Nino Colla recently asked the following question to both me and Boston Red Sox Community Leader Eric Annett:
"Both the Red Sox and Yankees are big spenders, probably one more than the other, but this offseason Boston opted to patch their holes with lower risked-high reward type signings like Brad Penny. The Yankees meanwhile retooled with cash. Which single offseason acquisition will prove to be the most successful in 2009?"
Eric believes John Smoltz was the most important signing this winter, but I contend it was CC Sabathia.
Before the 2008 season, Brian Cashman chose not to acquire Johan Santana and opted to build his rotation from within with Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy. We saw how well that worked out.
I applaud Cashman for nabbing the two best starters on the market this time around, and I hope the organization doesn't baby Sabathia and A.J. Burnett and lets them reach their full potential.
Sabathia single-handedly led the Milwaukee Brewers to the playoffs last year by going 11-2 with a 1.65 ERA after being traded from the Cleveland Indians. He also has the durability and stamina the Yankees need to avoid overworking their bullpen as evidenced by his 20 complete games and eight shutouts over the past three seasons. Over that same period, New York as a team has had just seven complete games.
Eric says Sabathia is just a replacement for Mike Mussina, who retired last season after winning 20 games for the first time ever. The Moose was great in 2008, but Sabathia is 12 years younger and in the prime of his career, so this is a definite upgrade.
Speaking of old pitchers, Smoltz will be 42 this May, so I'm not sure what sort of an impact he can make on the Sox staff. He threw just 28 innings last year and is still recovering from shoulder surgery he underwent in June.
At best, Smoltz will be Boston's fourth starter, while Sabathia will be the Yankees' ace, heading up a strong rotation that includes Burnett, Chien-Ming Wang, Joba Chamberlain, and Andy Pettitte.
New York's biggest need this offseason was pitching after Kennedy, Hughes, Darrel Rasner, Sidney Ponson, and Carl Pavano started a total of 59 games in 2008. Sabathia fills that need perfectly and that is why he is the most important winter acquisition.
Jordan Schwartz is Bleacher Report's New York Yankees Community Leader. His book "Memoirs of the Unaccomplished Man"is available at amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com, and authorhouse.com.