Who can fill the void left by Michael King in the Yankees bullpen?

John Allen
Saturday December 16, 2023

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The Yankees were inevitably faced with the task of finding a replacement for Michael King. Brian Cashman remarked at the Winter Meetings before the trade that the player’s performance in the bullpen was exceptional and suggested that it might not be easily replaced.

However, the Yankees GM also expressed satisfaction with how well the player was performing in the rotation, acknowledging that sometimes, in order to benefit in one area, sacrifices need to be made in another, using the phrase “you’ve got to rob Peter to pay Paul.”

He mentioned intentions to potentially bring in more choices to aid the team’s pitching but acknowledged that the outcome would unfold over time.

Who will replace King for the Yankees?

Even in the absence of the trade that sent the right-hander to the Padres as part of the Juan Soto deal, King’s anticipated transition to the rotation would have created a void in the Yankees bullpen. Known for his versatility and significance as a reliever, King served in various roles, including opening, closing, and, notably, delivering multiple innings out of the bullpen during the 2023 season before a late-season shift to starting.

Jhony Brito and Randy Vasquez served as multi-inning relievers when King transitioned to the rotation last season, but both were also traded to San Diego. If not for the trade, they would have been strong contenders to assume King’s bullpen duties, especially considering Brito’s impressive performance in long relief toward the end of the Yankees season.

Now that Brito and Vasquez are no longer available options, which internal candidates are being considered by the Yankees to step into King’s former role?

Primarily starting pitchers, Yoendrys Gomez, Luis Gil, and Clayton Beeter, along with other young talents, may vie for a multi-inning relief position. Gomez made a solid MLB debut as a reliever toward the end of the season, though he bypassed Triple-A due to injuries that limited the Yankees’ 40-man roster options. Gil faced setbacks with the last two seasons affected by Tommy John surgery, while Beeter is yet to make his MLB debut.

These three prospects are untested in the reliever role, and the Yankees must balance the need for bullpen options with the importance of maintaining depth in their starting rotation.

“All those individuals in consideration for depth starter roles have the potential to transition into bullpen roles,” according to pitching coach Matt Blake.

Regarding pitchers not classified in the starting depth category, Victor Gonzalez, recently acquired from the Dodgers, possesses some experience pitching beyond a single inning. However, he presently stands as the primary left-handed option in the Yankees’ bullpen, especially with Wandy Peralta still being a free agent.

What are Yankees’ options

Matt Krook, formerly a starter, and Nick Ramirez are additional left-handed options capable of pitching beyond a single inning. However, they may lack the dominant capabilities that King brought to the Yankees table. Ron Marinaccio has experience as a multi-inning pitcher, but he faced difficulties in both the majors and minors last year following an impressive rookie season in 2022.

Scott Effross has some history as a multi-inning contributor, but his availability remains uncertain due to Tommy John surgery, which sidelined him for the entire 2023 season.

Yankees pitcher Ian Hamilton opens vs. the White Sox on August 09, 2023, in Chicago.

If not considered for a depth starter role, Ian Hamilton emerges as a top internal candidate for the Yankees to assume King’s versatile bullpen duties. Originally part of Washington State’s rotation, Hamilton showcased his adaptability by taking on various relief roles during his breakout season with the Yankees. This encompassed tasks such as opening, closing, and delivering multiple innings in 20 out of the 39 games he participated in.

Hamilton recorded at least two innings in 14 instances and pitched at least three innings on three occasions. In comparison, King only pitched three or more innings in relief twice.

“I’m willing to take on any role,” Hamilton expressed in May following his inaugural save.

Certainly, the Yankees have the option to explore external solutions as they seek to address the vacuum left by King’s departure.

Yamamoto is on the radar of the Yankees

While the Yankees are optimistic about Japanese ace Yoshinobu Yamamoto potentially filling King’s role in the rotation, Jordan Hicks presents an alternative option for multiple innings in relief. Hicks also brings closing experience, providing coverage for Clay Holmes, the Yankees’ designated finisher.

Reports from The Athletic indicate the Yankees’ interest in Hicks, and Cashman is exploring various free-agent relievers with the capability of handling such roles to strengthen the overall pitching staff.

The GM indicated confidence in the available resources, mentioning a reliance on collective efforts for pitching support. He highlighted the importance of having depth and a collaborative approach involving knowledgeable individuals such as Matt Blake, Mike Harkey, Desi Druschel, and Sam Briend. The GM expressed a belief that with an expanded pool of options, the collective expertise could better handle the pitching dynamics.

What do you think? Leave your comment below.

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One thought on “Who can fill the void left by Michael King in the Yankees bullpen?

  1. The Cards tried to get Hicks rolling as a starter for a long time, at least 3 seasons, but he kept getting serious injuries. His body just can’t handle that kind of workload.

    I’m cool with testing Hamilton for the job during the spring if they’re going to fill the role internally, for no other reason than that he’s from the town that I love and now call home, Vancouver, WA.

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