After adding Lance Berkman to platoon at DH and Austin Kearns to bolster the bench, Brian Cashman continued to use the Yankees’ financial muscle to pick up another potentially useful salary dump: Indians reliever Kerry Wood. Wood was acquired for a player to be named later or cash considerations, with the Indians paying around $2 million of his remaining salary. Kerry Wood’s career has taken many turns since his dazzling debut, and he is no longer the dominating pitcher that he once was. However, he still has some nice upside for the Yankee bullpen.
Wood has had a mediocre season thus far (albeit in only 20 innings) with the Indians, going 1-4 with a 6.30 ERA (5.21 FIP, 5.04 xFIP), with 8 saves, and 18 strikeouts against 11 walks. Wood’s high strikeout rate indicates that he is still working with excellent stuff (and his average fastball velocity of 95.2 would seem to corrobate that assertion). However, his control, never a strong suit, has caused problems for him this season, and his .319 BABIP looks a little high for a power pitcher (though it’s not too out of line with his career stats). There are no major signs that point to Wood suffering from bad luck this season, so it’s possible that what we’ve seen from him so far is what we get.
If Wood can stay healthy (always a big if), and keep the walks at a relatively reasonable level (also questionable), he could fit nicely into the Yankees’ bullpen rotation as a power arm with the ability to pump a mid-90′s fastball for a strikeout in a big situation. However, he may also have outings where he can’t find the plate, and frustrate Yankee fans as Jose Veras used to do in recent years. Fortunately, Wood will probably not be relied upon to pitch to many high-leverage innings early on, as he will likely be behind Dave Robertson and Joba Chamberlain on the setup man depth chart (and possibly Damaso Marte, when he returns from injury). Still, Wood has the potential to be a dominating setup man for the Yankees this season, albeit one who could also cost them a game or two with control meltdowns. To obtain a potentially dominating bullpen arm for the cost of only cash (or a PTBNL) is a great deal for the Yankees, and could have tremendous upside for the team.
Wood only has to be better than (the recently DFA’d) Chan Ho Park (goodbye diarrhea jokes) for this move to be an improvement to the Yankee bullpen. I think he is easily capable of that, and more. If Wood can be healthy and in top form going into October, the Yankee playoff bullpen (possibly including Phil Hughes as well) could be quite formidable. Another ninja move for Brian Cashman, who once again strikes from the shadows, buying low on a salary dump with a high upside.
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