Yankee fans know the waiting game. We’ve played it before with Andy Pettitte, and we’ll play it again. This year, though, there is seemingly some urgency to it as Pettitte’s decision could impact how the team plots its off-season.
Last year, the Yankees were content to wait for Andy Pettitte. They had bigger fish to fry, and after landing both CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett, Brian Cashman knew he had the upper hand in negotiations with Pettitte. Although Andy had expressed his desires to return to the Bronx or retire, the Yankees weren’t going to overpay initially. The witnessed Pettitte suffer through an injury-plagued second half in 2008 and gave him a $5.5 million guaranteed salary with innings options.
In the end, Pettitte made over $10 million in 2009, and everyone was happy. He made 32 starts; he threw 194.2 innings; he went 14-8 with a 4.16 ERA; and he won the game that clinched the AL East, the game that clinched the ALDS, the game that clinched the ALCS and the game that clinched the World Series. For a member of old Yankee guard, it was quite the superfecta.
After the World Series, Andy Pettitte again said he was unsure of his future plans. Speaking on the David Letterman show, he talked about his desires to spend time with his family and children as they grow up. He turns 38 next year, and his oldest son recently celebrated his 15th birthday. No one, obviously, is getting any younger.
But Pettitte isn’t ready to make up his mind, and the Yankees, says Mark Feinsand, do not expect a quick decision. Yankee manager Joe Girardi has talked to Pettitte about 2010, but the left-hander has yet to announce his intentions. “I’m sure he’ll take his normal amount of time,” Girardi said. “I don’t ever ask guys right away. I think you need time to get away, to talk to your family. I think you need a good month, then you can make your decision.”
Brian Cashman will touch base with Pettitte soon, but the Yankees may not have the luxury of waiting “a good month” or more. Last year, Pettitte did not sign with the Yanks until January 26, just three weeks prior to the start of Spring Training, and this time around, he will have to come to terms with his future sooner than that.
The problem, as the Yanks know, comes about if Pettitte decides to stay home next year. With Pettitte, the Yankees have three veterans to anchor the front of the rotation and two rookies as well as numerous other options for the final two spots. Without Pettitte, the Yanks’ pitching staff looks awfully thin. CC and A.J. would hold down the fort, but the Yanks would be relying on Joba Chamberlain, Phil Hughes and, well, take your pick. Thus, Pettitte must give the Yanks an answer sooner rather than later so the Yankees know if they have to go after a bona fide pitcher via trade or free agency.
I would be quite happy welcoming Pettitte back to the fold. He said his arm felt great this year, and as the season wore on, he learned to rely on his command and the movement on his cutter and slider rather than on his diminishing velocity. If his elbow and shoulder can hold up, I expect more of the same from him in 2010. Without him, we’ll hear more about John Lackey and Roy Halladay, and as the Hot Stove League warms up, the Yankees will need to solidify their plans and their future with or without Andy Pettitte.