"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

Room on the Bus

Andy Pettitte has retired. That is very sad. We will miss him. Cliff Lee signed with the Phillies. That is very… something else. I guess it depends on the fan.

But these two events, hardly unlikely, and, in retrospect, perhaps foreseeable, are now the crux of a major problem for the New York Yankees. The Yankees, as they stand today, do not have the starting pitching to mount a serious challenge for the AL East crown nor ensure themselves the consolation of the Wild Card.

Since the Yankees made their first spirited run at Cliff Lee in July, there have been 44 trades or signings of credible Major League pitchers (ie, pitchers better than Mitre).

We can whittle that list down quite a bit by eliminating players the Yankees had no chance to acquire – like Javy Vazquez and Matt Garza - and players that were trade chips for bigger pieces – like Daniel Hudson and Joe Saunders. And no need to include the “injury fliers” since the Yanks require immediate help – like Erik Bedard and Brandon Webb. And might as well forget about the dregs, the guys whose marginal improvement over Sergio Mitre isn’t worth the paperwork to execute the contract – like Bruce Chen.

Still, we’re left with over a dozen solid pitchers that changed teams at the exact same time the Yanks were looking. Half of those guys were acquired via trade, the other half by free agency. The better pitchers were all acquired through trade (Oswalt, Haren, Grienke, Marcum, Lilly, Westbrook, Jackson). The free agents, as we have been picking over recently, were not as good (Kuroda, Westbrook, De La Rosa, Francis, Garland, Harang).

But regardless of their relative worth amongst themselves, they are all big-time improvements over the Yanks’ current options. Why aren’t any of them Yankees? I think the Yankees passed on all of those guys because they were saving seats on the 2011 bus. Gotta have a seat open for Cliff Lee. Gotta have a seat open for Andy Pettitte. Never mind that Cliff Lee signing with the Yankees was at best a 50/50 proposition. Never mind that Andy Pettitte was only able to start 21 games in 2010 and would be contemplating retirement for, what, the fourth time?

The Yankees failure to act has now impacted two seasons as their starting rotation was too weak to dispatch the Rangers in the 2010 ALCS.  But I have no idea why. When the Yankees run out of seats on the bus, they should just buy a bigger bus. Yankee money is best used to allow them to deal with excess. In this case, the “excess” would have been having six starting pitchers.

If everything went perfectly, they could have had Dan Haren or Roy Oswalt for the 2010 stretch run. Then signed Cliff Lee and had Andy Pettitte knocking at the door looking for one more go around. CC, Lee, RoyDan, Pettitte, Hughes, Burnett. That was the worst case scenario – having an excess of good starting pitching.

In order to avoid this terrible outcome, the Yankees maneuvered themselves into having a rotation with one good pitcher (I have hopes for Hughes, too). How on earth is this 2011 rotation, which was a very foreseeable outcome from opening day 2010, a better scenario than paying for a possibly superfluous pitcher?

The sound strategy from July 2010 through today was for Brian Cashman to go balls out filling two rotation spots. That strategy gives them the best chance to win the 2010 World Series, and sets up their immediate future in the best possible shape.

The Yanks should be primed for a three-peat and a dynasty. Instead, placing themselves at the mercy of these two decisions, they’ll be scrapping for a place at the table.

Categories:  Bronx Banter  Jon DeRosa

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39 comments

1 RIYank   ~  Feb 4, 2011 6:15 pm

I think the hand-wringing is unwarranted, Jon.
Ivan Nova replacing Andy Pettitte is a drop-off, sure, but my bet is it won't be as big a drop-off as you may fear. I don't believe it will be as much as, say, 20 runs, which would mean about two games.
Freddy Garcia replacing Javy Vazquez is a wash. It would not be at all surprising if Freddy is better.
The other three guys are the same, so a big question is whether Hughes and Burnett can outperform their 2010 seasons.

2 williamnyy23   ~  Feb 4, 2011 6:49 pm

Lots in this post with which to disagree. For starters, the Yankees did come within a game of winning the AL East last season with essentially the same rotation. Losing 20 starts from Pettitte is a concern, but it's very possible that subtracting Vazquez alone could miitgate some of that drop off. Also, the addition of Soriano could also make up the difference (remember, Pettitte only threw 129 innings).

Secondly, I guess you could second guess Haren and Oswalt (although many people believed he was past his prime), but none of the other names really are worth fretting about. Lee didn't want to be a Yankee; so be it. At least the team didn't trade a prospect whose projection is Frank Thomas for a rental.

The Yankees are allowed to make acquisitions from this point forward, so writing them off is a little premature.

3 weeping for brunnhilde   ~  Feb 4, 2011 6:50 pm

What was the year the starters began the season undefeated for like three weeks?

