Pitching options starting to come off the board


(AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

The 2010-2011 offseason was always going to about Cliff Lee for the Yankees, and it still is. The two sides are expected to talk at some point over the next few days and then really kick things into gear during the Winter Meetings in Orlando next week. In the meantime, other free agent pitching options have been agreeing to, and finalizing contracts elsewhere, meaning that Plan B’s and C’s and D’s are coming off the board.

Aside from Lee, the case could be made that Jorge De La Rosa was the best free agent pitcher on the market, or that he at least had the potential to be. We know that the Yankees have kicked the tires on the 28-year-old southpaw, though he was never anything more than a backup plan to Lee. Now De La Rosa isn’t even that to New York; he agreed to a big fat three-year contract with the Rockies yesterday. Jon Garland and especially Javy Vazquez were far down on the pitching target list (I’m thinking Plan J and Y, respectively), but they’re no longer options as well. Garland took a one-year pact with the Dodgers, and Javy as you know landed in Florida. Jake Westbrook, Hiroki Kuroda, and Ted Lilly have all re-upped with their old clubs as well.

The trade market offers some alternatives, but giving up players/prospects and then taking on money is less preferable to the Yanks than simply using their greatest asset, their checkbook. Why (hypothetically) give up prospects for Zack Greinke and then have to pay him eight-figures a year when you can just sign Lee? What about Chris Carpenter or Fausto Carmona or Ricky Nolasco? Same deal, the cost is two-fold and he return won’t be as great.

Those six now-signed free agents above didn’t represent much to the Yankees directly (like I said, they were backup plans), but they’re going to feel the impact of their signings regardless. The free agent pitching market is getting thinner by the day, which not only means that the number of viable alternatives to Lee is dwindling, but also that the southpaw’s leverage and the urgency to sign him are on the way up. Obviously Lee was always going to be in his own little negotiating world as an elite player and he would have gotten nine-figures regardless of what else happened on the market, that’s not going to change.

What can change is how aggressive teams become in pursuing him, especially the Rangers. They have the money to throw around and are slowly running out of places to spend it. They could always stick Neftali Feliz back in the rotation, sign a closer, and hope for the best, but that sounds like a last resort based on the latest reports trickling out of Texas. If the Yankees are unable to sign Lee, what’s left for them, Carl Pavano or Kevin Millwood?

This is nothing more than idle musings, of course, but there’s always a chance something like this plays out. The more pitchers that come off the board before Lee signs, the worse it is for the teams that plan to seriously chase him.

Categories : Musings


  1. Hughesus Christo says:

    I don’t think any of those guys, short of POSSIBLY Kuroda, count as options. Christmas trees all around.

    • YankeesJunkie says:

      This. DeLaRosa, Garland, Lilly, et al except for Kuroda don’t make sense for the Yankees. I guess this puts a little more pressure on the Yankees to sign Lee, but I think the Yanks know that he is a better option than trading a lot pieces for Floyd or Carpenter.

  2. bexarama says:

    I’m pretty sure Javy for 2011 was like Plan ZYSGSG for the Yankees.

    Other than Westbrook and maaaaybe Kuroda, I’m not even sure I wanted the Yankees to get involved with any of those pitchers. I agree that the Rangers might get more desperate to sign him but hey, so might the Yankees. When the Yankees really really really really really really want something, they get it.

    • Rob (not that one) says:

      I would have taken a shot at either of the L.A. pitchers — Kuroda or Lilly. Maybe Westbrook. I’m quite happy that De La Rosa signed. I did not want him on the Yankees since it would have taken a multi-year contract and too much money for what he’s accomplished, or more appropriately, hasn’t accomplished.

    • Matt DiBari says:

      I think Westbrook would have been hit pretty hard in this division.

  3. j_Yankees says:

    This is normally the part where I’d say something about Joba being made a starter again. But let’s face it, it’s not even worth our time anymore. ::sad face::

  4. Reggie C. says:

    Brandon Webb is still out there to be had on a minor league deal. Webb would likely need a couple month of minor league starts to recapture baseball’s best sinker.

    What about trading for Dan Haren? KT looks to have made everyone available to an extent.

  5. brockdc says:

    Lowe might only require a couple of B-prospects, but he’d profile more as back-end rotation fodder in the AL East at this point.

  6. Guest says:


    Let’s just all say it: Cliff Lee is going to be a Yankee in 2011 (barring something incredibly unforeseen re: Lee’s health).

