The Pitching Backup Plans

Report: Soria willing to setup for Yankees
What Went Right: Post-April Phil Hughes
(Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty)

If you haven’t headed over to our Depth Chart page in a while, you might not have noticed that as of right now, the Yankees currently sport a five-man pitching rotation of…

  1. CC Sabathia
  2. Phil Hughes
  3. Ivan Nova
  4. David Phelps
  5. Adam Warren

If you’re optimistic, you can say Michael Pineda will take Warren’s spot sometime in June. If not, then I don’t know what to tell you. Either way, that’s not a championship-caliber rotation. The Yankees have some work to do this winter, and for the most part I think the pitching plan involves waiting for Hiroki Kuroda and Andy Pettitte to declare their love of pinstripes and sign nice little one-year deals to rejoin the team in 2013. That would be ideal.

What if that doesn’t happen though? It doesn’t take much effort to envision a scenario in which Kuroda decides to return to Japan and Pettitte decides to stay home with the wife and kids. The Yankees would really be in a bad spot if that happened because … well … look at that rotation above. Luckily this free agent class offers some solid rotation options, so the Yankees would have plenty of alternatives if things don’t go according to plan. Some of those options are better fits than others, however.

Zack Greinke
The undisputed best pitcher on the market, Greinke is probably looking at a contract worth $120M+ across five or six years. Matt Cain type of money. Fair or not, the Yankees are concerned about how the 29-year-old would fit in New York though. Greinke met with Brian Cashman face-to-face during the 2010 Winter Meetings in an effort to convince him that he wanted to pitch in the Big Apple, but no dice. Cashman wasn’t having any of it. There isn’t a team in baseball that couldn’t use a pitcher of this caliber in their rotation, but the combination of asking price and other concerns make Greinke almost a non-option for the Yankees.

Dan Haren
There isn’t a person alive who doesn’t want their team to take a one-year flier on Haren this offseason. He’s been an ace-caliber pitcher for the last half-decade or so and he’s still relatively young (turned 32 in September), which is all you could ask for from a free agent. That said, there are major red flags here. Haren has battled back trouble through the years and they caused him to hit the DL for the first time in his career this season, plus his fastball velocity has been declining for years.

The Angels were trying to trade Haren before having to make a decision about his option last Friday, but ultimately they came up with nothing and had to decline the net $12M deal ($15.5M option with a $3.5M buyout). The combination of the Cubs pulling out of the Haren-for-Carlos Marmol trade talks and the fact that no other club made a viable trade offer makes me think his medicals are looking pretty grim. You also have to look at it this way: if Haren is looking for a one-year, “re-establish my value” contract, why would he come to New York? A fly ball heavy pitcher in a small stadium in the AL East is no way to rebuild value. The Yankees should look into him because of his track record, but I don’t see Haren as a slam dunk no-brainer they should go all out to sign. Lots of risk here.


Anibal Sanchez
I’m a pretty big Anibal Sanchez fan and I consider him the best non-Greinke free agent pitching option this winter. He offers the best combination of youth (28), performance (3.70 ERA and 3.40 FIP since 2010), and durability (major shoulder surgery in 2008, but 195+ innings in each of the last three years). Sanchez made a brief cameo in the AL this season following his trade to the Tigers and he handled himself well, plus he impressed in his three postseason starts. Not the sexiest name but a rock solid pitcher. There doesn’t seem to be a consensus about an appropriate contract, but it wouldn’t surprise me if a team gets an aggressive and offers the A.J. Burnett/John Lackey contract (five years and $82.5M). I highly doubt the Yankees would offer that much, but Sanchez would be my first target if Pettitte and Kuroda decline to come back.

Edwin Jackson
Keith Law said it best this weekend: “It’s time to accept that this is almost certainly what Jackson is going to be. He looks like an ace, holding mid-90s velocity or better for 100 pitches, but just turned in another season of good-not-great performance, this time entirely in the National League.” There’s nothing wrong with that at all, especially at age 29 and with his track record of durability (180+ innings in five straight years). I’m just not expecting Jackson to get any better even though he’s yet to hit 30. He would be my number two target behind Sanchez if Kuroda and Pettitte don’t come back, number three if Haren’s back checks out okay.

