"This is more complicated, because it's a shoulder. When he's healthy, he's an exceptional reliever," Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said Sunday. "He's coming off a shoulder surgery, so we're taking a flyer. A low risk, and if we can get a reward out of it, great. One of those, 'Nothing ventured, nothing gained.' Because it's a shoulder, more likely than not, it's an uphill battle, but we'll see."
Bailey underwent surgery on his right shoulder in July and was non-tendered by the Red Sox in December. The 29-year-old spent the last two seasons in Boston, though he was often injured and made only 49 appearances between 2012 and '13.
When healthy, Bailey was one of the most successful closers in baseball. He won the American League Rookie of the Year Award in 2009, earned two All-Star nods and saved 75 games with a 2.07 ERA for the A's from 2009-11.
"This guy's done a lot in his career. He's closed. He's pitched late in games. I'd expect him to be one of our late-inning guys," manager Joe Girardi said. "I think the earliest [he could pitch for the Yankees] would the end of the season. He's coming in. He's got a lot of work to do. ... It just takes time. It takes time to rehab."
The Red Sox traded for Bailey before the 2012 season, but he didn't pitch until August while recovering from a thumb injury. He went on to post a 7.04 ERA in 19 games in 2012.
Bailey occasionally looked more like his old self in 2013, working in a setup role and briefly as Boston's closer. He finished last year with a 3.77 ERA in 30 appearances before being shut down to undergo shoulder surgery.
Cashman said he didn't base the decision to sign Bailey on having seen him throw, but rather on "who he was" when healthy with the A's and Red Sox. Closer David Robertson agreed that Bailey could be a valuable addition if he's able to get on the mound.
"It would mean a lot; he's a great arm. He has a lot of experience, had some good years with Oakland and some good years with Boston until he got injured," Robertson said. "He has a lot of experience, so any help in the bullpen is welcome."
Robertson said he wasn't threatened by the Yankees signing another reliever with experience closing out games, though he joked that Girardi hadn't officially appointed him the closer yet. He also noted how relief roles tend to change and evolve over the course of the season, so it's hard to tell what Bailey's job would be by the time he's healthy enough to pitch in the Majors.
"I look at it as helping the bullpen as a whole," Robertson said. "Whatever is going to make our team stronger and help us get back to the playoffs, that works for me."