How Andy Pettitte's 2014 Return Would Impact Yankees' Offseason Plan
Could Andy Pettitte be coming back for one more season?
According to Andy McCullough of The Star-Ledger, it certainly seems like a possibility:
“Look, as long as I’m healthy, I know now that I can pitch for a long time,” Pettitte said. “My velocity is up this year, compared to what it was last year. I’m taking care of myself. So that’s not even an issue.”
So, if Pettitte does come back, how does that impact the New York Yankees' offseason plan?
Things that won't change
Two things that won't change for the Yankees are the need to re-sign Robinson Cano and find a possible replacement for Alex Rodriguez, should his suspension stand.
That has to be the biggest focus for the Yankees regardless of what happens.
If for some reason Cano doesn't re-sign with the Yankees, that means big trouble, as there aren't many good second basemen on the market this offseason.
Which aging veteran is more important in the Yankees' rotation?
Third base is not as pressing, as the Yankees could re-sign Kevin Youkilis or Mark Reynolds to take A-Rod's place until Dante Bichette Jr. is ready to take on the everyday role.
Of course, that is assuming Rodriguez gets suspended. If not, hopefully the ruling will be early enough so that the Yankees don't feel like they need to address the issue.
Pursuit of an outfielder or two will be important as well. Curtis Granderson is a free agent this year, and Ichiro Suzuki, Alfonso Soriano and Vernon Wells are free agents the following season. Prospects Tyler Austin and Mason Williams could make their big-league debuts late next year, but the Yankees know they still have to address the outfield a bit more. Frankly, Brett Gardner won't cut it.
I also don't feel like Pettitte will affect the Yankees' attempts to convince Hiroki Kuroda to sign on for another year or their pursuit of free-agent starter Matt Garza. Regardless of Pettitte, the Yankees are going to throw a lot of money at Garza to get him to come to New York.
What will be affected
The main thing with Pettitte is that he'll be 42 next year. That means that whether he likes it or not, he doesn't have very many years left in him.
What the Yankees do have to decide is whether this year's free-agent crop of pitchers is better than next year's will be.
This year (other than Garza), the market could feature Josh Johnson, Roy Halladay, Tim Lincecum, Paul Maholm, Tim Hudson, Ricky Nolasco, James Shields and Ervin Santana. But is that better than 2015's class that so far includes Clayton Kershaw (for now), Chad Billingsley, Johnny Cueto, Max Scherzer, Jake Peavy, Justin Masterson and Yovani Gallardo?
Regardless of what the Yankees decide, Phil Hughes won't be back next year. Currently sitting at 4-13 with a 5.11 ERA, there's no way the Yankees bring him back.
I think Kuroda holds the key to everything. As it stands now, the Yankees will have CC Sabathia and Ivan Nova definitely slotted into the rotation. If Kuroda comes back, he will slot in to give the Yankees three, and Pettitte would make four.
The Yankees could then make a huge run at Garza, Shields or Santana to complete their rotation, then add in one of 2015's free agents for when Pettitte and/or Kuroda are done. By that time, Rafael De Paula or Manny Banuelos should be ready to start in the majors and take on the No. 5 role.
That way the Yankees don't have to make a run on multiple starting pitchers like they did when they signed both Sabathia and A.J. Burnett in the same offseason. History has shown us that one of them is bound to fail.
If you don't believe me, just look at the same 2009 season when the Braves signed Derek Lowe and Kenshin Kawakami. Kawakami failed the same way Burnett did in New York.
Pettitte won't be enough
The Yankees will still have to make moves in their rotation even if Pettitte decides to come back. In fact, I'll say the same for Kuroda.
The starters have a combined 4.13 ERA and a 51-54 record.
While some will point to the struggles of Sabathia and Hughes this year, it must be remembered that all starters (except for Kuroda) struggled at one time or another.
New York needs to get back to having a dominant starting rotation with two or three aces. It's how they've succeeded in the past and how they'll succeed again.
Offense may be the name of the game, but when it comes down to crunch time, good pitching will always beat good hitting. And regardless of whether Pettitte comes back or not in 2014, the Yankees have to prepare for the future without him.
Like what I had to say or think I'm full of it? Respond in the comments or hit me up on Twitter: @chris_stephens6.
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