Remember what it was like when the Yankees had rotation problems? That was only twelve weeks ago, and since then they’ve added Michael Pineda and Hiroki Kuroda while subtracting A.J. Burnett. Yesterday they put the cherry on top, dragging Andy Pettitte out of retirement and signing him to a minor league deal worth $2.5M with no incentives. To call it surprising would be an understatement.
The 39-year-old Pettitte is very much a unique case. This isn’t Bartolo Colon v2.0, a guy who’s trying to come back after major arm problems at an advanced age. Andy voluntarily left the game a year ago and simply got the itch to pitch again. The Yankees have always left the door open and the two sides eventually figured things out once he decided to return. For more on the signing process and stuff, check out my recap post at MLBTR. Here are some random thoughts and musings…
- One important thing to keep in mind: this is a comeback attempt, Pettitte isn’t guaranteed to do anything. He could get a month into workouts then decide it isn’t worth it and go back home. He could return to the team and pitch horribly due to age and rust. That would be worse.
- Another important thing to keep in mind: Brian Cashman told Pettitte not to come back after the Pineda and Kuroda moves. Andy keep working out on his own and still wanted to sign. Pretty clear indication that he wants to do this and still thinks he can pitch at a high level.
- Cashman said yesterday that they offered Pettitte a one-year deal worth $10-12M in December, and I’m almost certain that would have meant no Hiroki Kuroda. I do not believe they would have spent all that money on those two and then kept Jesus Montero. It would have been Pineda and Pettitte instead of Pineda and Kuroda.
- I don’t know what the Yankees will do with their rotation whenever Pettitte is ready to go — Cashman made it clear yesterday that he’s going to be a starter — but there’s no rush to figure this out. They can wait the six or eight or however many weeks, then sort things out. It’s cliche, but these things tend to take care of themselves.
- That said, I think it’s pretty obvious that Freddy Garcia is trade bait right now. He has some trade value because his contract is so much more favorable than Joe Blanton’s or John Lannan’s, and he’s at least their equal on the mound. I wouldn’t expect a ton in return. Maybe some salary relief and a Grade-B prospect.
- The Triple-A starters — specifically David Phelps, Adam Warren, and D.J. Mitchell — are getting hosed, but that’s part of the game. I’m pretty sure we’re going to see at least one of these guys this summer, most likely in relief now. I’m also pretty sure one will get traded at some point, but I thought that before Pettitte came back anyway.
- I am skeptical about how much Andy can actually help the team after a year away from the game, but he did go out on top after 2010. This isn’t a Jorge Posada situation. Posada was forced into retirement because his skills had obviously faded. Andy was still an above-average hurler when he decided to hang ‘em up, and that’s slightly encouraging. The year off might even be a good thing for his arm and body.
- One more little note: As soon as Pettitte appears in a big league game, he’ll reset his Hall of Fame clock. Right now he’s scheduled to appear on the ballot in 2015, but if he pitches this year it will get pushed back to 2017 at the earliest. I don’t expect him to get in, but who knows how much closer he’ll get to 300 wins now.
It’s hard not to love the contract itself. Pettitte isn’t soaking up a 40-man roster spot at the moment and he won’t get a dime of that $2.5M until he’s added to the roster. Chances are it’s pro-rated as well, he won’t even get the full amount. The Yankees now have a ridiculously great piece of rotation insurance stashed away with zero risk involved. The fact that he’s a fan favorite (and left-handed!) is just icing on the cake.