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?