A look ahead at potentially available starting pitchers

Prospect Profile: Dan Brewer
Yanks pick up OF Justin Maxwell

When the Yankees seek pitching help during the 2011 season, it will likely come from outside the organization. This morning Joel Sherman reminisced about previous years where the Yankees used a young player they had not intended, but this situation feels a bit different. When Phil Hughes came up in 2007 he was the the best amateur pitching prospect in the game and had just finished a season in which he threw 146 innings. In 2011 Dellin Betances and Manny Banuelos might appear attractive options, but in 2010 they combined to throw as many innings as Hughes did the season before he made the bigs. Both pitchers are short on experience, and I think that keeps them out of the picture, at least as starters, for the 2011 season. Unless Andrew Brackman breaks out in a serious way, the Yankees are going to have to explore other options to fill in rotation spots.

Today Buster Olney listed 11 pitchers who might become available during the 2011 season. Some we’ve written about, and some we haven’t. But if the Yankees don’t get much use out of Freddy Garcia, Ivan Nova doesn’t delvier in his sophomore effort, or Andrew Brackman isn’t ready, they’re going to look to the market for a replacement. These 11 names will likely come up in discussions if their teams make them available.

(John Raoux/AP)

James Shields: In 2010 James Shields saw some of his stats spike. With his strikeout rate also went his home run rate and BABIP. That still amounted to peripherals that far outpaced his 5.18 ERA. We’re undoubtedly going to see better from Shields in 2011, but that doesn’t mean he’s a fit for the Yankees. Not only will the Rays likely need him to remain in contention, but they probably won’t be so willinng to trade him to the Yankees. He still has a team friendly contract: $4.25 million this year, followed by options for $7 million, $9 million, and $12 million.

Joe Blanton: We hear a lot about Blanton, mainly because of rumors that the Cliff Lee signing left the Phillies short on cash. Blanton has had his ups and downs throughout his career, and he has seen his home run rate jump, and his ground ball rate decrease, since moving to Philadelphia. He currently has two years and $17 million remaining on his contract, so he’s affordable. But I’m not sure he’s quite the answer the Yankees seek. It depends on how desperate they become.

Edwin Jackson: We talked about Jackson’s case here. His availability will depend on Chris Sale’s and Jake Peavy’s statuses. But if the Sox are in contention, I can’t see them trading a useful pitcher unless it fetches them a player who can immediately help the team. I’m not sure the Yanks have an expendable player who would fit the bill.

Paul Maholm: He’s a groundball heavy lefty who doesn’t strike out anyone, but that doesn’t mean he’s a good pitcher. His career FIP is 4.28 and xFIP is 4.31, so he’s not a total disaster. But when he allowed a lot of hits on balls in play, which happens with such a contact-heavy pitcher, his ERA gets inflated. In the past two years it has been considerably higher than his peripherals indicate.

Shaun Marcum: The Brewers are all-in for 2011, but that doesn’t mean they’re guaranteed anything. A few bad breaks and they could be well behind the Reds and the Cardinals, and maybe even the Cubs, by the time July rolls around. They might want to hang onto Zack Greinke, but Shaun Marcum could fetch them a farm-replenishing return. He had a superb return from Tommy John surgery in 2010, and despite poor velocity he can still rack up strikeouts at a league average rate while keeping his walk rate low. His changeup is an especially effective weapon, which could help him fend off lefties salivating over the short porch.

(Gregory Bull/AP)

Ryan Dempster: If I were to make a list of underrated pitchers, Dempster would finish in the top three. Ever since moving back to the rotation in 2008, after four years in the bullpen, Dempster has shined. In fact, 2010 was his worst year of the three, and even then he had a 3.85 ERA and 3.99 FIP. He can strike out guys, and his walk rates are usually acceptable. His contract is a bit much, as he’s owed $27.5 million over the next two seasons. But if the Yanks can get him for a decent price, I think they’d jump.

Carlos Zambrano: Mike has previously said everything I want to say, and more, The Mariners won’t trade Felix Hernandez.

