(Photo courtesy of The AP)
Normally, signing a guy like Clay Rapada to a Minor League contract would be enough to just warrant the mention it got on the AB4AR Facebook Page last night. But with the Yankees' love for left-handed bullpen options and the fact that they lost one on Friday when Hideki Okajima failed his pre-ST physical, Rapada probably deserves a little more ink.
He's almost 30 years old and only has a few years of Major League experience, so Rapada is clearly no Billy Wagner. In fact, Rapada has spent the majority of his professional career in the Minors, and his 5.13/5.28/.4.75 slash line over 52.2 career MLB innings isn't exactly eye-opening. But when you look at his L/R splits, that's where Rapada becomes interesting. In 34.2 career innings against lefties Rapada has a 1.82/3.14/3.56 line with a 9.35 K/9, 3.89 BB/9, and a .153/.252/.220 tripleslash against. Those numbers were even better in 2011, when Rapada posted a 1.23/2.28/2.59 slash, 11.05 K/9, 2.45 BB/9, and a .104/.170/.167 tripleslash against with the Orioles. He has sample sizes working against him, but as a LOOGY option the Yankees could certainly do worse than Rapada. Those are very good numbers.
You can argue about the need for another lefty in the bullpen. I'm on the record as being in the camp of those who believe the Yankees are fine with Boone Logan and their strong stable of righties who pitch left-handed hitting effectively. But there's no arguing that the Yankees love having more lefty bullpen options than they need, evidenced by their signings of guys like Marte and Feliciano to multi-year deals and their efforts this offseason to bring guys like Okajima and Cesar Cabral to camp. The loser of the 5th rotation spot will likely become the long man and 6th member of the bullpen, but that 7th spot is up for grabs. He would lessen their flexibility with his struggles against right-handed hitting, but Rapada has just as good a shot as anybody to grab that spot if he continues to perform against lefties like he has in the past.