The Yankees are bringing back left-hander Jon Niese on a minor league contract, reports George A. King III of the New York Post (Twitter link). New York released Niese on Sunday, but the expectation was that he’d quickly rejoin the organization if he couldn’t land a major league deal elsewhere.
Niese’s new pact comes with the same salary figures as the minor league accord he signed with the Yankees in February, as he’ll earn a $1.25MM base salary and could make $750K in incentives if he cracks the majors, per Chris Cotillo of SB Nation. The agreement also comes with a May 15 opt-out (Twitter links).
The 30-year-old Niese had been working to earn a bullpen role with the Yankees prior to Sunday, and it stands to reason he’ll resume those efforts. In order to get back to the majors, though, it’s likely Niese will have to regain his fastball velocity, which was only in the mid-80s range before the Yankees cut him. Niese typically sat in the high-80s with the Mets and Pirates from 2008-16.
A full-time job as a reliever would be uncharted territory for Niese, who has worked almost exclusively as a starter to this point. Of Niese’s 211 career appearances, 197 have come from the rotation. Niese has largely served as a competent starter, having logged a 4.07 ERA, 6.92 K/9, 2.78 BB/9 and a 50.1 percent ground-ball rate in nearly 1,200 innings. However, he picked up a personal-high nine relief outings (out of 29 appearances) between New York and Pittsburgh last year amid the worst season of his career. After recording a 5.50 ERA and a 22.1 percent home run-to-fly ball ratio across 121 frames in 2016, Niese was unable to take advantage of a weak class of free agent pitchers and land a guaranteed contract over the winter.