Known throughout the league for their impressive bullpen depth, the Yankees added another reliever to their potential options for 2020 by signing righty Tony Zych to a minor-league deal with an invitation to MLB Spring Training.
Zych represents an interesting addition to the Yankees pitching mix on the day pitchers and catchers reported to Tampa to formally begin Spring Training. He was a fourth-round pick of the Cubs in 2011, and made his way up to the big leagues with the Mariners in 2015 after a cash trade.
The 29-year-old has had massive problems staying on the field, with the following injuries (in chronological order): rotator cuff tendinitis, right shoulder biceps surgery and a right elbow flexor bundle strain. The latter injury has kept Zych out of affiliated baseball since 2017.
In that 2017 season, Zych made 45 appearances, finishing with a 2.66 ERA (3.99 FIP), 4.59 SIERA and 7.75 strikeouts per nine innings. He also induced groundballs at a 49.5% clip. He relied on three pitches: slider (39.3%), sinker (33.2%) and four-seamer (27.3%).
There’s really no such thing as a bad minor-league contract, and it seems Zych has the ingredients onboard to fit what the Yankees like from relief pitchers. He’s got a slider, and he’s comfortable throwing it a lot (39.3% of his pitches in 2017). It’s unclear how much fastball velocity he’s lost since 2017, but he’s on the right side of 30 and threw his average four-seamer at 94.6 mph that season.
Despite some promising info in his past repertoire (albeit almost three years old at this point), Zych represents an interesting, high-upside piece of the bullpen puzzle that will clearly begin the season in the minor leagues. The injury history brings a serious durability concern, but the Yankees must have a feeling Zych is healthy and able to contribute in 2020.