A big part of the success of the 2011 Yankees is due to Brian Cashman, Billy Eppler, and the rest of the organization finding the proverbial diamonds in the rough to fill roster holes. To borrow from Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, the Yankees took a trip to the Island of Misfit Toys and came back with all the right pieces. They took fliers on pitchers like Freddy Garcia, Bartolo Colon, Luis Ayala, and Cory Wade and each one of them worked out. They also turned the Dodgers’ trash (Russell Martin) into Bronx treasure behind the plate.
While we obviously have to give credit to the organization for landing these guys, we should also acknowledge that a large part of the success of these moves is due to luck. We probably shouldn’t be counting on most of these guys to perform so well again. I’d say Russell Martin has the best chance to repeat his success, but that’s because hitters are a bit more predictable than pitchers. For fun, though, let’s take a look at the free agent list and see if there are any resurrection cases for the 2012 incarnation of the Yankees. Remember, any of the guys listed below are guys I’d want brought in on minor league/non guaranteed deals. None of these guys will warrant a Major League roster spot.
In the oft injured category, we have perennial blogosphere favorites like Justin Duchscherer, Jeff Francis, and Rich Harden. J-Dukes didn’t pitch a single Major League inning in 2011. Francis managed to stay healthy and spun 183.0 innings of 2.6 fWAR ball for the Royals (4.82/4.10/4.29 ERA/FIP/xFIP). Harden, whose trade to the Red Sox was voided due to a failed physical, pitched 82.2 relatively ugly innings for the A’s (5.12/4.69/3.68 E/F/x split). I didn’t realize that Francis threw that many innings, so that may help him get a Major League deal. He’s got good control (1.92 BB/9 in ’11, 2.75 career) and keeps the ball on the ground (47% GB rate the last two seasons). Francis could do the Freddy Garcia thing in 2012, but I think he’ll probably find a more Jeff Francis-friendly deal somewhere else in the bigs.
Harden still has the strikeout stuff and aside from 2010 hasn’t had any awful control issues lately. However, his innings are steadily decreasing and his HR rates are sky high. In the last three seasons, his LOWEST HR/9 was 2009′s 1.47. For a second, I wondered if the Yankees did in fact take a flier on him, they could harness his great stuff and see what sticks with Harden as a one-inning reliever. However, that thought quickly left my mind. If Harden has trouble staying healthy while on a predictable starter’s schedule, how’s he going to stay healthy on the sometimes erratic schedule of a relief pitcher?
That’s….about it. No one else seems worthy enough of consideration, though I guess everyone’s a good signing on a minor league deal. Hell, I’d sign my grandmother to a minor league deal. There is essentially zero risk. I didn’t include position players or relievers here because the Yankees are set up to fill those spots without having to dip into the (shallow) free agent waters. Whom are some of the players you’d like to see the Yankees take a shot on?
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