Kyle Lohse & Ryan Dempster
Lohse is going to get a significant contract this winter, maybe the biggest behind Greinke, but I wouldn’t touch either him or Dempster unless they’re willing to come real cheap. They’re two guys who have had most (all?) of their success in the NL and don’t operate with much margin for error. It’s also worth noting that Lohse received a qualifying offer from the Cardinals and would require draft pick compensation. Solid pitchers for sure, but not guys I would consider impact additions for the Yankees.

(Jim Rogash/Getty)

Jeremy Guthrie, Brandon McCarthy & Shaun Marcum
All three have their warts, but all three have some kind of track record of success in the AL. Guthrie is probably the safest bet while McCarthy is both the riskiest (very long injury history) and has the highest upside. Marcum’s kind of the in the middle. I prefer any of those three to Lohse and Dempster and would consider them solid additions on one-year contracts. Anything more than that is really pushing it.

Because he doesn’t really fit anywhere else, I’m going to mention Carlos Villanueva here. I’m a big fan (perhaps too big), but I like him best as a sixth starter/swingman. I wouldn’t want the Yankees to sign him with the idea of him making 30 starts and throwing 200 innings. I can’t see how anyone could expect him to do that in 2013.

Francisco Liriano, Joe Blanton, Joe Saunders, Scott Feldman & Roberto Hernandez
I wouldn’t trust any of these guys with a starting spot, at least not right out of the chute in Spring Training. To be honest, Liriano is the only one who is remotely intriguing to me. He’s still on the right side of 30 and has a year of ace-caliber performance in the not-too-distant past to his credit (2010). I consider guys like Jeff Francis, Erik Bedard, Scott Baker, Kevin Correia, Dustin Moseley, and Jason Marquis to be minor league contract only options for the Yankees. This is the bottom of the pitching barrel right here, but thankfully there are plenty of other options out there.

Report: Soria willing to setup for Yankees
What Went Right: Post-April Phil Hughes
  • Luisergi

    Lohse played for the Cardinals. Didn’t he??

    Anyway, HIROK and Andy will be back, i think, so we’ll not have to worry about any of these guys.

    • Mike Axisa

      I have no idea why the hell I wrote Phillies in there. Fixed.

      • RichardL

        You wrote it because he pitched for the Phillies for one year, and because he looks like he should be a Phillie. He’s a perfect match for the uniform.

        Don’t ask me what that means. To my demented eyes, some players just look like they’re destined to wear certain uniforms. Like Zach Greinke, even though he may walk, was born to be an Angel. I know he’s righthanded, but he has that Frank Tanana look.

        I know. Strange.

  • Eddard

    The plan is Andy and Hiroki re-sign and the rotation is-


    That’s the best starting 5 we have. Greinke can’t pitch under the bright lights of NY. Harren is about to self-destruct. Annibal Sanchez is a Yankee killer so he might be worth a look. Edwin Jackson would be another AJ and nobody else on your list is better than Hiroki and Andy. Nova will probably get the initial 5th spot but then lose it to Phelps. Can’t count on Pineda doing anything.

    • Cris Pengiucci

      And the backup plan? We all know the plan is to resign those 2. The Yankees have no control of that, as those 2 will decide if they want to return and the Yankees shouldn’t have much difficulty coming to terms with them on one year contracts should they each decide to pitch again. And why are you so sure about Greinke & Jackson? Give some analysis and reasoning to your response.

      I’m done responding to your rediculous comments.

      • 0-Fur is Murder

        I don’t think that plan is all that crazy. Pettitte and Kuroda are leaning between the Yankees and leaving MLB so that is about as good as your odds can get. You’d have Nova, Warren & Pineda waiting in the minors. I’d look for depth on minor league deals after that.

    • Jim Is Bored

      How in the world does being a Yankee killer make him worth a look? If he pitches so well against the yankees, how does that help us besides not having to face him maybe twice a year?

      • King of Fruitless Hypotheticals

        Oh come on–that philosophy works great! You sign the guys that beat you. Look at AJ.

