With A.J. Burnett and CC Sabathia now in the Bronx fold, the Yanks’ once-barren starting rotation is now filling up. The team will probably lead with Sabathia and follow with Chien-Ming Wang, A.J. Burnett, Joba Chamberlain and the fifth starter. As problems go, having no fifth starter isn’t a bad one, but the Yanks, according to a few columnists, may not afford themselves the flexibility they could have if they act quickly to fill the fifth spot.
In particular, this problem — if we want to call it a problem — revolves around Andy Pettitte. The long-time Yankee lefty had a sub-par 2008, and the Yanks are willing to bring him back on their terms. Pettitte hasn’t jumped at the one-year, $10-million offer on the table mostly because he doesn’t really want to take a 37.5 percent pay cut. The Yanks have seemingly made a take-out-or-leave-it offer, but even that seems a little too generous. As Ken Davidoff wrote today, the Yanks should let Pettitte go. He writes:
There’s still one path the Yankees can take to prove they’re not solely a “win now” organization — to show they haven’t fully destroyed the culture shift that Brian Cashman worked so hard to instill the previous three seasons. Call Andy Pettitte, and tell him sorry, but his time is up. Keep in touch, keep in shape. Maybe he can do a Roger Clemens-esque return close to the All-Star break — at the $16-million salary he wants, moreover, just prorated.
With A.J. Burnett coming aboard Friday, the Yankees have four high-end starting pitchers in CC Sabathia, Burnett, Chien-Ming Wang and Joba Chamberlain. That’s your October starting rotation right there, and it’s superb.
So don’t give up entirely on the youth movement. Allow Alfredo Aceves, Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy a chance to contribute from that fifth starter’s role, rather than overspending on the fading Pettitte. Maybe Phil Coke and even Andrew Brackman can get into the mix.
Of course, with Joba in the rotation and A.J. Burnett’s injury history, the point may be moot. Chamberlain can go only about 150 innings if he stays healthy, and Burnett has made 30+ starts in a season just twice in his career. They’ll have ample opportunities to get Hughes, Kennedy and Aceves into the mix if they deserve to be there. I just wonder about paying too much for Pettitte.
In the end, it’s a matter of nostalgia. Is there a legitimate baseball reason to hire Andy Pettitte beyond the fact that he pitched on four teams that won the World Series a decade ago? The Yanks can spend all they want, but they will also need to develop from within. Sure, they had their David Cone, David Wells and Roger Clemens back in the 1990s, but they also had their Andy Pettitte. If they’re going to restore that tradition to the Bronx, they’ll need to let these kids pitch their ways on to the team.
As Davidoff writes in closing, “It’s understandable why the Yankees went so hard after Sabathia and Burnett. And it would be inexcusable to dismiss their young pitchers without a better opportunity to be part of this new era.”