After watching Vidal Nuno struggle yet again, the New York Yankees front office has to begin readying a replacement. While internal options are limited, Nuno has pitched so poorly that the team basically has to try anyone else in his spot in the rotation. A few players have earned a crack at a tryout. The second wild card leaves the barn door wide open for flawed teams looking to make playoff runs, and so the Yankees need to make a move sooner than later. The solution may be on their roster right now in reliever Adam Warren.
It certainly is not Nuno’s fault that he is pitching a level above what his talent qualifies him for, but the Yankees’ injuries have resulted in him having the third most starts on the team. In his 11 games started, the soft-tossing lefty has pitched more than five innings only five times, and has had only three quality starts. Unfortunately for him, he may not even be able to find a job as a serviceable reliever. While righties have pounded him, lefties have hit him even more in 2014, and struck out less frequently.
Should Nuno find himself back in the minors, the Yankees have a few unexciting veteran names they could fill the role with. However, whether any of them would fare better than Nuno is questionable. Alfredo Aceves was just sent to the minors a week ago for struggling in relief. David Huff, acquired from the Giants, is currently in the long relief role, but could be stretched out and put up a 4.67 ERA in relief for New York last season.
A better bet for the team would be to see what they have in a young guy who has outgrown the minors, like they successfully did with Chase Whitley. Both Whitley and Masahiro Tanaka are 25-year-old first time major leaguers. As Whitley has shown, in comparison to someone like Aceves, is it is usually better to gamble on an unknown than to stick with a familiar dud. If it does not work out, the team is no worse off than they were before.
That would be only part of the reasoning behind moving Warren to the rotation. The bigger is the stand-out year he has had in 2014 out of the bullpen. Since David Robertson has come back from his early season disabled list stint, the Yankees late inning relief has been great. Warren has been a big part of that, holding a 2.19 ERA through 30 appearances, and striking out almost a batter per inning with a decent walk rate.
If the Yankees were to attempt that experiment, they would have to find a few answers to other questions first. For one, they would need a bullpen replacement. Another sticking point is how they would stretch Warren out, with the options being either short starts of increasing pitch counts in the majors, or sending him to Triple-A to work on endurance. The most important question is whether Warren’s stuff will translate to starting as well as it fares in the bullpen.
In almost all cases the answer to that is no, but having stuff not as good is not the same as simply not good. A good starting pitcher is universally more valuable than any ace reliever, particularly on a Yankee team where Warren is no better than the seventh inning man. What bodes well for Warren is that he has an outstanding repertoire of pitches, unlike most relievers who rely on a pair of pitch types. Warren is not a velocity dependent pitcher either, and while it is never good to lose speed on the fastball it may not effect him as much as someone else. As previously noted, the Yankees are not even fastball dependent as a team these days, and Warren fits that mold.
There are a few players who deserve at least an audition in the major leagues, and with the Yankees’ 2015 pitching staff very much up in the air it may be of benefit to see if anyone makes an impression. Warren is the most logical solution, since he is both already on the roster and has been successful thus far this year. In the minors, he was exclusively a starter, which means it may not be too difficult for him to revert back. Warren is the right move, but no matter what the Yankees need to make a change because they are costing themselves games by standing still.
Commentary by Brian Moore
Guardian Liberty Voice Sports Writer covering New York Baseball