[image title="Zack-Greinke" size="full" id="22649" align="center" linkto="full" ]
In response to the early discussion, I should probably say: I support option #1, which is essentially standing pat. Tomorrow I’ll argue that the Yankees don’t need an upgrade.
Yesterday, we had some really vibrant discussion on whether or not the Yankees should sign Cliff Lee. I think that an important missing piece of my post was alternatives to signing him. To be clear, I don’t support signing him to a long term contract (more than 3-4 years) no matter the alternatives, but the alternatives are still important and interesting to look at.
If we assume that Andy Pettitte continues his career, the Yankees will have a rotation of Sabathia-Hughes-Pettitte-Burnett-X. The X has to be filled by someone. Here are five options that I think they should consider:
1. Fill the position internally
The Yankees have a lot of starting pitchers close to the major leagues. This option, my preferred one, is to let them battle it out for a spot in the starting rotation. The favorite would probably be Ivan Nova, who would spend Spring Training trying to impress Joe Girardi more than Joba Chamberlain, David Phelps, Andrew Brackman, Hector Noesi, Dustin Moseley, Lance Pendleton, and Adam Warren. The Yankees have a pretty broad group to choose from, which makes this option attractive. If their first choice doesn’t work out, the others will be waiting at Triple-A.
Its not hard to imagine any one member of this group proving an upgrade from Javy Vazquez’s 5.32 ERA. Furthermore, players like Noesi, Warren, Brackman, and even Dellin Betances, will look much more attractive in the middle of the season. So, if David Phelps can’t hack it around June 1st, the Yankees should have a Killer B or two to choose from.
One downside is that such a move would decrease the team’s starting pitcher depth. The next-best guy like Nova would normally be the immediate replacement for the first starting pitcher to get injured. But I don’t think this is much of a problem given how many pitchers the Yankees can call upon. The bigger problem is that even if a prospect pitches well, they don’t offer a huge upgrade for the rotation like Cliff Lee does. At another time (maybe tomorrow) we can debate how much of a need exists for that big upgrade, but it would be nice nonetheless.
2. Trade for Zach Greinke
You all know Zach Greinke. He won the AL Cy Young in 2009. He’s going to be 27 years old. The Royals are likely to shop him, given that their time frame doesn’t match up before his free agency. Greinke is one of the few available players out there who could potentially replicate Lee’s production. His 205 ERA+ last season was Pedro-like. While Greinke had a down year in 2010 (100 ERA+ in 220 innings), he should be a pretty good bet to play well.
The downside, of course, is that they team would have to trade for him. Jesus Montero or some of the Killer B’s would likely go the Royals’ way in return. I’m not crazy about losing Montero, but I would consider doing the trade if other prospects formed their baseline, or the Yankees worked out some creative deal involving Brett Gardner and David DeJesus. I think that its possible. Still, a steep price would push the Yankees other places. Furthermore, Greinke’s well-documented personal issues could be a problem in the New York media market.
3. Sign another free agent
Other free agents on the market include Jake Westbrook,
Ted Lilly, and Bronson Arroyo. All had very effective seasons in the National League (Westbrook was traded mid-season). All would be much cheaper than Lee, and not require a commitment of more than 2-3 years. Lilly and Arroyo are Type-A free agents, so the team would have to surrender a 1st round draft pick to sign them.
Of these, Westbrook really is my favorite. He has more AL experience, is a ground-ball machine, doesn’t require the forfeiture of a draft pick, and should be the cheapest of the three. The Yankees don’t need Westbrook to be an ace. They just need someone to eat some innings and keep them in games. He would represent a significant upgrade over Javy Vazquez’s performance. How does 2 years, 20 million sound?
Doh. Thanks T.O. I was working off an old list.
4. Trade for a non-ace.
I’m sure that everyone here could come up with their own trade scenarios. Trade for Derek Lowe, Carlos Zambrano and Brett Myers represent risky potential upgrades. I’m more of the mind for Paul Malholm, John Lannan, Jeremy Guthrie, or even Joe Blanton. Someone to eat innings and keep the team in games, like the above free agent targets. They wouldn’t cost Jesus Montero or Brett Gardner, but would represent a modest upgrade over Javier Vazquez.
I think that this is an important option. There are plenty of MLB pitchers out there that teams outside of contention would rather not pay, and wouldn’t mind getting something in return for. The Yankees could aim for someone whom they wouldn’t mind demoting to the bullpen if a better option comes along. They would preserve their starting pitcher depth, and possibly find a decent little pitcher.
5. Re-sign Javy Vazquez.
Just kidding. What do you all think? What other players would you target in trades/signings?
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