effectiveness of David Robertson as a closer, the Yanks would love to have a guy like that. He's also durable. He's thrown over 60 innings in each of the last four seasons and has not had a WHIP over 1.141 in any of them. He would be a safe, effective signing for the Yanks.
2) GRANT BALFOUR
The Australian right-hander is a little bit of a loose cannon, but he's also got one of the best fastballs in baseball. He was an All Star in 2013 and saved 38 games for the Athletics with a 2.59 ERA. Like Benoit, Balfour has also been a setup man during his career and he would serve as an insurance plan for David Robertson. No matter what role the Yanks would put him in, Balfour is as consistently dominant as any reliever they'll find. He's had an ERA under 3.00 in each of the last four seasons.
Balfour is the kind of guy whose teammates love him but opponents … not so much. So the Yankees will have to decide whether his personality is an issue or not. If they decide it's not a problem, he's a very similar option to Benoit. Good fastball with decent off-speed and experience both in middle relief and the closer role.
3) BOONE LOGAN
After four years with the Yankees, Boone Logan is officially one of the best left-handed relievers in baseball. He's appeared in more than 50 games in each season in pinstripes, including a league-leading 80 games in 2012. He is incredibly effective against lefties but also good against righties and features a power fastball and a good breaking ball. Logan had surgery to remove bone spurs in his elbow after last season. It wasn't a serious injury, and Logan was able to pitch through it in September. The 29-year old strikes out his fair share of hitters as well. In 176 innings for the Yankees, he struck out 202 batters.
I think the Yankees envision their late innings looking like this: Shawn Kelley in the seventh, Logan and a righty (to be acquired) in the eighth, and Robertson in the ninth. Of course, that plan requires the Yanks to re-sign Logan first. I expect the Yankees to do so, mostly because there's no reason for them to sign somebody else instead of him. He's as steady as any reliever on the market and his injury last year may even lower his price a bit.
4) JOHN AXFORD
The Cardinals have non-tendered John Axford who saved 46 games for the Milwaukee Brewers in 2011. He's a hard thrower with decent control, and he also posted a 1.74 ERA in his short stay with St. Louis last season. He has proven that he can set up or close in his career, and although his numbers have declined dramatically since his best years in Milwaukee, his tenure in St. Louis showed some promise.
Of all the guys that were non-tendered, John Axford makes the most sense to sign. Like Benoit and Balfour, he could compete with David Robertson for the closing job. Axford has experience in that role that Robertson does not have, and he's yet another guy out there that could give the Yankees an insurance policy if the job turns out to be something Robertson isn't suited for.