Jeremy Guthrie: His name has come up in many discussions this winter, but the hangup is always the prospect of trading him within the division. He has four years of service now, meaning he’ll be arbitration eligible in 2012 before hitting free agency. That said, I’m not sure he’s the best guy for the job. His home run rate is always fairly high, and he doesn’t strike out many batters. Last year his ERA was ahead of his FIP and way ahead of his xFIP. That doesn’t necessarily mean that he’ll come back down to earth in 2011, but there is little indication that he possesses some skill, such as Matt Cain, that renders him exceptional.

Fausto Carmona: I wrote about Fausto Carmona in December. While I think he’s a worthy risk, I don’t see the Indians having any reason to trade him.

Justin Masterson: If they wouldn’t trade Carmona, why would they trade Masterson? He won’t turn 26 until March, and he has shown some decent peripherals during his short time in the bigs. Still, he might profile better as a middle reliever, since he lacks an out pitch against lefties.

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Prospect Profile: Dan Brewer
Yanks pick up OF Justin Maxwell
  • Ultimate Yankee Warrior (James)

    Aren’t Phelps and Noesi capable of league average performance? Why not give them a shot before acquiring anyone?

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Joe Pawlikowski

      Are they? I don’t know. None of us do. They could get shellacked for all we know.

      • Ted Nelson

        They could not get shellacked for all we know.

        If one or both is/are pitching better than Brackman in spring training and AAA, why is Brackman going to get a shot before them?

      • Ultimate Yankee Warrior (James)

        Well both guys don’t walk too many, get their share of strikeouts, and don’t give up the long ball. So they both seem to have the makings of league average. They certainly seem better prepared at this point than Brackman.

    • http://theyankeeu.com Matt Imbrogno

      At this point? Probably not.

    • Chris

      Why not give them a shot before acquiring anyone?

      Because the irrational fan base is clamoring for Cashman to acquire another pitcher right now.

      • radnom


        Because the irrational fan base is clamoring for Cashman to acquire another pitcher right now.

        Its not irrational to recognize that the Yankees have serious issues in their starting pitching. There is nothing wrong with looking ahead to see what the in-season trade market will be.

        I hate the argument that ‘oh well we spent most of last year with shitty 4th and 5th guys, so we’ll be fine with the same this year’. Going into the season last year the Yankees rotation was projected to be much stronger. Where they ended up is the ceiling of this years rotation. Assuming the usual trials and tribulations of a pitching staff it is not unreasonable to admit that this years rotation will perform worse than last years. Barring an acquisition or an amazing streak of good luck, of course.

        • Ted Nelson

          “Going into the season last year the Yankees rotation was projected to be much stronger.”

          Who cares? It wasn’t much stronger than it was. It was as strong as it was and they won 95 games. That’s not an argument, it’s just facts.

          Might the rotation be worse this season? Yes. Might it be better? Yes. Between the possibility of Andy coming back, trade possibilities, prospects, the possibility of AJ bouncing back to some degree, and the possibility of Hughes developing… it is by no means a given that the rotation will be worse, let alone the disaster some have already decided it is.

          All that said, there’s certainly a possibility the Yankees will want/need to trade for a starting pitcher this season and I welcome this article. I don’t know if Chris was specifically talking about this article, but I would agree with his larger point that a lot of fans have already predetermined the Yankees results before the season starts and overreacted to their own meaningless predications. Looking at who may be available is very different from going on and on about how everything will go wrong and the Yankees NEED to make a trade.

          • radnom


            Who cares? Might the rotation be worse this season? Yes. Might it be better? Yes.

            Way to miss my whole point. Obviously there is a large spectrum of results here. But the Yankees were not all that unlucky last year. Seeing how their rotation is significantly worse opening day this year than it was opening day last year, it is reasonable to expect diminished results over the course of the year. If you can’t see that you’re just being delusional. Or do you think that a 4/5 of Javy/Pettitte isn’t that much of an upgrade over Mitre/Nova? (Keep in mind that since we are comparing opening day rotations you have to compare to what was expected of Javy prior to the season and not what actually happened).

            • Ted Nelson

              “Seeing how their rotation is significantly worse opening day this year than it was opening day last year, it is reasonable to expect diminished results over the course of the year. If you can’t see that you’re just being delusional.”

              Again, who cares what it looks like on paper (before training camp no less) and what we expect?

