For a team whose priorities this off-season are pitching, pitching, pitching, the Yankees haven’t made many moves in that department. Re-signing Andy Pettitte has been their only pitching transaction, and while that’s an important one it doesn’t bolster the staff for the 2010 season. With the offense seemingly set, they will likely focus on pitching for the rest of the winter. But we could even see them stand pat in that department, if they don’t land one of two free agents.
Of the remaining free agent starters, only two make any sense for the Yankees. They’re also the two we’ve talked about since the off-season began: Ben Sheets and Justin Duchscherer. Anyone else would just provide depth, like Sergio Mitre, Chad Gaudin, and Al Aceves. That’s not a bad thing — the Yankees should look into acquiring as much pitching depth as they can afford. But Sheets and Duchscherer are the only two the Yankees should sign for the rotation.
Ben discussed the rotation situation last night, debunking an ESPN Radio report that claimed only one of Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain would be in the 2010 rotation. Brian Cashman cleared up the situation on Michael Kay’s radio show yesterday, and Steve from The Yankee Universe has the transcript, in which Cashman clarifies the misinterpretation of his words. ESPN, as it turns out, cherry picked a quote which, when put into the context of the question, doesn’t mean anything close to what they made it out to be.
Said Cashman on Kay’s show about the possibility of Hughes or Chamberlain starting the season in the bullpen:
If we went in with a starter that we actually like better, yeah. I have no problem with that. I mean we went into the playoffs with Hughes, Aceves and Chamberlain all in the bullpen. Why? Because we had guys we were giving the ball in the rotation , although it was a truncated rotation, we were giving the ball to guys we felt were more capable at that moment in time. So there’s no change in philosophy, as of right now, those guys are all starters. And if nothing changes, those guys are all starters. The question was ‘Well what if you get a starter?’ well, that means we have four, that means the remaining population competes for the final spot.
Who on the free agent market, other than Sheets or Duchscherer, could the Yankees possibly like better than the guys they already have? Chris from iYankees pointed to a GAKIII report mentioning Jarrod Washburn. Really? How can the Yankees possibly like Washburn more than the guys they have in house? Sure, he had a great first half, but he’s a fly ball pitcher who had the best outfield defense in the league behind him. His home run rate also dropped considerably, due mostly to a very low home run to fly ball ratio. Chances are he reverts to his career norms in 2010, which would not play well at all in Yankee Stadium.
Who else could they like more? Erik Bedard? He’s an injury case like Sheets and Duchscherer, and could provide as much upside, but his media aversion wouldn’t work well in New York. He remains perhaps the best possibility outside the aforementioned pair. Jon Garland? Same as Washburn, only he’s a righty, younger, and healthier. Doug Davis? Noah Lowry? Jason Marquis? Brett Myers? Joel Pineiro? I don’t see how any of them present the Yankees with better options. They’d just be fodder for depth, to be stashed away in the minors or in the bullpen. They’re not viable candidates to seriously compete for a rotation spot to start the season.
As it stands, the Yankees are fine with pitching. They’ll need to catch a few breaks, but they could go into the season with just a few tweaks and still have one of the league’s best teams. If they add a starter, it will probably one to demonstrably improve the rotation. For now, that appears to be Sheets and Duchscherer. Other options might work nice as depth, but as the British would say, they’d be redundancies.