After a little more than a month of waiting, the Yankees re-signed Andy Pettitte to a new one-year contract worth $12MM yesterday. He’ll join the recently re-signed Hiroki Kuroda and the incumbent CC Sabathia to give the club a strong, veteran top three while Phil Hughes fills in as the fourth starter and the fifth spot presumably goes to David Phelps or Ivan Nova. Michael Pineda might come back at midseason to help out further, so the Yankees appear to have a set starting staff. I don’t think they should act that way, though.
Pettitte, who will turn 41 at midseason, has not thrown more than 130 regular season innings since way back in 2009. Kuroda, who will turn 38 just before Spring Training, threw a career high 235.2 innings between the regular season and postseason in 2012. Sabathia, who will turn 33 at midseason, will be coming off offseason elbow surgery to clean out a bone spur. Add in the fact that Hughes has never made it through back-to-back seasons as a full-time starter and both Phelps and Nova are largely unknowns, it’s easy to see why the Yankees should continue to pursue rotation depth.
Joel Sherman recently reported the Yankees intend to “bottom-feed” for pitching depth later in the offseason, as in January and February, meaning they’ll seek a Freddy Garcia-type on (a minor league?) low-risk, prove-yourself contract. Dig through the list of free agent pitchers and you’ll see a ton of candidates for that kind of contract (Dallas Braden? Tim Stauffer? Dustin Moseley?), but I think the Yankees should pursue some more certainty when searching for pitching depth. Frankly they should pursue higher-quality pitchers as well.
Considering the plan to get under the $189M luxury tax threshold in a year, it’s easy to feel the team should go all-in this year, their final season of an “uncapped” payroll. It would be awesome to see them pursue someone like Brandon McCarthy or (my preference) Shaun Marcum on a one-year contract to fill out the back of the rotation, pushing one of Phelps and Nova into the long-man’s role and the other into Triple-A as added depth. Carlos Villanueva makes sense as well since he has experience both as a starter and as a swingman, but he’ll likely find multiple years and more opportunity somewhere this winter.
A front three of Sabathia, Kuroda, and Pettitte is as good and reliable as you’ll find in the American League, but all three do carry some risk at the moment. Sabathia is usually the rock you can pencil in for 230+ innings every year, but his elbow procedure and the fact the team is already discussing lightening his workload means they might have to treat him as a 200-inning guy going forward, not a 230-inning guy. Bringing Kuroda and Pettitte back was very important, but I don’t believe the team should stop there. If another proven starter on a 2014 payroll-friendly contract comes along, adding him to the stable of arms would be a wise move.