              What did you expect from the Rangers’ 2010 opening day rotation that featured Scott Feldman (opening day starter), Rich Harden, CJ Wilson (first start since 2005…), Colby Lewis (4 starts since 2003), and Matt Harrison? I’m not saying that the Yankees will have that much luck, but reality is not always worse than what’s on paper. Unforeseen trades can happen mid-season.

              “(Keep in mind that since we are comparing opening day rotations you have to compare to what was expected of Javy prior to the season and not what actually happened).”

              No, you really do not. Again, why do I care what their opening day rotation was last season when I know how things actually turned out? Javy was below replacement level last season for 157 innings and the Yankees won 95 games. I don’t have to speculate about how Javy might replicate his Cy Young candidate 2009 because I know what happened in 2010. In 2010 he was 1.5 WAR worse than Freddy Garcia was in 2010 in the same number of innings.

              If CC is CC, Hughes builds on his first full MLB season, and Burnett bounces back at least a bit… The rotation could be just as good as last season. If Pettitte comes back, if they trade for someone, if a prospect comes up and gives them something, if Nova is solid, if Garcia replicates 2010… If not then sure, their rotation might stink. I don’t know why you’ve decided before the season starts that the Yankees rotation will be worse than it is on paper, or why the Red Sox, Rays, and Jays are not subject to the same “trials and tribulations” as the Yankees.

              Not sure where you got that starting rotation for last season from anyway… Pettitte opened the season as the #3 starter and Hughes as #5. Hughes was far from a sure thing and they skipped him the first time through the rotation because he was their #5. Andy was old and far from a sure thing… So let’s not act like we were certain Andy and Hughes would be that good last season. They mostly exceeded expectations, while Javy and Burnett fell short of expectations.

              • Ted Nelson

                Not a comprehensive review, but here’s a quick and easy way to look at it “on paper” as you say…

                2009 WAR
                CC 5.1
                Hughes 2.4
                Pettitte 2.3
                Mo 1.7
                Joba 1.4
                AJ 1.3
                Robertson 0.7
                Nova 0.5
                Wood 0.4
                Logan 0.4
                Mitre 0
                Javy -0.2
                Moseley -0.4
                Gaudin -0.7

                That was CC’s worst WAR season since 2005, so there’s a decent chance he’ll gain something in 2011. (Could be in decline or have an career worst season, of course, but on paper I’d assume he bounces back to somewhere in his 2006-2009 production range.)

                I can’t say if Hughes will take a step forward or back, but forward is certainly possible at his age.

                AJ had at least 2.6 WAR every season from 2004-9 (averaged 3.8 WAR over those 6 seasons). Again, if you want to look at this on paper he should outperform 2010.

                So, the top 3 might very well match or far exceed the CC, Hughes, Andy top 3’s 9.8 WAR from last season.

                Nova could match Burnett’s 1.3 over a full season, while a Phelps/Noesi/Brackman could match Nova’s 0.5 WAR in a late call-up.

                On paper we could say the Yanks’ 1-4 gave them 11.6 WAR in 2010 (combining Pettitte and Nova’s season for 1 full season). If, somewhat conservatively, we forecast 5.5 for CC, 2.4 for Hughes, 2.4 for Burnett, 1.3 for Nova… we’d get to the exact same 11.6 WAR. Optimistically, CC for be more 6-7 range, AJ 4, Hughes anywhere from 3-5, and Nova maybe at 2. That’s 15-19, or 3.4-7.4 WAR above last season’s top 4. Pessimistically they could all get hurt and/or stink.

                On paper the Yankees’ #5 starters in 2010–roughly Javy, Moseley, Gaudin, and Mitre–combined for -1.3 WAR. It’s not too much of a stretch to think that the Yankees could get a net of about replacement level production from some combo of Garcia, Mitre, Colon, Brackman/Noesi/Phelps/Betances/Banuelos/Mitchell, etc., etc.

                So, on paper I think it’s pretty reasonable to expect that the Yankees rotation can be better than 2010.

                • Ted Nelson

                  Oh, and… Bullpen should be at least the same and probably better overall with the additions of Soriano and Feliciano and the others back with no reason to assume an overall decline.

