Remaining one-year-deal starters (or what’s left of them)

Sorting out the Triple-A Scranton roster
The Yankees And Pace
(Photo by J. Meric/Getty)

A few weeks ago Tim Dierkes of MLBTR noted that there were still a handful of one-year stopgap starting pitchers on the market. Between the relative lack of activity on the Yankees’ part along with the team standing to benefit from added rotation depth (and not wanting to overpay for said depth), myself and others have spent a lot of time during the last calendar year trying to identify sensible low-cost options for the team. Of course, as our own Mike recently astutely noted:

At this point, if the Yankees aren’t going to bring in someone clearly better than Ivan Nova and Freddy Garcia, they’re just wasting their time. The A.J. Burnett, Phil Hughes, Hector Noesi, Adam Warren, and David Phelps group is more than capable of filling those fourth and fifth spots.”

I’m very interested to see what Phelps (who I’ll be taking an in-depth look at on Monday), Noesi, and Warren might be able to do given the opportunity; however, this being the offseason and all I wanted to take one more pass through the unsigned names to see whether any of ’em may make a modicum of sense. I began drafting this post two days ago; before I could even get through a couple of paragraphs a handful of names on my initial list quickly came off the board, including Aaron Cook (signed by the Red Sox to a minor-league deal), Paul Maholm (signed by the Cubs to a one-year, $4.25 million deal with a club option) and Wei-Yin Chen (somewhat inexplicably signed by the Orioles to a three-year deal that appears to have evaluated him on what he did prior to 2011).

Anyway, by my count here are the remaining guys presumably in line for one-year or minor-league contacts:

Bartolo Colon
Jeff Francis
Jon Garland
Rich Harden
Hiroki Kuroda
Roy Oswalt
Brad Penny
Joel Pineiro
Joe Saunders
Kyle Davies
Zach Duke
Livan Hernandez
Kevin Millwood
Ross Ohlendorf
Tim Wakefield
Chris Young

And here’s a link to a customized leaderboard I created on Fangraphs showing how they performed in 2011. There isn’t anything all that surprising in here; if you’re a believer in Bartolo Colon having another 2011 in him he’s pretty clearly the most appealing option of the bunch, having been the most valuable per fWAR, posting the third-best K/9, 5th-best BB/9 and 3rd-best FIP and xFIP.

Roy Oswalt and Hiroki Kuroda of course also look appealing, but as we know the Yankees remain uninterested unless either righty’s asking price drops substantially. The only other remotely appealing player in my book on this list is Rich Harden, who I covered extensively back in November, but his propensity to give up the long ball combined with legitimate health concerns are apparently outweighing the mouth-watering strikeout rate and continuing to keep suitors away.

For depth purposes, I still wouldn’t mind seeing the Yanks take a flier on Harden — who’s barely merited a mention on MLBTR this winter —  if his price ends up being near the $1.5M deal he signed with Oakland last season, although at this point he doesn’t pass the “better than Nova and Garcia” test, nor is he an obvious upgrade over old friend Bartolo. Ultimately, if the Yankees do decide to pass on a Colon reunion and asking prices for others remain unfavorable, it would appear that their best move would indeed be to utilize the rotation depth they have at AAA for the 2012 season.

Sorting out the Triple-A Scranton roster
The Yankees And Pace
  • Jumpin’ Jack Swisher

    He wouldn’t be an upgrade over anything, but I’d be up for muddying the depth waters further with an Ohlendorf reunion.

    I think we saw the best from Bartolo. Oswalt, Kuroda, or just let the kids play.

    • Freddy’s Mom

      Nice handle!

      • Jumpin’ Jack Swisher

        Thanks. Thought about changing it to the “Robinson Tilapia” line I used in a thread a couple of weeks back, as that still even cracks me up, but I’m not ready to leave it yet.

    • Cris Pengiucci

      I agree we probably saw the best from Colon. On the right deal , however (would he accept another minor league deal?), I see value in bringing him back. See what he’s got in ST and if there’s something left, ride him hard for as long as he’s got it. Then evaluate the trade marked and use the AAA kids as necessary.

    • Mister Delaware

      I’d love to see Ohlendorf brought in for a look as a pen arm.

      • Jumpin’ Jack Swisher

        Sinkerballers still give me the occasional woody.

        • Mister Delaware

          Power (from back in the pen days) sinkerballers even more so.

  • Owen G

    I think Harden and Colon are exceptions to the “better than Nova/Garcia” rule because there is a tiny hope that for a small price you could win the lottery. The other guys (other than the higher priced Oswalt and Kuroda) are league average filler.

  • Freddy’s Mom

    I like the idea of re-signing Colon a whole lot. It’s chump change, he’s a real gamer, and he doesn’t even have to be a regular starter by my thinking, but could be a long reliever and occasional starter, though I promptly confess I am not knowledgeable enough on how rotations and bullpens are structured to be sure that makes any sense outside my skull.

