"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

Stuck In The Middle With You

Middle relief: not always pretty...

Middle relievers are nobody’s top priority, nor should they be. As we know all too well, their performances tend to vary wildly from year to year, and even when they’re consistently good they’re still less valuable than your average starter or corner outfielder. And yet, given their rather middling importance, they create an outsize amount of fan stress, disgust, and general tsuris. Every year there is at least one, and often several, relievers who the fans pile on, bemoan, and endlessly joke about and rag on — every team needs a scapegoat for the vagaries of middle relief. The Yankees appear to be turning to this unglamorous segment of team-building right about now, so let’s see who some of the candidates are for either our pleasant surprise or our ire.

The Yankees are apparently nearing a deal with ex-Mets workhorse Pedro Feliciano, known to Amazins fans as Perpetual Pedro. I’ve watched Feliciano pitch in many dozens of games over the years (particularly recently, as he led the NL in appearances two of the last three seasons) and think of him as, more than anything, solid. He has his streaks, both good and bad, and he’s not ever going to inspire a 2007-era Joba sort of frenzy. But he goes out there as often as you could possibly want, and he’s usually good enough to get the job done, no muss no fuss. Jerry Manuel kept trying to use him against good right-handed batters, and that was a mistake; but against lefties, he’s as good as you could ask.

Bobby Jenks has been mentioned for the Yankees and a number of other teams – but word is he’s asking for “closer money,” and therefore may not be a fit for the Yanks. To which I say, too bad – not so much because of any talent he might have but because he is, if I might go ahead and judge this book by its cover, likely to be quite entertaining. The Yankees’ no-facial-hair policy would be a blessing to Jenks and all those who care about him, but personally I would lose out on a good deal of laughter at the expense of ol’ Vagina Chin here.

UPDATE: Never mind, as Buster Olney reports the Red Sox have signed Jenks. Oh, this should be fun…

Kerry Wood looks to be returning to the mothership, as he and the Cubs seem to be close to a deal. The Yankees may miss him (or perhaps not – again, see above re: the year-to-year variability of relievers), but frankly the Wood story was already a pretty excellent one last year, and this could make it an even more compelling narrative. I hope he gets his deal, I hope he does well, I hope both he and the fans get some closure on What Might Have Been. Most of all I hope he stays healthy.

Which brings us to…

The Yankees took a low-risk flyer on Prior. There is almost no way he’ll come back, after four years of injury, to be effective — it would be virtually unprecedented.

But it’s certainly worth rooting for.

Who else you got?

Categories:  Emma Span  Hot Stove

Tags:  Bobby Jenks  Kerry Wood  mark prior  pedro feliciano

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1 doodoobrown   ~  Dec 16, 2010 3:34 pm

Wow, I'm really not looking forward to watching the Yanks play Boston this year. They have had a monster offseason. Does Cashman dare inquire about Papelbon? I feel dirty just bringing it up.

2 Horace Clarke Era   ~  Dec 16, 2010 3:52 pm

Rotoworld has Cashman ready to pay Soriano 'closer money' to back up Mo for now and close in 3 years. That is probably 35-40 million for 4 years, maybe even more in this market. But he'd more than make up for losing Wood - subject to all usual hesitations about pitchers.

If Soriano wants the glory spot he won't come to NY, but he may not see 40 million anywhere else.

Will TB have a reliever left?

3 OldYanksFan   ~  Dec 16, 2010 3:56 pm

Long, expensive contracts for RPs not named Mariano never end well.

4 Sliced Bread   ~  Dec 16, 2010 4:10 pm

this crawl just came across ESPN:
Multiple sources confirm Boston Red Sox have reached 8 year deal with Santa Claus, which includes possible 9th year. Christmas to bypass New York at least until 2018. NY Yankees sources confirm team is in talks with Herbie the Dentist for possible minor league deal. Details, analysis, cups of good cheer, and the laughter of elves tonight on ESPN's Sportscenter.

5 Mattpat11   ~  Dec 16, 2010 4:26 pm

I've already marked Feliciano as the Matt DiBari Stroke Inducer of the Year (TM)

Not necessarily because of anything he may or may not do, but because he's the dreaded second lefty in the bullpen, and when Joe Girardi has two lefties he manages like its little league and he's obligated to get all the players in before the game ends.

6 RIYank   ~  Dec 16, 2010 4:26 pm

Soriano would cost a draft pick, right? That concerns me more than the cost. I don't like paying relievers lots of money, but this would be an exception.

I wouldn't pay Papelbon, though. He could have a really good year this year, just because he's exactly the kind of player who gets motivated in a contract year. But I don't believe he's the Real Deal. (Nor does Theo Epstein, I can tell you.)

7 Emma Span   ~  Dec 16, 2010 4:41 pm

I like Soriano -- and though that price seems really high, it also seems like that's just what it takes right now. But I do think the bullpen is one area where you can usually figure it out internally and/or with a few mid-season trades -- at least Cashman has shown that ability the last few years. It's not my primary concern.

Now that he's with Boston, I look forward to Jenks taking his facial hair to impossibly silly new heights.

8 Emma Span   ~  Dec 16, 2010 5:51 pm

And now Kerry Wood turns down $3+ million from the White Sox to pitch for the Cubs at $1.5 mill. Wow.

9 Chyll Will   ~  Dec 16, 2010 5:58 pm

[7] When I saw Bobby Jenks up there, something popped into my mind...

10 The Hawk   ~  Dec 16, 2010 6:35 pm

[4] Yeah

11 Chyll Will   ~  Dec 16, 2010 10:12 pm

[4] Meh, so they sign a "new" Fat Pàpi to replace the old one. A change of scenery might do him some good actually; he wasn't a hit in Philly, that's for sure (though his best years were probably already spent on West 34th Street.)

Bringing Herbie out of retirement to be a speedster on the base paths (and maybe tutor Brett the Jet), now that's an inspired bit of GMing...

12 RagingTartabull   ~  Dec 17, 2010 12:06 am

excellent use of "tsuris" AB

13 thelarmis   ~  Dec 17, 2010 2:59 am

[12] yes, but it was Emma!

14 Toxic   ~  Dec 17, 2010 8:50 am

[9] I thought it was Meatloaf from Fight Club.

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