  • Cris Pengiucci

    Signing one of the Greinke/Haren/Sanchez/Jackson group would probably mean scrapping the plan to stay below the luxury tax in ’14 (unless you get Haren on a one year deal). I’m all for the shorter contracts but am not really interested in Haren (and don’t see the others taking one year deals), so my preference is that Pettite & Kuroda return. Not really a fan of the other options at all. (Maybe Marcum)

    • Cris Pengiucci

      Let me restate. I’m not a fan of the top 4 on long term deals (I do like Greinke & Sanchez). Of course, over-stated or not, there seem to be concerns with Geinke and I don’t think I like the price, at least not if the Yankees plan to stay under the luxury tax in ’14 & ’15.

  • LarryM., Fl.

    I got a look at Sanchez during the playoffs and he looks like a pretty good pitcher but at Burnett money? He may be too costly long term. I’m sure either Pettitte or Kuroda would come back. So we are not such dire straits. CC, Pettitte/Kuroda, Hughes, Sanchez, Nova or Phelps. If both Kuroda and Pettitte come back even better. Nova and Phelps will get plenty of development time being the 5 and 6 starter.

  • J6takish

    Jeremy Guthrie would be an interesting cost effective option. He is durable and has a track record of success despite having a skill set that suggests he should have been eaten alive in the AL East

    • Mike Axisa

      He’s been outperforming his peripherals ever since he got to Baltimore too. We’ve got over 1,000 IP telling us it’s not just a fluke.

      • J6takish

        He is probably going to be one of the more overlooked free agents this offseason

    • Preston

      I would definitely be interested in Guthrie, but him going back to Baltimore where he had his success, and where they sorely need pitching seems to be the logical spot.

  • Drew

    If Kuroda and Pettitte do not return, my top two targets would be Sanchez and McCarthy. Like most people, Grienke would be my #1 pick, but as Mike said, Cashman’s seems to want to avoid him at all costs. I am not sure I agree with that decision and mindset, but that is a conversation for another time. Though there is a lot of talent in the free agent market, I do not believe that any of these pitchers are complete slam dunks, as everyone has their drawbacks. Youth trumps marginal upgrade of talent for me, even if there are perceived injury risks.

  • JonS

    I keep forgetting that Roberto Hernandez is Fausto Carmona (technically vice-versa but whatever). lol

  • Kosmo

    I would certainly consider Haren on a one year deal. I would give Anibal a 3-4 year deal. Marcum on a 1-year deal, he´s perhaps the most cost-effective provided he can stay healthy.

  • nsalem

    I would imagine that if Pettitte decided to retire, Kuroda would be in a very enviable negotiating position.His “proven in NY” brand and his health seem to make him more desirable than the alternatives with the exception of Greinke.

  • Chris

    All this money the Yankees have….why don’t they use it to front load the hell out of a deal for someone they want. For example, if the Yankees want Grienke give him 30 mill this year with a big bonus then 12 in the next 4.

    • 0-Fur is Murder

      For Luxury Tax purpuses they go with the average annual salary. So front load or back load all you want and it still gets evened out.

    • jjyank

      I keep seeing these comments. Can we put a giant AAV sign at the top of the page?

      • 0-Fur is Murder

        I’m waiting for the “pay them under the table” to come. Works on the IRS, why wouldn’t it work on MLB? :)

        • Chris

          I didn’t know they go by AAV.

          • 0-Fur is Murder

            No worries…. I still have no clue what how sabermetrics makes a 200 batting average a good thing, must be voodoo :)

            • Jim Is Bored

              If it helps, a .200 batting average is not always a good thing.

              But imagine a guy who hits a home run every time he hits the ball, that .200 batting average is a lot better than a .300 hitter who hits purely singles. Obviously this is the furthest extreme of the example, but it serves the purpose of illustrating why batting average on its own is a terrible indicator of offensive performance.

  • TheOneWhoKnocks

    I can see why with his injury history you’d suggest a minor league deal, but seeing Scott Baker grouped in with Correia, Moseley, Marquis and Francis seems criminal.

    I’d love for the Yanks to take a flier on Baker

  • Leo

    I would put Scott Baker up in at least the Liriano group. And Guthrie? No thanks, I’d put him in the minor league contract group. Also would demote Roberto Hernandez (Fausto Carmona) down to the lowest group.

