Nov
30

Pitching options starting to come off the board

By

(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
  • mac1

    6/$138?

  • Hughesus Christo

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

    • YankeesJunkie

      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.

  • http://youcantpredictbaseball.wordpress.com bexarama

    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)

      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.

    • http://twitter.com/Mattpat11 Matt DiBari

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

  • http://twitter.com/j_yankees j_Yankees

    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::

  • Reggie C.

    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.

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

      Not sure if serious…

      • Reggie C.

        If Upton is on the trade market, is it illogical to consider the availability of Dan Haren?

        • http://youcantpredictbaseball.wordpress.com bexarama

          Psssst… Haren got traded already………

        • Chris

          Yes, because Dan Haren pitches for the Angels.

        • YankeesJunkie

          Already traded!

        • http://www.twitter.com/jordansmed JGS

          It would be reasonable to kick the tires on Haren…if he wasn’t traded to the Angels at the deadline.

          But he was.

        • Plank

          I think it would be more logical to swing a trade with Montreal for Pedro AND Randy Johnson.

          • http://youcantpredictbaseball.wordpress.com bexarama

            That’s crazy. Pedro’s too small, I don’t think he can ever be that good. And Randy Johnson walks way too many guys.

            • http://www.twitter.com/jordansmed JGS

              And Randy Johnson walks way too many guys is a .500 pitcher.

            • Plank

              Are you talking about Pedro and RJ or Man Ban and Brackman?

    • Plank

      Let’s not bother KT with Haren trade stuff. Let’s contact AA and see what it will take to pry Halladay away.

    • Chris

      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.

      The reports that I heard suggested he wanted a significant guaranteed deal (I think in the $5-10M range). For a non-guaranteed minor league deal, it’s worth a shot, but not on anything with real money attached.

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

      What does Kevin Towers have to do with an Angels pitcher?

      • Reggie C.

        If Webb has a throwing session in the near future and shows he’s got some recovered arm strength and that sinker intact , then sure he’ll get a couple guaranteed ML offers.

        Not sure if that’s the case. But Webb’s out there and i’d love to see Cashman take a flier.

    • ZZ

      Did you get stuck in the wayback machine?

      • Reggie C.

        What can I say … i look pretty dumb right about now. Completely forgot Haren got traded.

        • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

          Too busy watching you Richard Simmons DVDs.

          • I am not the droids you’re looking for

            IETC

    • Accent Shallow

      Webb on a minor league deal? Sure, sign me up. Err, him up.

      I wouldn’t count on him to produce in 2011, though.

  • brockdc

    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.

  • Guest

    Alright.

    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.

    • YankeesJunkie

      Agreed, I find it tough to see the Rangers go 6/135-140 which the Yankees will be able to go to.

      • A.D.

        The Yankees are almost certain to not lose on money, its if money is close enough and Lee likes somewhere else better.

  • http://twitter.com/Mattpat11 Matt DiBari

    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.

  • Rob (not that one)

    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:

    Sabathia
    Burnett
    Hughes
    Joba
    Nova

    • Accent Shallow

      I think we’ll see Manny Banuelos or David Phelps or somebody get a start over Joba, even if they have a 2007-style injury bug.

    • http://twitter.com/Mattpat11 Matt DiBari

      I think if the Yankees lose out on Lee, Pettitte comes back no matter what. He won’t hang them out to dry.

  • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

    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

    • mac1
    • Accent Shallow

      Plan Z: Buy whatever other team signs Cliff Lee and force that team to trade Cliff Lee to us for nothing but cash

      If you’re planning on doing something so contrary to the spirit of fair play (not to mention several league rules) there are plenty of pitchers I’d target over Lee.

      Sheesh.

      • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

        I was trying to be nice.

      • Chris

        Not to mention that there are teams that are probably cheaper to purchase than the Rangers (assuming they sign Lee). The Marlins specifically come to mind. Then we could bring back Javy.

  • bronxbrain

    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.

    • http://youcantpredictbaseball.wordpress.com bexarama

      Except Ryan’s already conceded to the press that he probably won’t be able to outspend the Yankees.

    • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

      Even more likely, I see him offering Andy a ridiculous one-year pact (say, $13.5), just to mess with the Yankees.

      Since that’s only 2M more than the deal we offered Andy last year (that he accepted), I don’t see how this offer would be “ridiculous”.

      • RL

        I also don’t see Andy accepting even a truely rediculous offer (unless maybe it’s above $15M or perhaps even more), as he’s planning to retire anyway and doesn’t seem to need the money.

        • RL

          *ridiculous (internal spelling not working lately)

  • bkight13

    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.

    • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

      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 personally guarantee* you 2-3 more WS with Lee and the aging core, bkight13.

      (*NOTE: This guarantee is non-guaranteed.)

      • bkight13

        Ok, then I’m good. Bring on Lee.

  • nsalem

    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

      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.

      /petergammonsjohnkruk&mostmsm’d

  • bronxbrain

    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

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

    • A.D.

      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