The Yankees have the best record in baseball, yet the team and its fans know that they are walking a tightrope when it comes to starting pitching. Already they have seen two of their veteran starters (CC Sabathia and Andy Pettitte—the only southpaws in the rotation) lose significant time to injury. Pettitte may be out two or more months with a broken ankle.
To date, manager Joe Girardi has been able to get productive spot starts from Freddy Garcia and David Phelps, but can he count on the temporary starters continuing to perform at a high level? Common sense would say no.
The Philadelphia Phillies have a different perspective at the halfway point to the 2012 season. Due to a rash of injuries that began in the postseason of 2011, the highly touted team finds itself at the bottom of the NL East and 14 games behind the front-running Washington Nationals.
Adding insult to injury is the fact that the Phillies' minor league system has few prospects ready to jump to "the show" anytime soon. It would seem that now is a good time for the club to cut its losses (and salary) and deal some higher-priced veteran talent to build for the future.
One player rumored to be on the block is pitcher Cole Hamels. If that is true, the New York Yankees would be well-served to make a serious play for the Phillies hurler.
Why is Hamels someone the Yankees should pursue?
The first reason that comes to mind lies in the veteran leadership the 28-year-old brings with him. In spite of his age, Hamels already has two World Series and six full seasons under his belt. Over that time he has won 84 games and holds a 3.38 ERA.
In the postseason, he holds a 7-4 record with a 3.09 ERA. Given that Pettitte's status for the remainder of the season is shaky at best, Hamels makes the most sense at replacing some of the big Texan's valuable October experience.
Another reason for the Bombers to go after Hamels is the fact that he is a successful left-hander. As I mentioned, the only lefties the Yankees have in their rotation are both hurt. While Sabathia is due back soon, a left-handed pitcher in Yankee Stadium is a cherished commodity. The more southpaws the team can have among their starting five, the better.
Third, Hamels is a proven winner. Including 2012, the young pitcher has won 10 or more games for six straight seasons.
In addition to the wins, Hamels has been dependable. In the previous five seasons he has thrown at least 180 innings and made 28 or more starts. Aside from the occassional minor injury, Hamels has been a durable pitcher for Philadelphia.
The Phillies pitcher isn't one for short outings either. Since 2007, Hamels has averaged 6.5 innings per start. That kind of reliability is something that can provide New York's well-used bullpen much needed rest.
Yes, Garcia and Phelps have been nearly brilliant after being called upon by the Yankees to fill in for Sabathia and Pettitte, but neither has shown that they can stay in a game further than the sixth inning (they are averaging 4.4 innings per start over their three outings). Neither is left-handed, and neither is a long-term solution—especially when looking at postseason rotations.
Hamels could provide the Yankees with another left-handed weapon in the rotation who would also be a viable option in the playoffs. His age and experience are a rare combination that make him a perfect fit for New York not only for this season, but for seasons to come.
If the Phillies truly are shopping him around, Hamels is one opportunity the Yankees should not pass up.