                • Ted Nelson

                  Should be 2010 WAR…

                • JAG

                  I think you’re still kind of missing the point he’s trying to make. Yes, the 2010 Yankees won 95 games and made the ALCS, so that performance was great. The point, though, is that, going into the season, the rotation was projected to be solid top-to-bottom with Hughes as the untested #5 behind a solid Javy as #4 even with an expected drop-off from ’09 and CC, AJ, and Andy expected to put in career average performances. That rotation, if they had performed as expected, would have been completely dominant.

                  Obviously, we know at this point that that didn’t happen. Javy and AJ had horrible years, and Andy was hurt for half the season. He was excellent the other half though, and Hughes was better than expected, allowing the Yankees to perform as they did.

                  The point he’s trying to make is that, if you account for the same variation this year, the expectations have to be lower. CC is CC, sure. AJ will likely bounce back a bit to his career norms, but after that? To expect similar performance from this year’s staff is to expect that Hughes will continue to improve or remain static, which is fine, Garcia will be better than he was last year, and Nova will also improve. While sure, you shouldn’t need to plan for everyone to go down with season-ending injuries, you shouldn’t be planning that everyone will improve on last year.

                  Do I think the Yankees need to make a big move? No, although I doubt there’s even a big move to be made. But looking ahead to what improvements are available is hardly a bad idea. Even if everyone is doing fine, would you really say we shouldn’t even consider an acquisition if it would improve the team?

                  • Ted Nelson

                    “That rotation, if they had performed as expected, would have been completely dominant.”

                    Could have, would have, should have. I am not missing this point, I just don’t see how it’s at all relevant. They weren’t dominant.

                    “The point he’s trying to make is that, if you account for the same variation this year, the expectations have to be lower.”

                    Why would I expect the exact same variation as last season? That makes zero sense. Just because it happened to one team last season, does not make that the standard expectation.

                    Is there any evidence that a rotation is always worse in-season than on paper before the season?

                    CC and Burnett could easily have bounce-back seasons, after having their worst seasons in 5 or 6 years. Hughes could build on his success. Nova could be at least as good overall as Burnett last season. And it’s not too hard to find someone or combo better than Javy last season. I see no reason to expect the rotation to be worse than the ACTUAL 2010 rotation.

                    “While sure, you shouldn’t need to plan for everyone to go down with season-ending injuries, you shouldn’t be planning that everyone will improve on last year.”

                    I am not. CC and Burnett can realistically be expected to improve. In my WAR analysis I left Hughes static because I can easily see him improving or falling back. Garcia was as good as Burnett last season and way better than Javy, I am not expecting him to get better. Nova had 0.5 WAR across 7 starts, which translates to 1.8 WAR across 25 starts. Again, better than Burnett and way better than Javy in 2010.

                    And the opening day rotation doesn’t have to be the rotation all season. Replacements don’t have to be Dustin Moseley. The Yanks could trade for a front or middle of the rotation starter. A hot prospect could at least give you what Nova did last season or more.

                    “But looking ahead to what improvements are available is hardly a bad idea.”

                    I never once said it was a bad idea. In fact, you’ll find that I said precisely that it was in this very thread.

                    • Ted Nelson

                      “Could have, would have, should have. I am not missing this point, I just don’t see how it’s at all relevant. They weren’t dominant.”

                      Let’s put it this way… If they were dominant and the team won 110 games, then I’d agree with a fall off. Maybe to the 95 win level (on paper). They weren’t dominant, though, and the Yankees won 95 games. So that’s the 95 win comparison at this point. If the bats, defense, and bullpen hold constant–not a given of course–then the starting pitching they need to win 95 games is the 2010 level starting pitching. I’d rather win more than 95, sure, but I’ll take 95 in any given season.

  • Ultimate Yankee Warrior (James)

    Any chance the Dodgers would trade Billingsley? He’s a free agent after 2012 too.

    • Pasqua

      So maybe in 2012 then.

  • Colin

    What do you think Marcum would cost? I love him as he’s been on my fantasy team the last few years, and he’s performed in the AL East

  • FIPster Doofus

    That’s not a super appetizing list. Cole Hamels’ foray into free agency can’t come soon enough.

  • felixbanuelos

    Why is Danny haren not on this list? The angels might want to clear up room if they fall out of contention

    • UncleArgyle

      Agreed. The Angels very well could suck this year, and Haren could easily be flipped.