    I wonder how likely it is he’ll be back? At a shade under a million it seems a good chance, but what if he gets offers of more from other clubs? Do we think the Yankees would go to, say, a mill five to have him back? Or am I on crack?

    • Cris Pengiucci

      I like the idea of re-signing Colon a whole lot.

      I do too. For potentially a small price, its possible he could replicate the production of Oswalt or Kuroda.

      • Flying Choppers

        Or he could blow out his shoulder in May.

        • Chad Gaudin the Friendly Ghost

          Or he could

          • Chad Gaudin the Friendly Ghost

            Or he could reply fail.

        • Cris Pengiucci

          Or he could blow out his shoulder in May.

          So could any number of higher priced pitchers. Worth the chance, in my opinion, at a cost similar to last year.

          • Short Porch

            How many have had stem cell treatment?

    • Jumpin’ Jack Swisher

      I’m surprised at the relative silence on the net regarding Colon. It says a lot. At this point, I don’t think it’d take a whole lot to bring him back.

      At some point, though, you have to see if Phelps, Warren, and Mitchell are anything or if they need to be moved on.

    • CJ

      Enough of Bart. It worked out once, quit while we’re ahead. Same with Freddy. That’s how bank robbers are caught.

  • RayVT

    What about Padilla? Did he get signed somewhere or is he still available.?

    • Jumpin’ Jack Swisher

      He’s out taking people’s heads out as we speak. I’d rather forfeit every fifth game.

    • Chad Gaudin the Friendly Ghost

      I think someone did a post where Padilla and Tex hate each other, and it would take some talking to Tex to smooth things over and get him on board with the move, an effort that wasn’t worth what Padilla would bring.

  • Flying Choppers

    I’m not sure why AJ Burnett and Phil Hughes seem “more than capable” of filling the 4 and 5 slots. Burnett threw to a 86 ERA+ last year after an 82 ERA+ in 2010. That’s not even a 5 on a championship caliber team. As for Hughes, he started only 14 games to a 77 ERA+. That’s not even a 6 or 7th starter on a championship caliber team.

    There’s plenty of need for another starter or two. Here’s hoping they sign Oswalt and Colon (and trade Burnett while moving Hughes to the pen).

    • Flying Choppers

      Seriously, look at the Rangers or Rays 1-5. I’m not even sure that Nova and Garcia can be considered sure things. If anything the Yankee rotation is:

      1+: CC Sabathia
      4: Ivan Nova
      5: Freddy Garcia
      6: AJ Burnett
      7: Phil Hughes

      I’d rather give Phelps, Warren, Noesi, and even Banuelos, a shot at those two slots as they all could have some upside with experience. But I understand why the Yankees won’t – so go out and sign the two best one-year options out there – Oswalt and Colon. Both will be no worse than league average. The Cardinals showed last year what you can do with good enough pitching. AJ Burnett has no upside at this point. Phil Hughes’ upside is as a reliever. Neither is close to good enough.

      • Mike Axisa

        Both will be no worse than league average.

        I have a very hard time believing that.

        • Flying Choppers

          I should have added the qualifier “if healthy” Still disagree?

          Those two solidify the rotation. If they get hurt, the kids are available to step in and compete for a spot.

          • Mike Axisa

            “If healthy” is a very big if for those two.

            • Mister Delaware

              Even healthy, Colon looks like a guy who had his last hurrah in the 1st half of last year. I’m fine letting that ship sail wherever it may.

      • Owen G

        Funny that you would point to the Cardinals who employed Jake Westbrook and his ERA+ of 78 for 33 starts and Kyle McLellan for another 17 at a 87 ERA+.

        • Flying Choppers

          How many innings did either pitch in the post-season?

          • Owen G

            How many teams utilize their 5th starter in the playoffs?

            • JohnnyC

              Like your style, Owen.

    • CG

      2008 Phillies won the WS with a 80 era+ 4th starter and a 79 era+ 5th starter.

    • Sweet Dick Willie

      Burnett threw to a 86 ERA+ last year after an 82 ERA+ in 2010. That’s not even a 5 on a championship caliber team.

      Jake Westbrook, #5 starter on 2011 WS Champion St. Louis Cardinals, ERA+ 78.

      • Flying Choppers

        Point taken, but that’s not the Yankee competition. The Rangers and Rays are. Both have significantly better rotations 1 through 5.

        • Sweet Dick Willie

          Wade Davis and Jeff Niemann, 2011 ERA+ of 84 and 92, respectively.

          The point is, AJ is the definition of a 4-5 starter. The problem is, he was signed, and is being paid, as a #2.

          • Short Porch

            Don’t forget Matt Moore. The Rays have a sick rotation.

