Yesterday, I kicked around a trade scenario between the Yanks and Giants if the Yanks fail to land Cliff Lee. Bill Madden of the NY Daily News throws out another alternative, one where the Yanks go with some of their highly-touted internal options if Lee opts to stay in Texas. He writes:
Cashman’s vision of a mostly homegrown rotation remains the same – and is, in fact, “Plan B” if his pursuit of Lee goes for naught. Only the principals have changed. Brackman, the 6-10, 2007 first-round draft pick out of North Carolina St., whose progress was retarded by Tommy John surgery in 2008, came on strong the second half of this past season after being promoted to Double-A Trenton. Betances, the 6-8 Brooklyn product selected in the eighth round of the 2006 draft, has been making steady progress with 108 strikeouts and 22 walks in 85.1 combined innings at Class-A Tampa and Trenton. This season those two were joined by a new prodigy, 19-year-old Mexican lefty Manuel Banuelos, who had 70 strikeouts and 31 walks in 59 innings at Tampa and Trenton. All three possess “plus” fastballs, breaking pitches and changeups and appear to be on the fast track. And, according to Yankee operatives, the hope is that one or more of them could land in the big league rotation at some point next season. Scouts I’ve talked to are unanimous in their praise for the “Three B’s,” citing Betances’ “outstanding breaking ball,” Brackman’s “power cut fastball, which he never throws straight,” and Banuelos’ way-above changeup.” Just the same, the failure of Cashman’s homegrown-arms plan to bear quick fruit has resulted in the necessity to chase Lee and likely invest another $100-plus million in an over-30 pitcher, meaning that, beginning next year, the Yankees could be on the hook for nearly $200 million in three starting pitchers through 2013 alone.
With all three spending time in AA Trenton last year, it’s not at all far fetched to put them in the 25 man roster mix for sometime next year. One could easily envision a late season call up for Banuelos if the Yanks are in need of a lefty in the bullpen, and if Betances continues the progress in terms of control that he made since the second half of 2008, then as BA recently said “he’ll be a frontline starter for New York”. Brackman may be the most likely of all to get a look-see, if for no other reason the clock is ticking on his team control.
Lee is obviously their 1st choice, obtaining him for nothing but cash and draft picks means they keep all their top prospects and have oodles of depth for the long regular season in 2011. But I believe the Yanks when, as Buster Olney said yesterday, they say have “a very finite view” of what they’ll offer Lee. Looking down the road a bit, if we assume a minimum 3 year/20-ish deal for Jeter and a 20+ annual deal for Lee, in 2013 you could have a whopping 110 million tied up in just 5 players in Jeter (39) Lee (35) A-Rod (37) Tex (33) and Burnett (36) all of whom will be past their prime years. Throw in CC’s 22.5 mil, a big extension for Robbie Cano (18-20 per) and a big 3rd year arb raise for Phil Hughes (10+) you’re easily north of 160 mil with 17 roster spots left to fill. That’s a very inefficient use of payroll space. Considering that you have to assume declining production at some of those ages, that could give the Yanks the kind of roster inflexibility that plagued them from 04-08. There’s also a new collective bargaining agreement to be negotiated with the MLBPA, and every recent CBA has contained some bad news for the Yanks. Unless they plan on raising their payroll ceiling substantially (something Hal Stienbrenner has been very reluctant to do) to around 250 mil or get Jeter to agree to a 2 year deal, the payroll picture is very ugly for 2013. They’ll need some big production out of some cheap young players that year, or risk being an injury away from missing the playoffs. It’s easy to say ‘worry about this stuff then’ but which one of these players is likely to be elsewhere? None, not even the unproductive AJ Burnett. Back loading a Lee deal could help, but that just means he’s earning the most money in his least productive years and creates similar problems in the out years of his deal.
While I agree that it’s possible the Yanks will go with the kids, I have to think this represents Plan C or D for them. It’s always smart to enter the off season taking the “We’re happy where we are” stance for negotiating purposes, you don’t want to look desperate if Lee decides he’s happy in Texas. But a finished product will always be more attractive to a team like the Yanks than a young pitcher who you have to expect some growing pains with, so I have to think they’ll pursue the trade route all winter before settling on the ‘Killer Bs’ as their Plan B for 2011. However, they’ll need some of these guys to be productive for them going forward, so look for them to make their MLB debuts in the near future.
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