How often do the Yankees face the Red Sox and have the mere fact of the matchup not be the biggest thing going that week? That’s certainly the case this week as, at least by my reckoning, the two-game tilt with the Sox ranks third or maybe fourth on the Bronx Bombers’ hype-o-meter. Above it:
- Coming to grips with the Mariano Meltdown yesterday. Like I said earlier today, I think Mo will be just fine — we all have bad days at work sometimes — but you can bet that the team will be asked many more questions about yesterday’s aberration before tonight’s game than they will about the Red Sox;
- The Rays series. The Yankees took two of three from the Rays back in the first week of the season, but that was before we all got our minds around how good the Rays are. Two games against the team you’re trailing in the standings > two games against a scuffling Red Sox squad, and that’s the case no matter how much lip service the Yankees pay the Sox today and tomorrow;
- The Subway Series kicks off this weekend with three games at Citi Field. Maybe the players are above it all, but the press and the fans in New York are probably wondering if the Yankees can deliver a knockout blow to the Jerry Manuel era with a decisive series. That is, if Manuel even survives the week.
So yes, Yankees-Red Sox is a big deal and, usual ESPN-bashing notwithstanding, it is probably the best matchup going tonight and thus worthy of the national broadcast (that is, unless San Francisco and San Diego want to move their game to 4:05 PM Pacific Time).
But it ain’t the kind of big news it usually is, and probably isn’t even the biggest thing on the Yankees’ mind this week.
The Marlins are intent on adding one of the three best relievers available on the free agent market, Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports reports. Those three, of course, are Aroldis Chapman, Kenley Jansen, and Mark Melancon.
As Ashley noted earlier, Melancon is reportedly fielding multiple four-year offers in excess of $60 million. The price tags for Chapman and Jansen are likely to match or exceed that. The Marlins haven’t typically been eager to whip out the checkbook for free agents but with the bullpen being the name of the game in baseball these days, GM Michael Hill may feel the need to match his rivals.
The Nationals, Giants, Yankees, Cubs, and Dodgers are the teams most often linked to the “big-three” group of relievers, so it won’t be easy for the Marlins.
A.J. Ramos handled the closer’s role for the Marlins this past season and did an admirable job, saving 40 games with a 2.81 ERA and a 73/35 K/BB ratio in 64 innings. There’s no doubt, though, that Chapman, Jansen, or Melancon would represent a significant upgrade in the ninth inning.
C. Trent Rosecrans of the Cincinnati Enquirer reports that Reds manager Bryan Price is likely going to use a trio of pitchers in the closer’s role: Raisel Iglesias, Tony Cingrani, and Michael Lorenzen. At RedsFest on Saturday, Price said:
I’d say right now that we have a series of guys that I’m comfortable with in the ninth inning and that would include (Raisel) Iglesias, (Tony) Cingrani and (Michael Lorenzen). Should we stay with this format – which I intend to do – all three of those guys and maybe more could have opportunities in save situations. At this point in time, there’s no defined closer. There are multiple options and I’d like to stick with the philosophy that we’re going to have our multi-inning guys, so we’re going to need multi-closers.
This seems to be part of the new bullpen zeitgeist in which managers are shying away from strictly-defined roles for their relievers. Indians manager Terry Francona’s postseason success using Andrew Miller likely had some degree of influence on Price’s willingness to go with a three-headed giant.
Iglesias started the 2016 season in the Reds’ rotation but missed two months with an injury, then moved to the bullpen in late June. Price put him in the closer’s role down the stretch in September. The right-hander overall finished the season with a 2.53 ERA and an 83/26 K/BB ratio in 78 1/3 innings.
Cingrani battled control issues in his 63 innings of work this past season, finishing with a 4.14 ERA and a 49/37 K/BB ratio. He’s left-handed, though, and gives Price some matchup flexibility in the late innings.
Lorenzen impressed in his first full season as a reliever, ending the year with a 2.88 ERA and a 48/13 K/BB ratio in 50 innings. The right-hander uses a fastball that sits around 96 MPH on average along with a cutter and slider.