Yankees designate Santana, fall back on Marinaccio

Inna Zeyger
Monday June 10, 2024

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In an unexpected roster move, the New York Yankees designated for assignment reliever Dennis Santana and called back Ron Marinaccio on Sunday.

Santana was dumped after posting a 6.26 ERA over 23 games and 27.1 innings. His recent struggles culminated in Saturday’s loss to the Dodgers, where he allowed three earned runs over 1.1 innings, marking his second 30-plus-pitch performance of the week and his second appearance in as many days.

Marinaccio, a right-hander who has excelled in both the majors and minors this season, has recorded a 1.42 ERA with the Yankees and a 1.17 ERA at Triple-A. The Toms River, N.J., native appeared in nine games for the major league club earlier this season, resembling the reliever who posted a 2.05 ERA as a rookie in 2022, which starkly contrasts his performance last year when he finished with a 3.99 ERA in the majors and an 8.80 ERA in the minors.

As the Yankees continue to seek stability in their bullpen, the decision to designate Santana for assignment underscores the ongoing adjustments and evaluations necessary to maintain their competitive edge. Marinaccio’s return to the majors is expected to bolster the Yankees’ relief corps as they navigate the season ahead.

The New York Yankees boast the third-best bullpen ERA in Major League Baseball as they entered Sunday’s games, indicating that their current relief pitching is far from being a weakness. However, according to insider Andy Martino, baseball evaluators generally view Caleb Ferguson and Victor Gonzalez as the second-best left-handed options in an ideal bullpen. This suggests that the Yankees could benefit from acquiring another top-tier southpaw to bolster their relief corps.

When comparing the two internal left-handed options, Gonzalez has posted a respectable 3.00 ERA across 18 innings pitched. However, his performance has significantly outpaced his underlying metrics, as evidenced by his much higher 5.65 SIERA (Skill-Interactive ERA). This discrepancy can be attributed to Gonzalez’s concerning 13.5% walk rate, which surpasses his 10.8% strikeout rate.

Yankees pitcher Ron Marinaccio at Yankee Stadium in May 2023.

On the other hand, Ferguson finds himself in a somewhat opposite situation. Despite his 5.03 ERA over 19 2/3 innings, his SIERA stands at a more encouraging 3.62. Ferguson’s 25.8% strikeout rate and 11.2% walk rate suggest that he has been pitching better than his ERA indicates.

Shifting the focus to the right-handed side of the bullpen, the Yankees could benefit from acquiring a righty reliever with the ability to generate strikeouts. This would complement closer Clay Holmes, who also throws from the right side. Holmes is in the midst of another stellar season, boasting a 1.23 ERA and converting 19 saves over 29 1/3 innings. However, Holmes relies heavily on inducing ground balls, as evidenced by his remarkable 69.4% ground ball rate. His strikeout rate, while slightly above the league average, leaves room for improvement.

The addition of a strikeout-focused power arm from the right side would provide the Yankees with a valuable weapon for certain high-leverage situations. This would allow the team to preserve Holmes for closing duties in the ninth inning, optimizing their bullpen usage and increasing their chances of success in crucial moments.

Santana’s sudden fall from his Yankees’ grace

Yankees relief pitcher Ron Marinaccio is pitching at Yankee Stadium.

Yankees manager Aaron Boone had no reservations about highlighting Dennis Santana as the most impressive under-the-radar player during the early stages of spring training. Santana, a non-roster invitee with previous experience from the Dodgers, Rangers, and Mets, had a career 5.17 ERA over 143 games, yet Boone saw untapped potential.

Santana, a former top prospect in the Dodgers system, had developed a cutter during the offseason, catching the Yankees’ attention with his hard-throwing capability and effective sinker. With five pitches in his arsenal, pitching coach Matt Blake saw potential in Santana but believed he needed guidance to find his “identity” and better understand his strengths.

During an offseason Zoom call with Santana and his agent, Blake, and director of baseball operations Matt Ferry conveyed this vision. Santana, who had observed the Yankees’ transformative impact on Clay Holmes’ career, was open to their suggestions, thinking that joining the team could yield similar results for him.

Unfortunately, the reclamation project did not pan out for either the Yankees or Santana.

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