After the Yankees’ failure to acquire Cliff Lee and the retirement of Andy Pettitte, many Yankee fans were understandably anxious about the state of the rotation. Brian Cashman has taken and likely will continue to take a lot of criticism for the less than exciting cohort of pitchers that have been competing for the 4th and 5th spot in the rotation. The signing of Freddy Garcia, Mark Prior and Bartolo Colon to minor league deals have been the subject of many tired jokes and repetitive hand-wringing. In particular, concerns were raised about the Yankees passing on other free agent pitchers, including Justin Duchscherer, Brandon Webb, and Kevin Millwood. The Yankees reportedly did not want to give major league deals to any of these guys.
How has the non-signing of Webb, Duchscherer, and Millwood to big-league deals worked out for the Yankees so far? Obviously, it’s too early to evaluate, but early signs indicate that the Yankees may have had reason to fear giving a guaranteed roster spot and multi-million dollar contract to Duchscherer or Webb. Webb, who has not pitched in the majors in nearly 2 years, is already suffering from shoulder soreness that has set back his spring training schedule (and he wasn’t exactly lighting up the radar guns before getting scratched). As for Duchscherer, he will open the season on the disabled list due to soreness in his surgically-repaired hip. These early injuries give weight to the Yankees’ concerns about the health of these two pitchers.
As for Millwood, considered by many a better option than Garcia or Colon, everyone was wondering why the Yankees wouldn’t just meet his demands (which approached $4 million) and sign him to a major league deal. There were no serious injury concerns with Millwood, but given the outcome of Millwood signing a minor league deal with the Yankees, it appears that once again, Brian Cashman’s foresight was able to lead to a more optimal outcome.
I don’t mean to come off as blindly worshipping Cashman here, because he has made a number of decisions throughout his tenure that have not worked out. However, to say that he has not been considering alternatives to the current crapola at the back of the rotation is not exactly fair. It is apparent that Cashman was able to make a good assessment of the marketplace, evaluate which players were injury risks that should be avoided, and who could be had on a minor league deal. This kind of decision-making is not usually associated with the big-spending Yankees, but if another GM were to make these decisions, he would likely receive significantly more praise than Cashman ever would.
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