Monday, January 3, 2011

The Implications Of The Pettitte Decision

As we enter 2011, the Yankees biggest need is undoubtedly filling out the starting rotation. They return everyone on an offense that scored the most runs in baseball in 2010 despite as many guys underperforming than meeting expectations or exceeding them. While some of that may be due to age, the chances that the Yankees get the same or less production from Rodriguez, Teixeira, Jeter, Granderson, and DH (Nick Johnson) in 2011 as they did in 2010 are low. Gardner is really the only player who far overshot expectations, so it isn't like they should have a counterbalancing phenomenon occuring in the other direction. They are also likely to see what top prospect Jesus Montero can do. Their bullpen continues to be anchored by Mariano Rivera, and its fluid nature - despite not having a lot of "name" guys - has produced three consecutive plus years. While official rankings don't come out for another month or two, early indications from various publications are that the Yankees have no worse than the 6th best farm system in baseball.

Things are essentially firing on all cylinders for the Yankees with the exception of the rotation. CC Sabathia is one of the five best pitchers in the game, but after that nothing is certain. Phil Hughes took yet another major step in 2010 but still has one last important step to take: doing it two years in a row. Burnett has been up and down his entire career, and at this point you just have to hope 2011 is one of his good years. Ivan Nova might develop into a nice piece in the middle-back of the rotation, but that's a total unknown at this point, and the Yankees would probably be better served with him as their #6 starter/long-man to open the season, let alone #4. If the season started today, Sergio Mitre would be the #5 starter.

When you look at it this way, it looks like the Yankees need a lot of starting pitching. And they do. But that can change very quickly, and the way it can do so is primarily through Andy Pettitte coming back. And it's not just because of him alone. I fully expect the Yankees to add a non-Andy Pettitte starter before Spring Training, whether it is through trade or free agency, although my bet is by trade. Someone that can be reasonably relied upon for innings and effective pitching. Someone like Mark Buehrle. By itself this kind of move would greatly help the Yankees' rotation. Just like Andy Pettitte coming back would greatly help the Yankees' rotation standing on its own.

Put the two together, however, and you go from an area of need to an area that, at the very least you don't have to worry about, and at most could become a strength. Sabathia, Hughes, Pettitte, Buehrle (as an example), and Burnett would be a solid 1-5, with Nova and Mitre offering depth as opposed to being relied upon.

Point being, Andy Pettitte is going to make everything look a lot better. Not just by him coming back of and within itself, but he's going to make any other move the Yankees make in their rotation look even better. The Yankees need the big left back for one more year, and they need him back badly. This is pure, 100% speculation on my part, but if he's waited this long I think it probably means one of two things. One, he knows he wants to retire and is delaying because he knows it would leave the Yankees hanging and a big part of him doesn't want to do that. Two, he is really leaning towards returning but wants to make sure he is fully ready to do it on every level. Either way, it seems pretty clear that he's debating something. I doubt he would wait this long to give the Yankees a definitive decision if he wasn't.


The GM said...


Contrary to your wishes as you sit at MSG, I am posting your article now. This is because I want to comment on it now.

I'm glad you wrote about Pettitte tonight, because that's what I would have written about if you were unable to do so. Of course, I would have done it in much more of a douchey way. Not surprising, I know. I probably would have said he was taking pictures of his junk and sending them to various sideline reporters.

I agree with you that Pettitte will be back, and that's because the team is desperate. I think the reason he's been waiting so long is that he wants to max out his salary for next year. In other words, he's holding out like Varitek held out a few years ago. And while that's fine, that's his right, it's a dick thing to do. Which brings me to my next point.

The fact that the Yankees are waiting for this guy, and that they have been waiting for this guy all winter, has been a mistake. Cashman made the same mistake the Vikings did. While better pitchers were on the market and became off the market, they were waiting. And this is even assuming Lee is ballsy enough to tell the Yankees to screw and that Grienke is smart enough to not go to New York. Jorge De La Rosa, Jake Westbrook, Aaron Harang, Ted Lilly, and Brandon Webb (if you want a reclamation project) are all serviceable players that the Yankees would have probably been in on if Pettitte had said definitively that he was gone on November 4th.

But it did not happen that way. Because the Yankees were waiting for Godot to finish his de facto holdout.

Also, Ivan Nova is a fine Ramiro Mendoza type.

PF said...

I'm glad I wrote about pettitte before going to the garden as well, because if I hadn't I would have been writing about what I witnessed at the garden, which was the johnnies sending the hoyas packing to move to 3-0 in the big east (10-3 overall). The garden was absolutely rocking (in both directions, as the hoyas travel well), which has always been one of the beauties of sju basketball at the garden. Teams like gtown, syracuse, nova, nd, uconn, and duke (who they play every other year at home), amongst others, have major new york city presences, as many colleges and universities do. So while its and sju home game, you get this incredible back and forth that makes winning even sweeter because you get to watch the opposing fans filter out in defeat. That was the action that took place last night. It was one of the most exciting live sports experiences I've ever had, and I go to a lot of games. I get the same feeling that I think a lot of people are getting, that this is just the first of many in the steve lavin era. Awesome game.

Ross Kaplan said...

DV, I have to disagree with your assessment that "they have been waiting for this guy all winter, has been a mistake" while better pitchers came off the market. I seriously doubt that the pitchers you mentioned would have been better options and I honestly don't think there were any truly available better options anyway unless you're among the delusional folks who think that the Mariners would take Nova and Gardner for Hernandez.

Out of all the pitchers you mentioned Lilly is the only serviceable option in the American League. In any case I doubt waiting for Pettite to make his decision precluded Cashman from pursuing other options. As Pat mentioned Nova is best suited as 6th man/long relief so that still leaves one more slot for Cashman to fill with or without Pettite and I doubt Mark Prior is the answer.

Pat, I'm just curious if you know who this years Nova could be. I haven't followed the prospects lately, but I feel like guys like Brackman and Horne have to be close by now.

Patrick said...

i think it's somewhere in the middle of you two. pettitte not telling them definitely makes the yankees plans in terms of pursuing other starters less certain, but i don't think it totally derails their plans. there weren't a lot of great options available, and if there were the yankees would have pursued them like they pursued lee. at the same time, might they be more interested in some of the guys dv mentioned if they knew pettitte wasn't coming back? i'm sure. but again, i don't think it is greatly altering their plans. if they saw a guy they wanted to go after, they'd go after him.

a good question ross. the yankees have a lot of such candidates. one of the great strengths of their strong system is the fact that 9 of the 10 starters projected to start the year filling out the AAA and AA rotations are serious prospects. to varying degrees, and with differing levels of current readiness of course. but i've read there are those within the yankees organization who feel strongly enough about enough of these guys readiness right now that they'd like to see one spot in the rotation be an open competition, just like it was last year with hughes ultimately winning. nova would be in that competition i would presume, as would the candidates to be this years nova, or maybe even hughes, or somewhere in between. they are the the three b's - banuelos/betances/brackman -, d.j. mitchell, hector noesi, david phelps, adam warren, and graham stoneburner. i may be missing one or two. one of the ways the yankees evaluate their own prospects is how much interest they get from other teams in trade talks on each player. 9 of the 10 guys slated to compose the AAA/AA rotations are drawing interest, the yankees like them, so these are the names that are likely to be this year's nova.