4 williamnyy23   ~  Feb 4, 2011 6:57 pm

[3] 2003...and it was Andy who took the loss toward the end of April.

5 weeping for brunnhilde   ~  Feb 4, 2011 7:05 pm

Jesus, 2003?? God, it feels like yesterday. Man, the seasons fly by.
Thanks, william, I knew I could count on you.

6 RIYank   ~  Feb 4, 2011 7:07 pm

Weeping, the starters always begin the season undefeated. Even in Pittsburgh. That's what's so wonderful about Opening Day.

7 Paul   ~  Feb 4, 2011 7:10 pm

The worst part of this scenario is Oswalt and Haren were traded for so little. The Yankees easily could have had either. Just terrible work. Now they're rely on a guy like Garcia or Colon. Last time they missed the playoffs they got 15 starts from Ponson. And after the contracts they gave Pavano, Wright, and Igawa...

Awful.

8 thelarmis   ~  Feb 4, 2011 7:11 pm

[3] that year is 2011. watch it happen!

[6] 'cept for opening night, when each team begins 0-0-1.

k, i have to go to work now. you be funny on your own.

oh, and RI - if you can, please have a drink for me! it's been a month since my last beer, and i won't be able to imbibe one for another two weeks... thanks!

9 thelarmis   ~  Feb 4, 2011 7:13 pm

well, at least we signed Ronnie Belliard today, to a minor league contract. um...why?

oh, and robbie hired Boras to be his agent. that should be fun in a coupla years...

and...i really really really miss Andy... : (

10 RIYank   ~  Feb 4, 2011 7:15 pm

What? Why can't you drink beer? Or shouldn't I ask?

11 williamnyy23   ~  Feb 4, 2011 7:17 pm

[5] Time does fly when you're having fun. I can imagine how many years it would seem like if we rooted for the Pirates?

12 Paul   ~  Feb 4, 2011 7:18 pm

"CC, Lee, RoyDan, Pettitte, Hughes, Burnett"

That would have been sick. The only problem is you can't send Burnett, and his contract, to the pen. But then they wouldn't have spent 36 M on Soriano...

Still, even now, they would have been looking at:

CC, RoyDan, Hughes, Burnett, and a prospect. That's a damn fine approach to the season. What the fuck?

13 thelarmis   ~  Feb 4, 2011 7:21 pm

[10] just incredibly busy. i don't ever drink if i'm gigging, teaching, composing, recording, driving, etc. just no time. need to have my brain sharp! i like having a day off after a night of downing a sixer. hasn't lined up for me. i don't drink much anyhow...

ooh, gotta go!

cheers!!!

14 RIYank   ~  Feb 4, 2011 7:33 pm

Wow, yeah, I can see that, thelarmis.
I haven't drunk much beer since the end of baseball season, but I'm replacing it with other good stuff.

Forget 2003. I was remembering a certain Pettitte-Smoltz duel from 1996. Little did we know, but that was the beginning of the Great Era...

15 Alex Belth   ~  Feb 4, 2011 7:46 pm

Ronnie and Eric Chavez. Freddy and Bartolo. Scraphead central hoping for some magic. LOL

16 weeping for brunnhilde   ~  Feb 4, 2011 8:11 pm

[6] Har har, friend. Har har.

17 Chyll Will   ~  Feb 4, 2011 8:12 pm

[15] Prepping for some bad times, I guess. I was willing to give this team the benefit of the doubt, but this just... aw, man...

18 weeping for brunnhilde   ~  Feb 4, 2011 8:17 pm

Begging you guys' forgiveness in advance should I get insufferably morose or surly or obsessive or whatever, but this is fucking bullshit.

I can't fucking believe that's it.

I loved that man. I almost feel like boycotting the season as a petulant act of rage.

That'd show 'em, eh?

I don't feel the same sense of illness I felt the day he signed with Houston (I was totally blindsided by that, I really never thought that would happen) but I do feel...just loss. Profound, sad loss.

19 Just Fair   ~  Feb 4, 2011 8:40 pm

No beer. Implausible. My dad was given me the business about the Yankee rotation the other night. He hates the Yankees.
"So how's Garcia going to do?"
"He was better than Burnett last year"
"Christ! I was better than Burnett last year."
"Can't argue there that, dad."
I'm on edge waiting the see the Stillers in the SB Sunday. Whoo-hoooo.

20 joejoejoe   ~  Feb 4, 2011 8:40 pm

The local PR blowback for trading top MLB talent to the Yankees for prospects is higher than the same deal to another club. Therefore other GMs try to hold the Yankees up for a higher price than they accept from other teams. The value sent back for a Haren or Oswalt has to be higher if they are coming to the Bronx.

