Of all the pressing concerns that face a hot-stove market team like the New York Yankees at any given time, one of the more time-sensitive issues going into this season was the team’s need to bolster a bullpen that’s still feeling a bit of the sting in losing former closer Rafael Soriano to free agency.
Yes, Mariano Rivera is back, and the all-time closer is as sure as thing as there is in the ninth; but, even with the excellent David Robertson serving as the set-up man, a closer-calibre arm like Soriano is going to be nearly impossible to replace.
Instead, all the team can do is to hope to bolster the depth of the bullpen to alleviate the loss, and the Yankees believe they’ve done so by acquiring right-hander Shawn Kelley from the Seattle Mariners.
Kelley, who returned to the mound with the M’s in the middle last year after coming off a lost season in 2011, is a reliever with good strikeout potential and the control to back it up. He posted a 3.25 ERA last season, along with a very favourable 9.14 K/9 and 3.05 BB/9 that could immediately see him contribute as a seventh-inning set-up man in New York, alongside Boone Logan.
Now, Logan’s 11.06 K/9 is no slouch himself, but the lefty has a serious penchant for handing out walks (4.55 BB/9 in 2012), and is downright a free pass machine against right-handers (6.94 BB/9).
His strikeout stuff does enough to keep his counting numbers from getting out of control, but considering that the newcomer Kelley owned a clean 1.69 BB/9 against RHB last year, the Yankee have could have found themselves a very good complement to what Logan brings to the table.
The addition won’t quite replace Soriano, of course, but the 28-year old Kelley should be enough to ensure that just in case anything goes wrong with either Rivera or Robertson (who missed 30 games due to an oblique injury last season), that there will be enough quality arms in the bullpen who can get the outs to get to whoever may be in the ninth.
Consider it a problem solved – for now, anyway.