The agreement reached yesterday between the Yankees and Andy Pettitte has been widely hailed as a positive move for the organization. As most commentators have noted, the Yankees needed innings at the back of the rotation due to innings limits and injury concerns, and Pettitte usually provides 200 quality frames a season. It seems like a perfect match between player and team, a no brainer move that only took so long due to haggling over price. Mike Ashmore, the Trenton Thunder blogger, stands a a voice of dissent among all the kudos being passed around over the signing:
So was signing him worth holding back the depth of pitching talent in the farm system for yet another season?
Consider the starters that will be without a big league job come April…
Where do all of these guys go? How many of them end up moving to the bullpen — some like Coke, Sanchez and Giese already have experience having done so — or starting at the minor league level.
Yankees fans have to ask themselves…what’s more important, Andy Pettitte getting 30 starts or Phil Hughes/Ian Kennedy/Phil Coke/Alfredo Aceves getting 30?
If the consensus is that Pettitte is little more than a placeholder, why not use one of your numerous starting pitching prospects in a meaningful role at the big league level instead of picking up garbage innings as a long man in the Bronx or spending another year in Trenton or Scranton?
And how long before some of these players start getting frustrated with having to repeat levels of the minors?
Things are looking great at the big league level, and the minor leagues certainly look stacked as well. But at what cost?
Ashmore makes an interesting point, but I think he has lost sight of the big picture goal for a professional sports organization of the Yankees’ means, which is to contend for championships on a yearly basis. Some people continually push a “build for the future” plan while ignoring the fact that the goal is just as much to win a title this season as it is to be competitive in the future. I think that Andy Pettitte getting 30 starts is significantly more important to the 2009 Yankees than Hughes or Aceves getting those starts. Phil is younger than Clay Bucholz and Joba Chamberlain, and I see no reason to hold a spot for him on the Major League squad being that he has proved himself not ready up to this point. I still believe in Phil, but do not think it would be a huge problem for him to start 2009 in AAA as the first callup in case of injury.
Furthermore, I am unconvinced that Pettitte’s signing will have that huge an effect on the entire list of prospects that Ashmore names. Other than Hughes, few have lost any role that they could have reasonably expected. Prospect logjams often work themselves out, and certain veteran filler arms can always be jettisoned to clear up space. Does anyone seriously believe that Jason Johnson will prevent legitimate prospects from advancing through the system? I certainly do not. Ultimately, Hughes and possibly Aceves are the ones who may feel the effects of this move, and both are likely to get their shot upon injury or Joba Chamberlain pushing against his inning ceiling.
There is only one way that I can see this move tangibly hurting the Yankees. If Pettitte performs poorly and the Yankees refrain from replacing him with younger arms out of a sense of loyalty, this signing could backfire. However, being that the Yankees have begun to move away from sentimentality in personnel choices (Bernie, pulling Moose from the rotation in 2007), I would not expect things to play out that way. Ultimately, this was the right move, and Brian Cashman should be commended for filling the last discernible hole on the 2009 Yankees.
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