The Yankees have designated right-handed reliever Ben Heller for assignment, according to a club announcement. The move clears roster space for right-hander Darren O’Day, whose previously reported deal with the Yankees has now been officially announced.
Originally acquired from the Indians alongside Clint Frazier and Justus Sheffield in the Andrew Miller blockbuster, the now-29-year-old Heller has seen sparing action with the Yankees in four seasons. Injuries have persistently dogged Heller. He dealt with bone spurs early in 2018 before eventually learning he’d require Tommy John surgery. Those injuries knocked out his entire ’18 campaign and most of his ’19 season as well. He returned in 2020, but a nerve issue in his right biceps limited him to just six innings this past season.
Heller has pitched in parts of four seasons with the Yankees — 2016-17 and 2019-20 — but has totaled just 31 1/3 innings at the MLB level because of that broad array of arm troubles. Despite his minimal workload, he’s somewhat remarkably accrued more than three years of MLB service, albeit with most of that time coming on the 60-day injured list.
It has to be pointed out that Heller has been quietly effective in those 31 1/3 frames, working to a 2.59 ERA. However, his 21.7 percent strikeout rate and 10.9 percent walk rate are both worse than the league average, which has contributed to a less-bullish 4.20 SIERA mark.
Heller, who owns a 2.45 ERA and 32.5 percent strikeout rate in 99 Triple-A innings, still has a minor league option remaining, which could make him attractive to other clubs in need of bullpen depth. The Yankees will have a week to trade Heller, place him on outright waivers or release him — though the latter of those three seems quite unlikely.