Yankees Grab Aardsma, Prepare for Post-Rivera Wasteland

The trouble with writing up any type of offseason primer or plan is that, inevitably, something changes with a player, rendering the writing useless. For example, Edinson Volquez and Yonder Alonso were traded the morning after I’d written up their player caps for FG+. So I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that mere hours after I wrote a section on David Aardsma as a free agent and possible midseason pick up, he would sign a two-year contract with the Yankees. Oh well, C’est la guerre.

Spring Training is a time for small stories to become huge stories simply because there aren’t really good things to talk about yet. Yes, pitchers and catchers finally reported, but unless PFP is the kind of the thing that really revs your engine, good stories are still few and far between. This is how something minor like Tim Lincecum’s tight back briefly becomes a serious concern. Another of these tempest-in-a-teapot spring stories is Mariano Rivera hinting that 2012 may be his last season. I get that for Yankees fans, it means a storied career coming to an end and there’s always some sadness with that, but the man is headed into his age-42 season. This was going to happen sooner or later with sooner as the early favorite.

It’s with an eye toward the post-Rivera future that Yankees GM Brian Cashman has signed Aardsma to be an option for the possibly vacant 2013 closers role. Unlike Rafael Soriano in 2011, however, Aardsma won’t be spending his 2012 racking up  innings as an uncloser and waiting for his chance. The 30-year-old right-hander is still working his way back from the Tommy John surgery that was performed in late July of last year. That means there’s virtually no way Aardsma comes back before August 1 and while one year is the commonly accepted timeline for return from Tommy John, newer research suggests that the figure is probably just a little longer than that, which would push Aardsma closer to a mid-August return.

This makes him unusable in redraft leagues, and to be frank, I don’t even see him as a waiver option this season. He’ll be facing major league hitters for the first time since the end of 2010 at the end of the fantasy season and beginning of the fantasy playoffs, which introduces an awful lot of risk for a player who may need 3-4 low leverage outings to get his feeling back. I think there’s every reason to believe he’ll be more valuable for the Yankees than he is for fantasy players in 2012.

For keeper and dynasty players, however, the calculus is a little different. Is Aardsma worth stashing in a DL spot for most or all of 2012 to have the potential Yankee closer on your roster for 2013? The short answer is that I doubt it. The way Aardsma’s deal is structured is such that it’s not actually a two-year deal, it’s a one-year deal with a team option for 2013. So, if Aardsma looks good in the minors and pitches well down the stretch, the Yankees will retain his rights and put him in the mix for the closers job next year…if Rivera does retire.

There are four options regarding Aardsma’s 2013 status based on his performance in 2012. If he doesn’t pitch well or doesn’t get healthy, the Yankees won’t retain him and his fantasy value going forward is virtually nil. If he pitches well, there are still three options. First, the Yankees choose not to retain him anyway because they feel confident with their younger bullpen options and let him go back to free agency. Second, the Yankees do retain him, but either Rivera comes back for 2013 or they choose to give the closer’s job to David Robertson, Joba Chamberlain, or some other reliever, who may not even be on the roster at this point. Third, Aardsma pitches well in 2011 and gets the job for 2013. So, that’s three potential negative outcomes compared to just one potential positive outcome, which to me seems too risky, even with the upside of having the Yankee closer stashed away at a low cost. As always, your mileage may vary.

I’ll be interested to see how Aardsma looks after watching Joe Nathan struggle a little bit coming back from Tommy John last year. We know that relievers fatigue differently from starters and, at least according to the Journal of Anecdotal Medicine, seem to be prone to less predictable returns from surgery. If Aardsma does return to pitch well in 2012, he’ll definitely be on my radar for 2013 drafts whether he’s with the Yankees or not, but there’s enough ambiguity in his future that I’ll be watching from afar this year rather than taking him on as risk.

We hoped you liked reading Yankees Grab Aardsma, Prepare for Post-Rivera Wasteland by Dan Wade!

Please support FanGraphs by becoming a member. We publish thousands of articles a year, host multiple podcasts, and have an ever growing database of baseball stats.

FanGraphs does not have a paywall. With your membership, we can continue to offer the content you've come to rely on and add to our unique baseball coverage.

Support FanGraphs

Dan enjoys black tea, imperial IPAs, and any competition that can be loosely judged a sport. Follow him on Twitter.

newest oldest most voted