While some writers might think decent relievers are worthy of MVP votes, I tend to disagree. OK, to be fair, it was just one writer. Still, how anyone could think Jeremy Affeldt was the 10th most valuable player in the National League is something I find to be utterly ridiculous.
OK, what does this have to do with anything? Well, every season there are some good to very good free agent relievers available. And what do you know, every season there are Yankee fans clamoring for Brian Cashman to get them signed.
There are three relievers who have had their names thrown around in relation to the Yankees: Rafael Betancourt, Mike Gonzalez, and Rafael Soriano.
It seems like the Yankees have expressed interest in Gonzalez on an almost yearly basis, so it is no surprise to see him connected with them this offseason. Now, don't get me wrong, all three of these guys are upper-end relievers.
That doesn't mean the Yankees should be pursuing them. For starters, they are Type-A free agents. If you're signing a big fish, giving up a first round pick isn't a big deal.
The value of a first-round pick can be debated, but the average pick does provide the team with some surplus value (their play is worth more than how much they're paid).
Now, a team like the Yankees isn't really built on surplus value. All of their big-name players are paid at around their market value. Basically, a team like the Rays is built on surplus value, the Yankees are one team that is more than willing to pay for their wins.
So hey, maybe they should go ahead and buy every free agent with no discourse. We've learned that hasn't worked in the past. Even the Yankees, with their almost unlimited payroll, still need to have a balance of free agents and homegrown players.
Now I'm getting off topic, so back to the matter at hand. The Yankees' bullpen was one of the best ones in the league in 2009. Yes, they'll be losing Phil Hughes to the rotation, but the Yankees have plenty of options to take his spot.
I know it will be nearly impossible to replace the 2009 Phil Hughes in the bullpen, but that's because he was probably the best relief pitcher in all of baseball. Even keeping Hughes in the bullpen wouldn't adequately replace him; there's almost no chance he would put up similar numbers to what he did last season.
The Yankees have plenty of reinforcements, though. Signing a guy like Soriano honestly would not replace Hughes' production, and it is doubtful it would even net the Yankees an extra win over the course of the season.
With David Robertson and Damaso Marte, the Yankees have two relievers who are capable of holding down the eighth inning. After that, there is no shortage of capable relievers. Cashman has employed the strategy of throwing relievers at the wall and seeing what sticks. Why change that now after two seasons of success?
I could get into confidence intervals and mathematics and dollar values of why the Yankees shouldn't give up a first round pick for a reliever, but I don't think it's necessary.
Paying a Type-A reliever his market rate will provide little-to-no surplus value, and the average first round pick does. It's just that simple.