Yesterday brought on some rather surprising news as the Yankees signed Andy Pettitte to a minor league contract. They already had six starting pitchers for five rotation spots, which had brought on questions as to who was going to be in and who was going to be out.
The questions just got much more plentiful.
Obviously there is no guarantee that Pettitte can produce. He will turn 40 years old in June and did not pitch in 2011. Is that a pitcher that you want to bet on? As it was, he had posted an ERA above 4.00 and a WHIP above 1.38 in four of the final five seasons of his career. Sure, he was solid in 2010 with a 3.28 ERA and 1.27 WHIP in 129.0 innings, but he also enjoyed a 77.3 percent strand rate.
Could he produce those types of numbers again? It’s possible, but I wouldn’t invest too highly on him and expect it a given. He’s going to have to face the Red Sox, Rays and Blue Jays on a regular basis. Those are not going to be easy matchups, and there’s a good chance that he struggles.
Maybe the Yankees are bringing him back for his leadership. Maybe they want to expose their young pitchers like Dellin Betances and Manny Banuelos to Pettitte as he prepares for the season in the minor leagues. Maybe they want Michael Pineda and Ivan Nova to learn from him.
Whatever their reasoning is, don’t let that skew your thoughts on drafting him for your fantasy team. He’s a huge gamble and shouldn’t be considered anything more than a late-round flier.
The more interesting question is who Pettitte will replace in the Yankees rotation. It would be shocking to see him working out of the bullpen (more shocking than his signing), and you have to think the Yankees are going to give him a shot in the rotation sooner rather than later. As it is, the Yankees were sporting the following options:
1. CC Sabathia
2. Hiroki Kuroda
3. Michael Pineda
4. Ivan Nova
5. Phil Hughes
6. Freddy Garcia
At this point you would have to expect the last two pitchers to be working out of the bullpen. Hughes has done so in the past and excelled in the role. Let us not forget his 3.03 ERA, 1.12 WHIP and 10.05 K/9 in 86.0 IP in 2009 (he did make seven starts that year).
You would think it would make sense for the Yankees to start prepping him to move back to that role now, wouldn’t you? Maybe you keep Hughes stretched out a little longer, just in case Pettitte completely fails, but long-term you would think his ticket has been punched.
How much better would the bullpen look with Hughes joining David Robertson (once healthy) and Rafael Soriano in setting up for Mariano Rivera. That foursome would have the potential to be the best group in baseball.
As for the other pitcher to lose out, Garcia would make the most sense. He could work as a swingman, making spot starts when needed and operating as a long man out of the bullpen.
However, could the Yankees ultimately decide to send Nova to the minor leagues? While you would think that Nova did enough in 2011 to entrench himself in the rotation, he does have options left. That opens the door for the possible move, especially if Garcia is pitching exceptionally well.
I was never big supporter of Nova, thanks to a mediocre K/9, but I wouldn’t completely write him off in deeper formats even if he is demoted to Triple-A. Sooner or later he’s going to be pitching for the Yankees and, with their offense behind him, he’s going to have value.
The bottom line is that the Yankees are now a better team than they were on Thursday. There’s no arguing that fact, but that doesn’t mean the bottom of their rotation is going to hold value. Outside of the top three options, the other four guys all have questions.
Can Nova end up at Triple-A?
Could Hughes and Garcia end up in the bullpen?
Will Pettitte even produce enough to justify a rotation spot?
They all could have value, but they also all could fall completely flat. Consider them in deeper formats, but the situation just seems to get cloudier and cloudier at this point. It’s a situation I’d prefer watching from a distance.