Mark Prior is every baseball fan’s fantasy: A free agent pitcher with a career Major League K/9 IP of 10.37 and a career ERA of 3.51.
Of course, the flip side of that fantasy is Mark Prior’s current nightmare. Since carrying to the Cubs to within one bad play by their short stop of a World Series berth and throwing 235 innings in the process, Mark Prior has never been healthy. Since the end of 2005, he’s thrown just 43.2 innings of baseball, and after shoulder surgery last year, at the age of 27, Prior is trying to prove himself all over again.
For Yankee fans, Mark Prior would be everything Johan Santana, the other object of our dreams, is not. Prior is no sure thing. We don’t know how his arm will hold up or what sort of stuff he’ll have after an extensive rehab period. But he’s also carries a “low risk, very high reward” potential. So why not give him a contract offer and hope that, when he returns in May or June, he can throw four months of solid baseball?
Well, not so fast, says Hank Steinbrenner, the new Voice of the Yankees. In an article that says the Yankees have “an outside chance” at acquiring Johan Santana – is that even news anymore anyway? – Steinbrenner said the Yanks are going to pass on Prior. “We kind of looked into it, but at this point, no,” he said, sounding much like a 16-year-old girl.
I’m not sure why the Yanks are passing on Prior. Perhaps he’s indicated that he doesn’t want to come to New York or pitch in the American League. If that’s the case, I don’t blame him. New York isn’t exactly the city to come to if you carry around the potential of a Mark Prior but need some time to prove your health and ability.
But if the Yanks are passing on Mark Prior for reasons not related to his health, they’re probably making a little bit of a mistake. They’ve got nothing to lose from having Prior around and everything to gain.