The Yankees continue to possess one of the best bullpen crews in the game. The grouping of above-average to elite relievers rattles up to six pitchers.
For New York, the biggest impact might not come from its top two holdover relievers - Aroldis Chapman and Dellin Betances - but rather the team's newest signings. Zack Britton and Adam Ottavino are working under elite reliever contracts and each pitcher's production will have a major impact on the Yankees postseason aspirations.
Britton has a slight advantage over Ottavino in that the 31-year-old southpaw has some experience in pinstripes under his belt after coming to the Yankees in a late July trade last season. The right-handed Ottavino, 33, has an edge of his own - unfamiliarity for batters - coming to the American League after parts of eight seasons in the National League.
Of course, the Yankees aren't expecting a competition between the relievers. What the Yankees need from each hurler is consistent dominance, which allows the club's skipper, Aaron Boone, to mix and match with them as often as possible. The Yankees will rely on all six of the aforementioned relievers, but Britton and Ottavino figure to become prominent pitchers because they might be used in a variety of circumstances.
If Chapman, the Yankees closer, and Betances, the team's expected eighth-inning reliever, suffer any sort of injury or extended ineffectiveness, Britton and Ottavino will be expected to slide straight into one of the spots.
Britton, who owns 142 career saves, might actually garner more save chances than Betances if Chapman ends up on the shelf. Britton's past success has a lot to do with it, but Betances has also demonstrated that his best efforts come in a set-up role and with a constant role. When Chapman and Betances are healthy, Britton's role could be one in which he steps up in a tight situation as early as the sixth inning.
Ottavino's strength might come in his ability to extend his appearances beyond three outs (10 such occurrences in 2018), whereas the remainder of the Yankees' top relievers appear to be best served with clean three-out opportunities in front of them. Ottavino's repertoire allows him to navigate trouble in virtually any inning, something the Yankees can reap benefits.
Understanding there is plenty of upside with each pitcher, there are questions as well.
With Britton, a potential issue stems from whether he is completely back from the right Achilles rupture he suffered in February 2018. Britton understandably took a good deal of time to find his comfort level upon his return in June. Britton was a bit wild throughout his 41 appearances in 2018, but he also had a fine stretch of 17 games (17 2/3 innings) to finish the regular season in which he allowed just two earned runs. That stretch and knowing he'll be at full strength this spring was evidently enough for the Yankees to see when making their three-year, $39 million offer to Britton.
For Ottavino, any problems might stem from which pitcher the Yankees will get on the mound. Will it be the one that obliterated offenses in 2018, cranking out 112 strikeouts in 77 2/3 innings (13.0 K/9)? Or, will the Yankees receive production from Ottavino that resembles a pitcher that allows free passes at an alarming rate as in 2017 (6.6 BB/9)? Ottavino has demonstrated he can maintain decent control, but even last season the walks were an issue (4.2 BB/9).
The Yankees will be fully reliant on each of the relievers this season, but its Britton and Ottavino that might hold the most sway in the bullpen's success because of the various roles they will be required to fill.