  • John D

    no Carpenter, Lowe or G. Floyd on Olney’s list? they’re as likely (if not more) to be available as Marcum, Jackson or Braden.

    • radnom

      Why does everyone think Carpenter will be available?

      • Ted Nelson

        They think that he *may* be available. He’s old, expensive, St. Louis finished 5 games out last season and it’s not particularly clear if they’ll do better or worse this season. St. Louis could look to clear salary to re-sign Pujols and put a contender around him. Carpenter has been an ace the last couple of years and may be this season, but isn’t likely to be around much longer, so if they can get an ace package for him now it might be the Cards’ best long-term play.

        I have no idea if he will be available, but there are reasons to believe he could be.

      • http://www.twitter.com/tomzig Tom Zig

        Because the Cardinals aren’t made of money and Pujols is demanding a lot of it.

        • radnom

          Fair enough, I could see that argument.

          You have to figure though that if they are in contention with that payroll they would have to go all in though.

  • Jamal G.

    Still, he might profile better as a middle reliever, since he lacks an out pitch against lefties.

    That’s a sweetheart way of putting it.

  • Mister Delaware

    Marcum is the only guy (other than Felix (because it would be awesome to have two Kings in NY)) I’d be legitimately excited to acquire. All the others would probably cost more than I’d be happy to give up.

  • Steve

    Would the Yanks take the risk of aquiring Johan Santana?? Would the Mets want to move him??

    • radnom

      I’ll answer you questions with two more questions.

      How does Santana bounce back from his injury and perform in the early season? How ‘out of it’ are the Mets by mid-June?

      • http://www.twitter.com/tomzig Tom Zig

        First: who knows
        Second: I bet they are 7-8 games back of the division by mid-june

        • radnom

          Agreed. I’m starting to think we will see Santana in pinstripes at some point this season.

    • camilo Gerardo

      ideally you would want him to show he’s healthy before you take that contract

      • JAG

        There’s no “ideally” there. If I were GM, no way would the Mets even get a back of balls from me unless I knew there was a decent chance that Santana would not pull a Pavano on the rest of his contract.

  • NJYankeeFan

    Other than Marcum and Dempster who I’m sure will be very pricey given the demand for starting pitching, that list doesn’t exactly inspire confidence. Mostly 3rd and 4th starter types. Reinforcements for the rotation are probably going to have to come from the farm. KLaw thinks ManBan’s stuff projects to the majors right now. My prediction is after tearing up AA for a couple of months, he’ll make 2-3 starts in AAA mid July and step into the back of the Yankee rotation by the end of the month.

  • http://twitter.com/cephster Ross in Jersey

    My sleeper is Matt Cain, he’s going to be expensive in 2012 before he becomes a free agent in 2013, if SF falls out of it maybe they’ll decide to listen to offers.

  • HeavyHitter

    Santana comes back in June or July, but he’ll be rusty. He could be a force in the playoffs, however, and the Mets may want to dump his salary.

  • Ori M

    Do we really want another NL pitcher? What about Brian Duensing or Nick Blackburn? either would be fine as the 5th starter.

    • Accent Shallow

      Strongly disagree. I would take many NL pitchers over those guys. The difference between the leagues is not quite that significant.

      • Ori M

        True. Of course I want the Lincecums and the Wainwrights, but you have to recognize that there really is a difference pitching in the NL for your whole career and then coming to the power-laden AL East.

        • Mister Delaware

          Sure but the idea that the hierarchy is AL ace –> NL ace –> any AL pitcher –> any NL pitcher is really overblown. A reasonably talented NL arm is still a far better option than Brian Duensing.

    • http://youcantpredictbaseball.wordpress.com/ bexarama

      Duensing or Blackburn cannot miss a bat. They’re part of the reason why the Twins keep losing to the Yankees, I think – that stuff can’t cut it in the ALE.

      • Ori M

        Right, but were talking about the 5th starter here. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather have Duensing or Blackburn over Mitre. At least those guys could probably eat 150 innings.

  • felixbanuelos

    I know that Asian pitchers not named Wang and the Yankees do not go well, but mlbtr says the braves are willing to trade kawakami. What do u guys think?