I think Cashman sees this and acts accordingly. What's the last great pitching trade that benefited the Yankees? David Cone?

21 Chyll Will   ~  Feb 4, 2011 9:47 pm

[19] Cashman has stated that repeatedly, yet he still gets buried for holding onto prospects, which is something most Yankee fans had been clamoring for throughout the 80's. Was there not a post a while ago that examined his record of trading and keeping prospects, showing that the Yanks have been actually pretty good in evaluating what to expect from their prospects?

That said, it's interesting how they've absolutely not cut bait with Joba when he was at least trade bait. Knowing now that they've taken his 2008 injury into consideration, I think they believe he can be fixed this year or not at all and Soriano is a way to hedge on that bet more than to extend the bullpen. Or so I hope...

22 Alex Belth   ~  Feb 4, 2011 10:05 pm

18) This too shall pass, my friend. Andy would want to you keep the faith and keep rooting for the Yanks. Be strong, dear chum, be strong!

23 Mr OK Jazz Tokyo   ~  Feb 4, 2011 10:09 pm

Eric Chavez??

Sigh...

24 Jon DeRosa   ~  Feb 4, 2011 10:12 pm

[1&2] You guys might be right, but I look to what Bill James said about his time with the Sox. How much better each team gets each year. I don't see that with the Yankees headed into 2011. I also have zero faith in Nova, Mitre, Burnett and probably less in Hughes than most here. This is setting up like 2006 to 2007 for me, the yanks tread water or get worse, the sox re-up and lap them.

[2] No doubt there is a lot to disagree with, but I never advocated trading Montero, and I never wrote them off.

It's obvious no one of Montero's caliber was required to get Haren or Oswalt. And neither of those guys are rentals. Maybe he would have been required for Greinke, but again, he's not a rental. Obviously, he wouldn't have been required to get lilly, westbrook, etc...

I guess we disagree about how much better those guys are than garcia, nova and mitre. i would gladly be wrong about those guys. hope i am.

25 RIYank   ~  Feb 4, 2011 10:25 pm

[24] I know James said that, but tell me how much better the Red Sox and Rays are than they were last year. For instance, 2010 – Beltre + AGon – VMart + Crawford = 2011. Prob'ly better, definitely not much better.

26 weeping for brunnhilde   ~  Feb 4, 2011 11:29 pm

[22] Humph. (Thanks, Alex.) Humph.

27 Jon DeRosa   ~  Feb 4, 2011 11:35 pm

[25] Again, I hope you are right, but I expect them to be an excellent team. The Yanks can win a lot of games, and who knows what other guys might end up pitching for them before it's all said and done.

I'm not saying the Yanks are toast, I'm just saying they had at least a dozen chances to fill two gaping rotation spots with awesome to good pitchers and didn't get it done. getting it done would put them in a much better spot heading into this year, and maybe even could have put them over the top last year.

28 Sliced Bread   ~  Feb 5, 2011 8:20 am

I'm under the impression that pretty much every trade discussion Cashman entered this winter started with a demand for Montero. That's how it is these days. Nobody's going to trade a top of the rotation (1,2, or 3) pitcher to the Yankees without trying to fleece them, skin them, and scalp them. Even though Haren and Oswalt were traded for lesser players, I suspect the price was substantially higher for the Yankees. I'm glad we still have Montero, and the rest of our top prospects (even though I would have traded Montero for Cliff last summer only because I really like Cliff).
I'm optimistic about our pitching. CC and Hughes will be solid, AJ will be better, and there seem to be a lot of good possibilities for the back of the rotation. The bullpen is stocked. We've got plenty of hitters. Bring on the AL East and the rest of the fuggers. Enough with the fear, and doubts. The 2011 Yankees are built to contend. As long as the key players can stay healthy, they'll be in it to win it.

29 Jon DeRosa   ~  Feb 5, 2011 8:57 am

[28] A few days before Haren was traded to the Angels, the Yankees were balking on a deal centered around Joba, according to MLB Trade Rumors. I don't recall hearing Montero's name in connection with Haren as the deadline approached.

http://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2010/07/dan-haren-rumors-sunday.html

I don't see anything on MLB trade rumors that has the Yankees and Astros discussing players for Oswalt.

Greinke would have required Montero. So if that's a non-starter, then we can eliminate Greinke.

30 Sliced Bread   ~  Feb 5, 2011 9:13 am

[29] first, if we're to believe MLB Trade Rumors, so much for the theory that Joba has no trade value as many here (yourself included?) maintained a few weeks ago. I figured plenty of teams would be interested in him (and still are.)

