Looking for some last-minute pitching depth, the Yankees have reportedly agreed to a minor league deal with veteran lefty Jon Niese.
The New York Yankees are taking a chance on another veteran pitcher. According to Joel Sherman of the New York Post, the Yankees are signing Jon Niese to a minor-league contract, pending a physical. The left-hander pitched for the Pittsburgh Pirates and the New York Mets last season.
Niese, 30, had a very poor season between the two teams last year. Combined, in 121 innings, Niese posted a 5.50 ERA. He finished with an 8-7 record on the season. The Mets acquired Niese half-way through the season from the Pirates, and he did not prove his worth. He ended up only pitching 11 innings for the Mets, posting an 11.45 ERA. Even worse, Niese walked 7.4 batters per nine innings with the Mets.
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He last pitched well with the Mets in 2014. He posted a 3.40 ERA over 187.2 innings pitched. He finished the season with a 9-11 record. This was the climax of Niese’s eight and a half seasons with the Mets. The Mets traded Niese to the Pirates last offseason for second baseman Neil Walker. The Mets then re-acquired him in August for Antonio Bastardo and cash. The Mets declined Niese’s team options for the 2017 and 2018 seasons. Niese would have been due $21 million over those two seasons.
The Yankees are taking a low-risk, high-reward waiver on Niese. Although he struggled last year, he has the ability to play a role in either the rotation or bullpen. The Yankees could use that kind of pitcher on their staff. Outside of Masahiro Tanaka, the Yankees struggled to find consistency from the rest of their rotation in 2016, contributing to them missing the playoffs. Niese could or could not be an answer, but the Yankees are taking a chance and hoping it works out.
The Yankees finished 19th in MLB with a starters’ ERA of 4.44 last season. The mark was good for 10th in the American League and third in the AL East. The only team they were ahead of was the Baltimore Orioles, who had one of the most inconsistent starting rotations in all of baseball. The pitching staff needed to be addressed this offseason and Niese is a decent reclamation project to take on.
Niese is very motivated to make the Yankees roster. According to Randy Miller of NJ.com, the left-hander’s goal is to make the ball club first and make the rotation as a very close second. However, right now the team is reportedly eyeing him for a bullpen role. He seems excited to be a Yankee, and it will be an interesting development to watch as Spring Training gets underway.