Monday, December 21, 2009, 7:05 PM
Rumors abound that the Yankees will be adding another starter before too long. One of the scarier possibilities was removed when the Nats got suckered in on Jason Marquis, but that doesn’t mean that the only moves left are pure positives. Before the Yankees go out and add another name to the roster, let’s consider what they presently have lined up for the starting rotation by considering the pitchers on the 40-man roster.
CC SABATHIA: Gee, he seems like a lock.
A.J. BURNETT: Another lock, though with him you always have to add “health permitting.” You have to add it with all pitchers, actually, even Sabathia, and the Yankees wanting to add a name pitcher might be in consideration of the injury risks to the staff given their history and the extra work required by the long postseason.
ANDY PETTITTE: Back for another year, he looks like he could keep pitching at this level forever, but of course he can’t.
JOBA CHAMBERLAIN: Supposed to be in the rotation again, and this time without any Joba Rules to hold him back and mess with his concentration. However, if he can’t get back on the beam quickly, how long before the team gives in to temptation and sends him back to the bullpen for good?
PHIL HUGHES: Supposedly back out of the bullpen and ready to join the rotation. Note we’re already up to five spots. Either the Yankees are hedging their bets or something’s gotta give. The Yankees earned a double-benefit this year, letting Hughes experience success in the Majors while doing it in a high-leverage role they desperately needed to fill. Now that he’s done that, it would be wasteful to limit him to one or two innings a night given that he has a starter’s repertoire and endurance.
CHAD GAUDIN: The man who wasn’t there, Gaudin makes for nice insurance with his excellent slider. If Dave Eiland can help him improve his command just a bit more, he could surprise some people.
ALFREDO ACEVES: Seemingly overqualified for the generally low-leverage bullpen work he did this season, Aceves got just one start and was remanded to bullpen custody for the duration. He has excellent control, but because he’s around the plate might give up a few too many home runs in an expanded role. There are probably several teams that would give him a crack at the back of their rotations right now.
WILKINS DE LA ROSA: A hard-throwing lefty who made it to Trenton last year, De La Rosa’s command still needs work (a common affliction of neophyte southpaws) and his offspeed pitches still need work.
SERGIO MITRE: Yes, he’s still here. He gets a lot of ground balls. When batters don’t hit on the ground, they tend to hit into the stands. He could always be better his second year back from surgery.
HECTOR NOESI: Noesi has excellent command, but hasn’t yet pitched at Double-A.
IVAN NOVA: Nova made it to Scranton last season but didn’t pitch well. He’s a very generic pitching prospect and his ceiling is not higher than fifth starter, maybe even fifth starter on a second-division club.
ROMULO SANCHEZ: Acquired from the Pirates last season, Sanchez throws hard. He was strictly a reliever with the Buccos, but the Yankees put him in the Scranton rotation and he pitched quite well. His secondary pitches aren’t great, which likely means he’ll still be a reliever if he gets back to the majors.
ANDREW BRACKMAN: Brackman is a starter and on the 40-man roster so he gets a listing here, but he was so miserable, so disappointing, that not only won’t he be pitching in the Majors any time soon, he might not be pitching in the Majors any time ever.
ZACH MCALLISTER: Not on the 40-man but also intriguing, led the Eastern League in ERA. No burner, he has excellent control and a good slider. He’s the kind of guy who is going to need to make adjustments in the big leagues and might get banged around a bit his first time through the circuit.
If the Yankees plan on bumping a starter from the rotation for a free agent, it’s not going to be one of the top three, it’s going to be Chamberlain or Hughes. The question is, do the pitchers on the market really justify that, given the considerable upside of both pitchers? Sure, pitchers like Erik Bedard, Justin Duchscherer, Pedro Martinez, Ben Sheets and John Smoltz have considerable appeal if healthy, but there is no guarantee of that. Some of the other starters remaining on the market have had their odd moments, but it’s unlikely that a Jon Garland, Brett Myers or Jarrod Washburn would be decisively better than an Aceves in the rotation.
Even if the Yankees do choose to send Chamberlain or Hughes back to the bullpen (in the latter case a mistake; in the former, you start to wonder), it’s far from certain that the fish in the very shallow pool of players left would have greater benefit to the team than the players they now have on hand. As with the rumors that Nick Swisher is being shopped or that the team will be satisfied with Melky Cabrera, I remain dubious of their veracity and puzzled as to their logic. In this case, there’s nothing wrong with having additional pitching depth, but the Yankees already have it.