Given how much speculation surrounds the Yankee rotation as it currently stands, it’s no surprise that next season poses an even bigger mystery. Sure Garcia, Colon, and Nova have brilliantly (albeit surprisingly) “held down the fort” this year and have simultaneously made Cashman look like a genius. That said, I don’t think anyone is counting on them as mainstay fixtures in the rotation for the long hall – at least not all of them. Is it too soon to be thinking about this? Perhaps. Will I go there anyway? Absolutely.
Conveniently, Matthew Pouliot of Hardball Talk was also thinking about the future and compiled a rather extensive list of free agents in 2012. Of all the players listed, there’s really just eight pitchers, who for all intents and purposes, are worth talking about: Adam Wainwright, Roy Oswalt, Ryan Dempster, Mark Buehrle, Edwin Jackson, Chris Carpenter, C.J. Willson, and CC Sabathia.
Right off the bat, you can scratch a couple names off the list. The Cardinals’ Adam Wainwright is a tremendously talented pitcher who also happens to be fairly young (30). Although he’s coming off of TJ surgery, there’s absolutely no reason to think that St. Louis won’t pick up his options. If I had to guess, I’d say his chances of wearing pinstripes are about as slim as mine at this point.
An even more obvious name to dismiss has to be CC Sabathia. Let me steal a page out of the Dennis Green handbook “On Freaking Out – A Guide to Feeding the Press Priceless Quotes,” and say CC is who we thought he was. The Yankees will have substantially larger problems on their hands if they fail to resign him should he elect to opt out. Besides, I believe the conversation isn’t about replacing the ace of the staff anyway; but rather, it is a discussion about adding support behind him.
In about the time it took the Yankees to finish taking 2-3 against the Cubs, the NY Brass made it pretty clear that there was no interest in a crazy person Carlos Zimbrano. A day later, the Yankees front office stated that there was “no likely scenario” in which they’d pursue another member of the Cubs organization and Matt’s list, Ryan Dempster. Personally, I’m not in love with his long ball tendencies or notable platoon splits anyway. More importantly, he has a $14M player option for 2012 which is always risky business for a team (just ask Randy Levine and Rafael Soriano).
Roy Oswalt, Mark Buehrle, and Chris Carpenter are also all equally unlikely candidates in my eyes. Oswalt (34) has been enduring some serious back problems this season. While his 2011 BB/9 rate (2.3) is about in line with his career average (2.1), his SO/9 rate (5.3) has fallen precipitously from his career norm (7.4). While he arguably still has some “stuff left in the tank,” I’m not sure how enamored NY is with the price tag given the uncertainty of his health. This of course, also assumes Philadelphia has reason to let him go in the first place. They hold a $16M option for him in 2012 and are still currently in contention right now and look to be for another couple years.
Buehrle is expensive, has a no trade clause, and has openly admitted that NY would probably not be an ideal destination for him. I think the feeling is somewhat mutual for the Yankees too as he’s expensive and has certainly entered his decline years. The Chicago-ace-in-name-but-not-so-much-in-reality has an almost nonexistent strikeout ratio, and his ground ball rates are heading the wrong direction — two qualities that don’t particularly bode well for NY’s hitter friendly ballpark.
At age 36, Chris Carpenter is still capable of producing quality. Then again, his $15M team option in 2012 isn’t cheap. Plus, if he pitches well throughout the second half of this season and the Cards are still in contention, I’d have to assume they’d keep him — especially given the fact that Wainwright may need some additional recovery time next year. For what it’s also worth, it’s been a long time since Carpenter has pitched in the AL. Back in the day when he was with Toronto, the Big Boy League didn’t treat him too kindly.
10. Edwin Jackson (28 – White Sox): It’s the free agents that are perceived as having upside that often go for more than anyone expects. Jackson is 52-57 with a 4.60 ERA in his career, but he threw a no-hitter for the Diamondbacks last year and he’s struck out 726 batters in 966 innings as a major leaguer. He was one of the AL’s best starters for three months in 2009, and he was very good down the stretch last season after being traded to the White Sox. Some team is going to pay him and hope that he’ll finally put it together for six months. I think $30 million for three years is the bottom end, with $60 million for five years being a real possibility if he ends up with a sub-4.00 ERA this year.
5. C.J. Wilson (31 – Rangers): The Rangers lost a left-handed ace to the Phillies last winter, but not without a fight. They’ll wage another war this winter to keep Wilson, who figures to draw interest from the Yankees, Nationals and anyone else willing to spend big money on a top-of-the-rotation left-hander. With a 7-3 record and a 3.17 ERA through 16 starts, Wilson is on pace to put up a line nearly identical to his 2010. I think he’s a pretty big injury risk, so I wouldn’t recommend going big to sign him. However, as things stand now, he’s in line for a five-year, $80 million deal similar to what John Lackey got from the Red Sox and A.J. Burnett received from the Yankees.
Obviously, if I had my druthers, I would certainly prefer Wilson. Aside from the fact that his numbers are better in general, he’s also a southpaw which is an added bonus. Regardless, there’s really no pitcher available who qualifies as a “perfect fit” – that is to say, a guy who is seemingly risk free and radiating talent (i.e. Cliff Lee). If the dependency on home grown talent isn’t already at an all-time high; it’s surely heading there. Likewise, there is also that much more pressure on Phil Hughes to fulfill all of our expectations. Be sure to click here to read the rest of the free agents in Matt’s article.
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