The Yankees have claimed left-handed reliever Matt Gage off waivers from the Astros, reports Jon Heyman of the New York Post. He was designated for assignment last week. The team has not formally announced the move or a corresponding transaction, which will be required since New York currently has a full 40-man roster.
Gage, who’ll be 31 in a couple weeks, has spent time in the majors in each of the past two seasons, logging a combined 1.83 ERA in 19 2/3 innings between the Blue Jays and Astros. He’s punched out a strong 26% of his opponents but also demonstrated some shaky command, evidenced by 20 walks (11.7%) and one hit batter in just 77 faced as a big leaguer.
While Gage has an overall 5.17 ERA in parts of five Triple-A seasons, he’s been better there in the past two years (2.34 ERA in 42 1/3 innings in 2022, 4.58 ERA in 37 1/3 innings in 2023). A good portion of his Triple-A struggles came several years ago when he was working as a starter in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League while pitching in the Giants’ and Mets’ systems.
A move to the bullpen seems to have been agreeable to Gage, however, and like so many other Yankee bullpen targets, Gage will bring a track record of inducing ground-balls at a strong clip to his new club. He’s posted a 48.9% grounder rate in his limited MLB time and typically sits in the mid-40s at the Triple-A level as well. Overall, he has a 45.4% ground-ball rate in his time at the Triple-A level. He also has a minor league option remaining, so he can be sent to Scranton without first needing to pass through waivers.
The Yankees are generally light on established left-handed bullpen candidates. Gage certainly isn’t an established option himself, but he’ll join Victor Gonzalez, Matt Krook and Nick Ramirez as 40-man possibilities for the Yankees to evaluate this spring. The Yanks have reportedly been on the hunt for bullpen help in free agency but are also already into the fourth and highest tier of luxury penalization, meaning they’ll pay a 110% tax on any additional salaries added to the books. A reunion with Wandy Peralta is said to be of interest, but it’s not yet clear whether the Yankees will effectively spend double whatever the market bears (including tax penalties) in order to retain him. For now, they’ll stock up on some affordable depth as they continue surveying the market.