I didn’t come up with that title all my own, FanGraphs did. That doesn’t mean, though, that I’m not going to piggyback the article and add my own thoughts.
To me, the possibility of Lee declining the Yankees might be the most interesting question of the off-season, because there is no obvious Plan B. After Lee, the next best free agent starters are Jorge de la Rosa, Carl Pavano, and Andy Pettitte. Bringing back Pettitte just keeps the status quo rather than providing an upgrade, so he’s not a real alternative. There’s no way the Yankees go back to Pavano after the debacle that was his first stint in pinstripes. That leaves them with de la Rosa, who is something of a left-handed A.J. Burnett – not a great fit when they’re frustrated with the right-handed version they already own.
Well that’s a hell of a downer, huh? Dave Cameron is at least partially right here, though. If the Yankees don’t get Lee, they’ll obviously work as hard as possible to make sure Andy Pettitte doesn’t retire. Let’s assume he doesn’t. That would make the Yankee rotation: CC Sabathia/A.J. Burnett/Andy Pettitte/Phil Hughes/(mystery man)
That’s solid enough to get by, but there are still just enough question marks to wonder if the Yankees could advance in the playoffs with that rotation–they could get there with those four and someone else so long as the offense does its thing. Can Phil Hughes improve upon–or at least repeat–2010? Will age catch up to Pettitte? Is he due for some regression after 2010 (short answer: maybe but not all that much)? What the hell is A.J. Burnett going to do with himself? Will innings catch up to CC?
Before I go any further down this intersection of Doom Avenue and Gloom Street, let’s remember that no rotation is without some question marks. The Yankees will have some, but so will everyone else.
The most interesting name on those lists is Florida’s Ricky Nolasco. He may not be as sexy a name as Josh Johnson, but he’s talented. I’m not sure what it would take for the Yankees to acquire him, and they may not be able to do it until the 2011 season has started up, but I think he’s worth watching.
Internal options could surface–like Hector Noesi or Ivan Nova. The Yankees could live with one of these guys as a fifth starter, but they could also go another way: the Rule V draft. Over the next month or so, we’ll get a better idea of whom teams will protect and whom they won’t. When that happens, the Yankees will have the option of taking a Rule V flier on a starting pitcher.
If the Yankees don’t get Cliff Lee, it would be bad. Any time a team misses out on a player that great it’s a bad thing. However, the situation may not be as bleak as we think.