        • Jjs

          The rangers really dont, unless darvish can come and play on a cj like level

  • Monteroisdinero

    Bart was great until the hamstring. Who knows how much this may have bothered him once he came back? I’d give him a ST look and put a clause in his contract that he doesn’t have to cover 1B! Quick fiber muscle pulls are a bitch when you are an overweight 39 year old pitcher.

    Tex can handle it.

  • CJ

    How did madson sign for 1 year/8.5? What a steal? That’s what Soriano should have signed for last year. If only the yanks could ever get a bargain.

    • Randy Levine

      Get the fuck out of here with your “bargains.”

      • The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

        Random thought that seems kinda perfect:

        Randy Levine is the Rex Grossman of MLB executives.

        • Sweet Dick Willie

          The thing is, Levine appears to be competent when he sticks to his area of expertise, which is definitely not player evaluation.

          Not quite sure Grossman is as competent at his supposed area of expertise.

          • The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

            (I hear you, but I wasn’t referring to competence as much as Grossman’s hysterical ‘ok I know I should just dump it off because it’s the safest and smartest play oh i know i know i know but FUCK IT I’M GOING DEEP I’M REX GROSSMAN’ thing.)

            • Sweet Dick Willie


  • Dax J.

    How about Joel Piñeiro? Is he done for? I think he’s worthy of consideration.

    • Larry Koestler

      I’d be pretty wary of Pineiro, whose K/9 fell below four last season and GB% fell below 50%. Some of his inflated ERA can probably be ascribed to the highest BABIP of his career, but that’s not exactly comforting with such an extreme pitch-to-contact type.

      Aside from inexplicably being able to handle the Yankee lineup, I’m not really sure what Pineiro’s good for, and it’s difficult to envision him faring all that well at YS3.

      • Jose M. Vazquez..

        He is another example of what happens to pitchers that have been “fixed” by Dave Duncan. One year after leaving Duncan he returned to his previous form. Jackson was improving under Duncan and I’m afraid he will regress also. It seems as if Duncan teaches and hypnotizes these men into good production. It’s just my opinion.

  • Captain

    the long man out of the bullpen role still isn’t filled right? i don’t know if any of the guys on that list would be willing to do that but Bartolo would be great in that role to take over for Noesi.

    • Freddy’s Mom

      Agreed, plus like I said above Bart can start! So you got somebody who can jump in if Phil needs a spa day or Freddy gets a hangnail.

  • Jose M. Vazquez..

    Except for Colon, Oswalt and Kuroda, those on the list seem like batting practice pitchers to me. Kuroda and Oswalt are not worth the price. Colon may or may not be able to do the long man job. I’d rather have one of the youngsters either start or be long man.

  • OldYanksFan

    I say sign Colon for $1m, and give him $0.5m incentives for every 10 lbs under last years weight he averages for the season. There’s no reason to believe he can’t post a 3.5 ERA. His arm is for real, and it has had a 3 year rest. You can’t fake the way he threw last year.

    Even if he only goes 140 IP, he’s still the best bet.

  • JohnC

    Colon wore down last year cause he was rehabbing and pitching all Winter before ST even started, then right into the season. Guy hadn’t pitched in 2-3 years. Of course he was gonna tire out eventually. Now he has had time to rest his arm so he should be rejuvenated. Would definitely like to see him brought back if they don’t get Kuroda

  • dkidd

    i’ve fallen in love with the idea of throwing the kids into the rotation. we’ll get to pretend we’re following a gritty small market team!

  • Jesse

    If the Yanks were willing to look at guys like Garcia, Colon, Kevin Milwood, and even Mark Prior, couldn’t an argument for a zero-risk spring training look at Scott Kazmir be made? The guy isn’t even 28, so there’s plenty of time for him to figure out how to pitch effectively again.

    • Jumpin’ Jack Swisher

      I think the statute of limitations on “thinking Scott Kazmir can rebound” still has a ways to go before expiring. I’d absolutely take a shot.

  • The Manchine

    Any chance Edwin would be interested in a 1/$15 or 3/$36ish deal? Madson/Boras just signed a 1yr deal. If Jackson lights it up, he could be due for a big deal at 31. Maybe a 5yr deal with opt out after 2 instead??

    I really think(hope) Edwin could retain the lessons he got from Dave Duncan. He’s the only young-ish SP I can recall that Duncan has “fixed” (Pinero going from “sucks” to league avg at best doesn’t count IMO.)Pair that with Rothchild’s teaching plus being able to pick the mind’s of CC & Mo and I think he can turn himself into a true 1A.

    • Jumpin’ Jack Swisher

      I’d take Jackson at 1/15, or even 2/30, for sure. Would not do the 5-year with opt-out you’re suggesting since, well, Rafael Soriano says hello.

  • Jimmy

    Tim Wakefield 3/35.

    Randy Levine call your office.

  • mscott

    How about a minor league deal for Brandon Webb?

  • Darren

    What’s Scott Kamenickie up to?