Archive for Carlos Villanueva

Nov
06

The Pitching Backup Plans

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(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.

(Pool/Getty)

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.

Comments (50)

Got five questions for you this week, including three already looking forward to potential offseason roster moves. Aren’t you people excited about the pennant race and a potential postseason run? We’ll have more than enough time to toss roster moves around in winter, trust me. Anyway, please use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar to send up anything, mailbag questions or otherwise.

(Justin K. Aller/Getty)

Kyle asks: Hi Mike, I’m sure you’re going to get asked this a few times now that MLBTR wrote about him, but any interest in picking up Jason Grilli in the offseason? What potential contract could he get?

Obviously the future of the bullpen is going to depend a lot on what happens with Rafael Soriano and Mariano Rivera after the season, but I think either way the Yankees should look into bringing in a free agent reliever to shore up the middle innings. That doesn’t mean dumping three years and $30M on someone, but I do think they need someone better than Cody Eppley to hold down the fort until the Chase Whitley and Mark Montgomery types are ready.

As the MLBTR post explains, Grilli is missing a ton of bats (13.58 K/9) and otherwise pitching extremely well (2.91 ERA and 2.95 FIP) after what amounts to a career of mediocrity. His strikeout rate has been trending up for years, so it’s not like this is completely out of the blue. Even though he’s 35 and will be 36 in November, I think Grilli will still be able to find two guaranteed years on the open market at like, $4-5M per year. I’d rather see the Yankees bring someone in on a one-year deal rather than start committing 2014 payroll to middle relievers. Grilli’s a good pitcher worth discussing, but I don’t think is price will matchup well for New York.

Anonymous asks: Do you see the Yankees pursuing Cody Ross this off-season to possibly replace Nick Swisher? He might be able to fill a need against lefties, and is said to be looking to play for a “winning team.” Thoughts?

No, I hope not. He’s a right-handed dead pull hitter, which plays great in Fenway Park (152 wRC+ home) but almost nowhere else (86 wRC+ road). Sure, Ross can definitely hit lefties, but he isn’t much against righties and he’s a poor defensive outfielder. He has decent range and can run some balls down, but he’s also one of the most fundamentally unsound players you’ll ever see. Can’t play the wall properly, misses the cutoff man or just flat out throws to the wrong base, dives when he should be keeping the ball in front of him … it’s brutal.

I’m sure Ross and his agent will be looking to parlay his big career year into a multi-year contract and a full-time job somewhere, which is not something I want the Yankees to get involved in. He’s not a great fit for the ballpark, not a good fit defensively, and likely to sign a contract that is far too lucrative for for the light half of an outfield platoon. One-year and $3M for the Red Sox was a great deal, but someone will get sucked into two or three years at $8M+ this offseason. Just watch.

Travis asks: If Hiroki Kuroda goes back to Japan and Andy Pettitte re-retires, could the Yankees sign guys like Carlos Villanueva or Jake Peavy (with their success in the AL) as two or three-year guys in the rotation?

(J. Meric/Getty)

Yeah, if the Yankees are unable to bring at least one of Kuroda or Pettitte back next year, they’ll definitely need to sign some kind of stopgap starter. I’m a big Villanueva fan but you have to be skeptical about his ability to make 30 starts and throw 200 innings next season just because he’s never done it in his life. I’d love him as an overqualified fifth starter/swingman, but a) some team will give him a full-time rotation slot, and b) the Yankees are going to need more than that.

Peavy is interesting, and yesterday we learned that the White Sox are likely to decline his $22M option. The concern here is health more than anything, but he’s held up well this season and has certainly pitched well in a tough ballpark. In a perfect world the Yankees would find another one-year, $10Mish stopgap starter this winter, but Peavy will end up with more than that, probably fro the White Sox. That doesn’t mean they shouldn’t look into signing him, it’s just tough to answer because I have no idea what his market will be. Two years and $30M? Three years and $36M? I don’t have any idea. But yeah, if Kuroda and Pettitte walk this offseason, the Yankees will definitely be in the market for a veteran innings eater.

Anonymous asks: With interleague play becoming an everyday reality next season, how will that affect the DH issue going forward?

It won’t. The number of interleague games did not change, they’re just spread out throughout the season now rather than localized in June. So now instead of playing nine games in interleague parks in the span of two weeks, they’ll be spread out and played at various points of the season. If anything, it will actually helps the Yankees because they can just sit their DH for a few games at a time rather than worry about losing a big bat for a longer stretch of time. I still expect them to have some kind of DH rotation next year, especially with Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, and Mark Teixeira getting a year older.

Travis asks: Have you heard any recovery news about Cesar Cabral, Brad Meyers, Jose Campos or Manny Banuelos? I’m just wondering if those guys are going to be ready for Spring Training 2013 and if so, what are the Yankees going to do with Cabral and Meyers?

Joel Sherman confirmed the other day that Banuelos will pitch in winter ball this year and be healthy in time for Spring Training. I believe his former Mexican League team still controls his winter ball rights, so he’ll probably spend the winter pitching there. Don’t quote on my that though. The last we heard about Campos was that he was slated to participate in Instructional League, which will start any day now. If he does that, I assume he’ll be healthy in time for Spring Training.

I haven’t seen a single update on Cabral (elbow) or Meyers (shoulder) since they suffered their injuries in camp. Since neither guy spent 90 days on the active roster this summer, the Rule 5 Draft rules will carry over to next season. I get the sense that the Yankees will just cut Meyers whenever they need a 40-man roster spot this offseason, though the Cabral situation is a little different because he’s a two-time Rule 5er. I explained that whole thing back in March. Maybe the Yankees can leverage his injury into a minor league contract instead of a big league deal, but either way I think he’ll be on the 40-man chopping block this winter if a spot is needed. That’s a shame, he was pretty impressive in March and had a very good chance of winning the final bullpen spot over Clay Rapada.

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