Long time TYA reader Travis recently sent us a series of questions about possible roster moves for the Yankees next season. Rather than reprint all the questions here, I’ll summarize his queries as follows. He was curious to get our opinion on the future in pinstripes for many players currently on the Yankee roster, including starters Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia, reliever Luis Ayala (and I’ll add Cory Wade to this discussion as well) and bench players Eric Chavez and Ramiro Pena. These are interesting questions and we’re happy to take a moment to answer them.
The Starters - It remains unclear whether or not either Colon or Garcia will be back with the Yankees next year. It goes without saying that they have both pitched brilliantly for the Bombers. Colon has a 3.33 ERA and a 3.47 FIP in 113.2 innings so far this season, while Garcia has a 3.22 ERA and a 3.59 FIP over 117.1 innings so far this season, entering Sunday night’s game. Fangraphs estimates that through Saturday they were worth a combined $20.1 million for the Yankees, which is many multiples of what they are due to be paid.
The problem is that the Yankees need starting pitchers who can give them at least 180 innings of work in the regular season, and at least another 10 innings in the post season. It’s just too soon to know if either pitcher is capable of that. It would be foolish to dismiss the risk that one or both of these pitchers starts to tire as the season drags on or, worse still, gets injured.
Furthermore, it remains unclear what the Yankees intend to do this off season. Assuming the team resigns CC Sabathia (a safe assumption), the Yankees could easily find themselves with four pitching slots filled, with the remaining three going to A.J. Burnett, Phil Hughes and Ivan Nova. That would leave just one rotation spot available, and while the Yankees haven’t expressed a strong interest in C.J. Wilson or Yu Darvish (that I know of), the team may choose to fill that spot with a free agent, or perhaps even one of its many talented young prospects.
For these reasons it is difficult to forecast the futures of Colon and Garcia. It seems unlikely that both would be back with the Bombers next year, while I would put the odds of one of them coming back at 50-50. I’ll stop short however of guessing which one will come back. Colon has better stuff, but Garcia has been more durable. There are reasons to favor either pitcher.
I’ve written before that the Yankees are playing with house money with Colon and Garcia so far this season. My attitude is that rather than analyze such an incredible stroke of luck it’s best to enjoy the ride.
The Relievers - To my shock, the Yankees have gotten strong relief performances from Luis Ayala and Cory Wade. I was certain these guys would serve as nothing more than pulses with arms, and I’ve been proven wrong before. Ayala has given the Yankees 35.2 innings of 1.51 ERA, 3.40 FIP baseball while Wade has given the Bombers 19.1 innings of 1.86 ERA and 3.63 FIP pitching. Neither pitcher has been as good as his ERA would suggest, but they’ve both done a respectable job out of the bullpen.
The problem is that it is incredibly difficult to predict bullpen performance, let alone bullpen rosters. Once upon a time Edwar Ramirez and Jose Veras were fixtures in the Yankee bullpen. That said, I wouldn’t be surprised if both of these guys wind up on the Yankees to start next season, provided they continue to pitch well. The Yankees have shown a willingness to keep the bullpen together season to season, and an aptitude for mixing and matching mid season if those roster decisions don’t work out. For those reasons it is a low risk decision to keep either of these guys around as long as one of them is valuable.
The Bench – Eric Chavez is probably gone next season. He’s giving the Yankees a .355 wOBA and managed to remain solid with the bat even after his long trip to the DL. He’s also been excellent in the field, passing the eye test while also accumulating a 2.8 UZR in limited glove work. If his performance holds up and he stays injury free for the remainder of the season he would be a prime candidate for a one year deal and a starter’s job somewhere next year. If that doesn’t happen, he’s certainly worth keeping around, but Fangraphs says he’s already been worth $3.8 million this season. He could easily find himself with an incentive laden deal for the 2012 season.
Finally, Ramiro Pena isn’t going anywhere. It’s not that he has much value; it is actually because he has so little value that the Yankees will keep him around. It seems like every season the Yankees need an extra body that can play a few infield positions. Pena serves as the worst case scenario for that role. He’s so bad with the bat that there is little risk that he will ever cost the Yankees more than the league minimum. As a result, they’ll keep him around, mostly in Scranton, just in case some one gets hurt.
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