  • Brandon Mauk

    Wow. Besides Greinke, all these pitchers are really awful and/or injury prone. None of them?

    • Leo

      I don’t think Anibal Sanchez is really awful or injury prone. pitched 190+ innings each of the past 3 years. ERA- of 87, 96, 96.

  • Wayne

    If kuroda signs petite signs but that is a big if!

  • Herby

    Please…you really don’t think those are the five that the Yankees are going to break camp with…must’ve been a long weekend…

  • Duh Innings

    You honestly, truly think the Chicago White Sox are picking up Jake Peavy’s $22M option for 2013 (since you haven’t included him)? I don’t see them doing that, so put Peavy on this list as a “free agent to be”.
    He’s under contract for now but won’t be soon.

    • MatUk

      Signed an extension for $29 million

    • Leo

      The White Sox already signed Peavy to a 2 year, $29 MM extension.

    • DC

      The Peavy situation has been explained to you at least 3 times on here. Are you too dense to understand it?

      • Jim Is Bored

        I think he’s indicated his answer to that question.

  • Nathan

    Let’s hope the Yankees use some of the money freed up by Soriano opting out and put it towards the rotation. Can’t count on Andy to save the rotation (he bailed when Lee didn’t sign and the Yankees needed him) and Kuroda could very well go back to Japan.

    But assuming both come back, a rotation of:


    …is decent enough. I’d prefer someone better than Hughes to knock him back down to the #5 spot but I’m not a GM.

  • nyzsportz




    sign Pierzynski for 1 year, let Sanchez be the back up while he learns to handle the pitchers.
    sign Hamilton
    sign Scutaro and Ichiro to be the backups
    sign Melky for 1 year just in case Grandy sucks and we have to trade him.
    sign Greinke and SAnchez, move Hughes and Phelps to the pen
    sign soria and madson for 1 year to shore up the bullpen and call it a day.

    • MannyGeee

      LOL WUT?

      • MannyGeee

        also, this post is the exact reason why “Franchise Mode” should be abolished in all video games.

        I put a pox on thee, John Madden… pox pox pox!

    • Steve (different one)

      Why not sign BJ Upton to be the bat boy?

      • MannyGeee

        sign ALL THE UPTONz!!!

  • MannyGeee

    I like the Plan A, but if one of those guys falls out I would be all about the Jeremy Guthrie, Brandon McCarthy & Shaun Marcum train

    • MannyGeee

      Let me continue… with the potential depth of Warren/Nova/Phelps/Pineda (dice rolls as they are), I would try the high risk/high reward route. Especially if they are available on the cheap “see if I’m fixed” contract.

      Plus, I am a huge Marcum fan… and Guthrie screams underrated.

    • Jim Is Bored

      I’m completely aboard the McCarthy bandwagon.

  • Dave

    “Either way, that’s not a championship-caliber rotation”

    According to now Yankee agnostic Cliff Corcoran the Yankees aren’t allowed to have one. It is unfair and no fun. The Yankees have to lose for the next ten years.

  • Need Pitching & Hitting

    I think they should be seriously looking for a long-term, mid-rotation now (Sanchez?), even if Kuroda and Pettitte come back. I wouldn’t trust Hughes to be better than a 4, and have serious doubts that Pettitte would be able to come close to 200 innings, making him a less than ideal candidate for the #3 spot in the rotation.
    Going with Pettitte, Kuroda, and Hughes in the rotation this year, means they are going into 2014 with major holes in the rotation, and less of a chance that Kuroda and Pettitte will choose to/be able to fill those spots. Also the injuries to ManBan and Pineda make them much less likely to fill upper-mid rotation spots by 2014.
    If they are able to acquire a solid mid-rotation arm, they can still look to resign Kuroda and Pettitte, and if they are able to do so, they can consider trading Hughes to fill other holes.

  • G

    Just looking ahead, we are going to need pitchers in 2014. At their age, we can’t assume either Andy or HIROK will be back for that year, and some team is likely to offer Hughes much more than we’d like to pay him. Even if Pettitte and Kuroda both come back, I’d like to see them involved with Sanchez.

  • neaks

    I thought under the new CBA, draft pick compensation comes in a supplemental round and doesn’t actually come from the team that signs the player. Am I wrong in that?