So, the Yankees are finally bringing a veteran pitcher into camp to compete with the kids…
Yesterday, reports circulated that the Yankees have signed former Mets starter Jon Niese pending a physical. I had long anticipated a move as I didn’t really expect the Yankees to hold the audition for two open spots in the rotation with only guys barely old enough to legally drink.
Back in the days of George Steinbrenner, the veteran pitcher would have been a big name, someone who had reached the height of his glory and was now being over-compensated as performance was on a rapid downward slide. Under Hal Steinbrenner, Niese represents a low-cost, under the radar signing. I do not really expect Niese to win a spot in the rotation but he certainly brings healthy competition to the mix. Still only 30 years old, Niese has seen major league success. His presence should have a positive impact on guys like Luis Severino, Chad Green, Luis Cessa, and Bryan Mitchell.
I am not sure how Niese fits with the 2017 Yankees. With a number of left-handers in camp, I expect Tommy Layne and Chasen Shreve are the favorites for LOOGY. Perhaps Niese slots in long relief if he fails to win a spot in the rotation. My early prediction is that he’ll be a camp casualty when the team pares down its roster for Opening Day unless Bryan Mitchell or Adam Warren fail miserably this spring.
Niese was traded from the New York Mets to the Pittsburgh Pirates in late 2015 for second baseman Neil Walker when the Mets surprisingly let Daniel Murphy walk. Niese ended up back with the Mets on August 1st, but 2016 was a miserable year for him. He finished 8-7 with a 5.50 ERA. For the Mets, it was a disaster as he finished with a 11.45 ERA and 0-1 record in 6 games. He hasn’t been good for a few years, and his best year was 2012 when he was 13-9, 3.40 ERA in 190 innings.
The Mets moved on when they opted against exercising Niese’s $10 million option in the off-season, and instead paid $500K to buyout the contract.
Niese’s departure from the Mets the year before was rather comical. He was critical of the Met’s defensive play after his trade to the Pirates. When he returned, he had to scramble to explain his words and was met (no pun intended) with boos when he made his first appearance at Citi Field in relief of Jacob DeGrom against, ironically, the Yankees. While the Mets won the game, Niese did ruin DeGrom’s shutout by allowing a homer to Didi Gregorius.
At this point, I’d prefer to take the inexperience of the younger arms over Niese. He is not going to suddenly become the next Jake Arrieta at this point in his career. He is what he is, and that’s not a good pitcher.