Yankees want Wandy Peralta back: Smart move or a mistake?

The New York Yankees' bullpen star Wandy Peralta

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The New York Yankees are looking to bring back Wandy Peralta to maintain their bullpen strength, as reported by Gary Phillips from The New York Daily News.

Since joining the Yankees in 2021, the 32-year-old has emerged as one of the team’s most dependable relievers, showcasing an impressive 2.82 ERA across 165 appearances during this period. While Wandy Peralta’s 2023 season concluded due to a minor left triceps strain, his overall durability over the three seasons with the team has been noteworthy.

Though the return of Wandy Peralta could significantly bolster their pitching strength, Phillips notes that the Yankees have not extended an offer to Peralta at this point. But this is just the early phase of free agency characterized by limited activity, and indications suggest that an offer is likely to be extended as the offseason unfolds.

Wandy Peralta in pinstripes

The Yankees obtained Wandy Peralta from the San Francisco Giants in a trade involving Mike Tauchman in the 2021 season. With Michael King likely transitioning to the starting rotation in 2024, the Yankees face the need for additional high-leverage relievers in their bullpen. Wandy Peralta stands out in this regard, having been one of the team’s key late-inning arms in the previous season.

Wandy Peralta at Yankees bullpen in Orioles vs Yankees on April 8, 2023.
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Recognizing the necessity to enhance their bullpen in the upcoming offseason, it appears that re-signing Wandy Peralta is a priority for the Yankees. Advocating for the Yankees to bring back the reliever in the upcoming free-agency period presents a compelling case.

The Yankees hold a high regard for the unconventional left-hander, valuing him not just as a positive influence in the clubhouse but also as a reliable and effective pitcher. Manager Aaron Boone has consistently demonstrated confidence in Wandy Peralta, entrusting him in various game situations, including crucial moments.

While Wandy Peralta’s 2023 season concluded due to a minor left triceps strain, his overall durability over the three seasons with the team has been noteworthy. His resilient performance in the previous postseason left an indelible impression, with teammate Kyle Higashioka praising him for having “brass balls.”

However, despite these factors, the likelihood of Wandy Peralta returning to the Yankees on a multi-year contract this winter is uncertain.

Is it a smart move by the Yankees?

On Friday afternoon, Boone fielded questions about Wandy Peralta shortly after the promotion of Yoendrys Gomez to fill in for the injured left-handed pitcher. Boone’s response reflected the sentiment of a manager eager to see the soon-to-be free agent return to his clubhouse next spring.

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X-@JimmyRandazzo

Boone mentioned that Wandy Peralta has been exceptional, describing him as a leader who is tough, takes the ball, and is trustworthy in any situation. The Yankees manager highlighted the pitcher’s performance in the playoffs the previous year, emphasizing his prowess as a big-game pitcher who isn’t afraid of any moment. Boone also noted Wandy Peralta’s effectiveness against left-handed hitters and praised him as a total professional in the locker room, considering him one of the leaders in the bullpen.

Wandy Peralta boasts a 2.85 ERA since marking his Yankees debut on April 30, 2021, a mere three days after being acquired from the Giants in exchange for outfielder Mike Tauchman. Among qualifying relievers in that period, only 15 others can claim a superior ERA compared to the Yankees’ idiosyncratic left-hander.

Beyond his ERA, Wandy Peralta has evolved into one of the most effective relievers at inducing ground balls since joining the Yankees. His 56.2 percent ground ball rate ranks as the eighth-highest among relief pitchers since his debut with the team. To put it in perspective, closer Clay Holmes holds the top ground ball percentage in that timeframe at 70.7 percent.

His dominance against left-handed hitters is another notable aspect. Although the three-batter rule diminishes its significance, left-handed batters managed just a .138/.271/.213 slash line against the 32-year-old this year. Given the Yankees’ strategy of creating specialized roles for their relievers, Wandy Peralta proves to be a valuable asset. It’s worth noting that he and Holmes led all Yankees in games pitched this season with 63, indicating that Manager Boone deploys Peralta beyond the confines of facing left-handed batters exclusively.

The combination of sustained effectiveness from a left-handed bullpen presence, consistent high-leverage performance, and an overwhelmingly positive clubhouse influence is a rarity. In this context, among the impending free agents for the Yankees, including Luis Severino, Isiah Kiner-Falefa, and Frankie Montas, Wandy Peralta’s departure would leave the most significant void if he were to sign with another team this offseason.

Will it prove to be mistake?

Surface-level, Wandy Peralta’s statistics appear solid, albeit with a slight decline from his standout performance in 2022. However, upon closer inspection, there are noteworthy concerns.

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X-@MaxMannis

Wandy Peralta currently holds a 5.06 FIP for the season, coupled with a .218 BABIP. A high FIP, representing a pitcher’s run prevention without accounting for defensive support, along with a low batting average on balls in play, suggests that Wandy Peralta may have been benefiting from favorable batted-ball luck. This implies that his ERA could be considerably worse, signaling a potential regression in his performance going forward. FanGraphs deems anything above a 5.00 FIP as “awful,” and the perceived league average for BABIP is .300.

Adding to the concerns, Wandy Peralta’s fWAR for this season stands at -0.5, positioning him as one of the least valuable relievers in baseball. His walk rate, at 13.2 percent, is the highest since 2018, accompanied by an increase in home runs surrendered and several quality of contact metrics favoring hitters, including average exit velocity, barrel rate, and hard-hit rate.

Despite boasting the highest strikeout percentage of his career (22.5), it is overshadowed by his 1.70 strikeout-to-walk ratio, ranking as the fifth-lowest among qualified relief pitchers in 2023. To add another layer of concern, despite a 2.86 ERA, Wandy Peralta’s xERA for the season is 4.68.

Since Wandy Peralta’s introduction to the Yankees, he holds a 4.10 FIP and a .246 BABIP. In that timeframe, only two other qualified relievers possess a lower BABIP, and Peralta’s FIP ranks higher than all but 17 other pitchers.

Considering these analytical indicators pointing toward a potential decline, engaging in a bidding war with other teams and offering the left-hander a multi-year contract, which is likely to be sought by Peralta and his representatives this winter, doesn’t align with a logical strategy. The Yankees have a proven track record of developing relievers and uncovering value in cost-effective options.

While Wandy Peralta’s impact on the bullpen, fueled by his personality and an intangible clutch factor, adds complexity to the situation, factoring in all the statistics, the risk of committing guaranteed money to him outweighs the potential benefits. Cheaper alternatives, often found in the open market, such as Ian Hamilton, Nick Ramirez, or Lucas Luetge, or emerging arms in the upper levels of the farm system, present viable and potentially more cost-effective options.

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