The Yankees announced Thursday that they’ve signed left-handed reliever Ryan Buchter to a minor league contract and assigned him to their alternate training site. Buchter, who recently elected free agency over an outright assignment from the Angels, will join the Yankees’ 60-man player pool and immediately become a viable depth option.
Buchter, 33, pitched just six innings with the Halos before being designated for assignment. He surrendered three runs and just five hits in that time, but his six walks probably didn’t encourage the team’s decision-makers. That said, Buchter has a track record as a solid bullpen piece dating back to his 2016 debut campaign with the Padres. The southpaw posted a sub-3.00 ERA each season from ’16-’19, logging a combined 2.87 ERA and 4.01 FIP with 9.9 K/9, 4.0 BB/9, 1.1 HR/9 and a 26.5 percent grounder rate along the way.
Despite those strong numbers, Buchter was non-tendered by the Athletics over the winter and had to settle for a minor league pact with the Angels in free agency. Last year’s results might’ve been a bit more smoke-and-mirrors than seasons prior, as Buchter’s 4.6 BB/9 and 1.59 HR/9 marks were easily career-worsts. His 2.98 ERA looked to be largely a function of a 91.4 percent strand rate, with fielding-independent metrics like FIP (4.96) and xFIP (5.08) casting considerably more negative light on his work.
That said, his track record and ability to miss bats in bunches makes him a fine depth pickup. An extreme fly-ball pitcher like Buchter isn’t necessarily an ideal fit for Yankee Stadium and the AL East in general, but it’s worth pointing out that he generates harmless infield flies at a higher rate than most pitchers. From 2016-19, 16.4 percent of the fly-balls he allowed were characterized as infield flies — just shy of seven percent better than the league average in that span. He’s surely benefited from playing his home games at the pitcher-friendly parks in San Diego, Kansas City and Oakland for much of his career, but the extreme fly-ball tendencies may not be quite as concerning as one would initially expect.