    He is far and away the best option on the market, so its not like the Yanks are planning on going in another direction. Its scary as Yanks fans because, as this article so clearly points out, there is no Plan B. At least no palatable Plan B, anyway. Its Cliff Lee or bust for the Yanks.

    Which is why Cliff Lee is 99.99% likely to be a Yankee in 2011. No one else has anywhere near the resources that we do, and in these circumstances, the Yankees don’t bust.

    All of this drama and handwringing is all really about how much the Yanks will have to pay him. But there really is no drama about WHO will be paying Lee’s salary.

    So relax everyone. If Cliff is healthy and playing baseball in 2011, he will be doing it while wearing the interlocking NY and no name on the back of his jersey.

  7. Matt DiBari says:

    I like to think of them as “potential mistakes” rather than pitching options. One of my biggest fears this year was that the Yankees were going to go after someone other than Lee in this awful pitching class.

  8. Rob (not that one) says:

    If Lee doesn’t sign with the Yankees and Andy doesn’t come back, then we’ll have to explore a trade. They might be forced into putting Joba back in the rotation, which I’d like to see. I’m still not sure how good Ivan Nova is, meaning if he’s good enough to hold down the #5 spot all season. I figure he can’t put up much worse numbers than Vazquez did.

    Hmmmm, here’s a rotation to cause one to pause:


  9. Plans A through Y: Sign Cliff Lee
    Plan Z: Buy whatever other team signs Cliff Lee and force that team to trade Cliff Lee to us for nothing but cash

  10. bronxbrain says:

    I worry that Nolan Ryan is once again feeling the thrill of his pitching days—this time, as an ultra-competitive team president. I can see him urging Greenberg and company to go all out for Lee, well beyond what would make normal sense. Ryan had that killer attitude as a pitcher; I sense that he’s tapping into it once again. Even more likely, I see him offering Andy a ridiculous one-year pact (say, $13.5), just to mess with the Yankees. I have no idea whether or not Andy would consider leaving his real team yet again, but, if he did, it would sting us terribly. (I know that I would be devastated.) Ryan knows that, and I can imagine him playing on that potential devastation.

  11. bkight13 says:

    Maybe I’m in the minority, but I hate when the Yankees try to “bring in the guy that beat em” routine and I think Lee’s contract will be a huge problem down the road. If you could guarantee 2-3 more WS with Lee and the aging core, maybe, but Lee did just lose to the Giants twice, so nothing is guaranteed. I would be fine with CC, Pettitte, Hughes, AJ and a young 5th.

  12. nsalem says:

    I think the lack of SP options this year and for that matter in years going forward will bring Lee the once thought unobtainable 7th year. The Yankees will probably also have to offer Lee a player friendly front loaded contract with a 3 year opt out. This is not a pleasant scenario, but even worse is the thought of a future without the additional big time arm which 2010 showed that we sorely need.
    The Rangers are not going to give up on Lee without a fight. The Nats though probably not a serious contender will drive up the price and the Red Sox will be laying in the weeds. I think we will get Lee in the end, but it will be more like next year than next week and he will deliberately extract everything he can get out of the team, (The Yankees) that has the biggest need for him.

    • CS Yankee says:

      I don’t see the BoSox in the weeds…they need a Catcher, 3B & an OF’er or two.

      They are heavily committed financially to Beck’, Dice-BB, Lackey, & Lester with Buch’ & the future HOF pitcher Casey Kelly (who also plays a mean SS). This gives them the best rotation of all time.


  13. bronxbrain says:

    I hate the “plan B” that’s circulating around, where, if Lee goes back to Texas, then the Yankees sign Crawford and trade Granderson/Gardner for pitching. This would so depress me. (That is a guaranteed guarantee). Rival GMs would lowball Cashman, knowing that he had somehow to trade for a pitcher. I would much rather go with internal candidates for no. 5 starter than sell the farm for Derek Lowe or Gavin Floyd. And, if Cashman did insist on making a trade, then he ought at least to *announce* his intention to make Joba a starter, if only to seem less desperate.

    • CS Yankee says:

      I would be alright offering 2/3rds of our outfield plus Joba to Seattle for King Felix and some oysters.

    • A.D. says:

      Cashman has bluffed plenty of times, I doubt this would be any different and the Yanks can march out a Phelps, Noesi, Aceves, Joba, Nova, Brackman spring training battle if they wanted to

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