Secondly, I think it's safe to assume the asking price is ALWAYS higher for the Yankees. Teams will not even hesitate to trade top players within their division, rather than trade to the Yankees, even if the Yanks' offer is better. I thought the Mariners were foolish to pass on the Yankees offer for Lee, and that they traded Lee within the division was unthinkable to me.

bottomline: I agree with your premise that Cashman might have missed a few deals because he was confident he'd land Lee, or retain Andy - but - I don't think he let bonafide difference-makers like Oswalt (despite lack of evidence on MLB Trade Rumors) or Haren get away without an attempt. I take Cashman at his word that the Yankees are ALWAYS looking to improve the rotation, and in that effort, cast the net far and wide.

31 RIYank   ~  Feb 5, 2011 9:46 am

Secondly, I think it’s safe to assume the asking price is ALWAYS higher for the Yankees.

I believe that, since so many knowledgeable people say so. But I don't understand it. If it's true, then why don't the ultracompetitive contrarians like Beane exploit that trend by trading a lot with the Yankees, asking them to overpay by only a little, and getting the benefit of being, in effect, their Favored Nation trading partner?
I know some GMs really are just kind of dumb. (I've listened to Steve Phillips "analyze" baseball, so there's no remaining doubt in my mind about that.) But surely there are enough smart and ambitious ones that a severe market irrationality can't persist for too long.

32 The Hawk   ~  Feb 5, 2011 10:00 am

I firmly believe the Yankees will outperform expectations this season. That said, I'd love for them to add Pedro to the mix, just for fun.

33 Sliced Bread   ~  Feb 5, 2011 10:10 am

[31] I think the severity of the market irrationality (nicely put, RI!) depends on the value of the player. Highest irrationality for the top players (aces), to sanity for lesser ones (4th & 5th outfielders). Cashman can still shop in the middle and lower value trade markets, but in the luxury trade market the demands on the Yankees are insane.

[32] I don't like Pedro. Wouldn't let him wear the uniform.

34 Sliced Bread   ~  Feb 5, 2011 10:14 am

I admit my feelings about Pedro aren't rational. If he came up a Yankee...
you know what? I probably still wouldn't like him. I don't know. He was great, I'll give him that.

35 Jon DeRosa   ~  Feb 5, 2011 11:33 am

[30] I agree, with just the additional inkling that Cashman was only going balls out for Lee, while making less effort for the others. Didn't he crack a joke after Oswalt was traded - something like "I wish I knew they were going to eat salary" ? Or something that kind of showed he wasn't deep into the negotiations...

36 williamnyy23   ~  Feb 5, 2011 11:36 am

[31] That's a good point, but it assumes Beane has something the Yankees want in the first place. I also believe other teams ask for a little bit more from the Yankees, but don't think it is a conspiracy. Rather, I think they correctly perceive that the contract of the player usually being traded isn't a burden to the Yankees. As a result, there is less need to make the deal more acceptable by asking for lesser prospects (with other teams, there is probably more of a prospect/money tradeoff).

37 RIYank   ~  Feb 5, 2011 12:43 pm

[36] Why wouldn't Beane have players the Yankees want? The A's develop good players and then trade them before they get to free agency.
And on your second point, I don't see how that could be relevant. When you go shopping, you really don't care how much your money is worth to Walmart or Gristedes. You buy what you want from whomever has the best price. Nor do the supermarkets charge you more because they think you can afford it, for the same reason.

38 Raf   ~  Feb 5, 2011 1:38 pm

[35] The topic of salary may have came up and was dismissed.

Cashman may have made "less" of an effort for the other pitchers. Maybe it was because they were lesser pitchers, maybe it's because he really wasn't interested in them, maybe their asking price were too high, maybe he has faith in the organizational minor league scouting reports.

I think saying that Cashman only focused on Lee and Pettitte without considering other pitchers out there is a bit of an oversimplification.

[36] That seems to be the way it works; the more money eaten by the acquiring club, the less they have to send in prospects. It's one of the reasons David Cone and Bobby Abreu, among others came so cheap.

[37] The A's may have players that the Yankees want, but it doesn't mean that the Yankees have players that the A's want. Or they may not be able to come to an agreement on players.

39 Capital Yank   ~  Feb 5, 2011 3:23 pm

[15] Don't forget Mark Prior, he's looking to be a can't-miss stud in the rotation this year!

[25] I don't know that I'd write off the chances of a marked Sox improvement in 2011 so quickly. They were absolutely plagued by injuries to major players last season (Pedroia, out from the end of June on, Youk-the-ugly-caveman out from the beginning of August on, Cameron and Ellsbury both missing the bulk of the season, Beckett only making 21 starts, etc.). Yet the hoisery stubbornly hung on in the division too late into the season and too few games back for my comfort. Not saying the offseason additions will end up getting them over the hump in the division for certain, but I think they have to like their chances if they can stay healthy.

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