New York Yankees Rumors: 10 Potential Ace Replacements for CC Sabathia

Adam WellsFeatured ColumnistFebruary 15, 2011

New York Yankees Rumors: 10 Potential Ace Replacements for CC Sabathia

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    Spring training is here and there's already panic in the Bronx.

    The New York Yankees' offseason will not go down in the history books among the all-time greats.

    They missed out on Cliff Lee. Their best acquisition was Rafael Soriano, which isn't to say that he's bad, just that the ridiculous contract they gave him is. They alienated Derek Jeter—arguably the most beloved player in franchise history—by handling the negotiations through the media. To add insult to injury, Andy Pettitte decided to call it a career.

    The Yankees enter 2011 with a lot of questions that need to be answered if they are going to compete with the revamped Red Sox in the American League East.

    One thing that they don't have to worry about is their ace, CC Sabathia. He has been as reliable as anyone in baseball since the 2007 season.

    However, they do have to worry about that opt-out clause in his contract after this year. If Sabathia chooses to exercise it, he will be a free agent, and that will leave the Yankees scrambling to ensure that they don't lose him.

    They do have a great bargaining chip in the minors in Jesus Montero, whom they can dangle to acquire a new ace for 2012. Since the free-agent pitching market next winter is going to be pretty bad, a trade would seem to be their best bet to acquire a new ace.

    Here are 10 guys that the Yankees could take a look at if Sabathia decides to bolt from New York after 2011.

Johan Santana, New York Mets

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    If you've been following the situation with the Mets ownership this offseason, you know that things could get pretty dire pretty quickly.

    For those that don't know, Fred Wilpon, the Mets' owner, lost a lot of money thanks to Bernie Madoff.

    This will have an effect on how the Mets are run and which players they are able to keep. Santana has to prove that he is healthy again before anyone will touch him. Plus, the three years for roughly $70 million left on his contract after 2011 could make him tough to move.

    But we all know that if the Yankees are desperate enough, they will do anything. Santana's trade value will be low in 2011 because of his shoulder surgery and the money that he is still owed.

Carlos Zambrano, Chicago Cubs

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    I include Zambrano on the list only because it would be fun to see him have a meltdown in front of the New York media.

    He did rebound nicely in 2010 after a disastrous start and looked like the guy that the Cubs were hoping he would be when they signed him to a five-year, $91 million deal in 2007.

    The Cubs have some quality arms in their system and if Matt Garza is able to transition to the National League (which shouldn't be hard), Zambrano could become expendable.

Francisco Liriano, Minnesota Twins

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    The Yankees basically own the Twins anyway, so why not take away their best pitcher?

    Liriano found his groove in 2010 after a couple down years trying to come back from Tommy John surgery. He is a true top of the rotation guy, with one of the best sliders in baseball.

    The Twins will be hard-pressed to give him up because they don't have anyone else on their staff or in the minors that's as good as he is, but the Yankees have enough pieces to make a deal for Liriano worthwhile.

    Plus, the Twins payroll has really climbed in the last year and they may not be able to afford him moving forward, so it wouldn't hurt them to at least gauge interest in him.

Josh Johnson, Florida Marlins

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    In a move that shocked almost everyone in the baseball world last year, the Marlins actually spent some money to keep Josh Johnson.

    However, we know how this franchise works—as soon as your salary gets bigger, they will move you so fast that they have already packed your bags and shipped them to your next team. Although on second thought, they probably wouldn't do that because they would have to spend money to ship the clothes.

    Johnson was having a fantastic 2010 season, but he missed the last month with a back injury. He has a great repertoire of pitches and knows how to command them. If he could stay healthy for a full season, he would be among the elite pitchers in the game.

Chris Carpenter, St. Louis Cardinals

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    This one is a long shot because the Cardinals hold a $12 million option on Carpenter for 2012. Unless he completely falls off a cliff in 2011, that option will be picked up.

    He is prone to injuries, so it's possible that he tweaks something early this spring and misses most of the season, causing the Cardinals to not pick up his option.

    The Yankees could then swoop in and sign him. We know that they have no problems signing older players to insanely large contracts.

Cole Hamels, Philadelphia Phillies

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    The Phillies pitching rotation heading into 2011 is getting lauded as potentially one of the greatest in MLB history.

    In particular, their first four starters are Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels. That could be as dominant a front four that we have seen in baseball since the Braves in the early 90's.

    Lost in the shuffle is the fact that Hamels is a free agent after the season. He will be in line for a big pay raise and the Phillies have a lot of money already invested in other places, so it's hard to imagine them being able to afford him.

    Hamels will be 28 years old going into 2012, the same age that Sabathia was when he signed with the Yankees three years ago. He has a good track record and is not afraid to pitch on the big stage.

Derek Lowe, Atlanta Braves

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    Starting with Lowe, the next few names on the list will take the term "ace" and use it liberally to describe a guy who starts on Opening Day or in Game 1 of a postseason series.

    Lowe isn't an "ace" in the traditional sense that he doesn't overpower hitters with his stuff, but he is very effective with the arsenal of pitches that he does have. There have been rumors for a long time that the Braves have tried to unload his contract, but that was before he finished the 2010 season strong.

    If he has a really good year with the Braves, he probably won't get traded, but never say never.

    They did trade Javier Vazquez to the Yankees last year after he was one of the best pitchers in the National League in 2009.

Fausto Carmona, Cleveland Indians

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    Fausto Carmona bounced back to have a pretty good 2010 season after two years in which he was a disaster.

    The Indians don't want to trade him because they don't have any starters on their team right now, but if the right deal were to come along, they would certainly entertain it.

    There is a question about Carmona's poise and playing in New York wouldn't help that at all, but when he is on his game he is terrific. He has a great sinker, which induces a lot of double plays, getting him out of a lot of trouble.

    He's not a strikeout pitcher, but he does have a decent mix of pitches in his bag.

    Plus, Carmona is signed relatively cheap through 2014.

Phil Hughes, New York Yankees

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    Sure, the Yankees always have to go out and sign the big, high-priced free agents, but what if this time they actually developed their own?

    Phil Hughes was really good for the Yankees before he wore down as the 2010 season went on. He's only 24 years old. He will get stronger with more experience and he has the stuff to be a top-of-the-rotation starter.

    I know that Yankees' fans have no patience, but give Hughes the time to develop into a great starter and he could make you forget about Sabathia if he leaves.

Jonathan Sanchez, San Francisco Giants

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    The Giants are going to be apprehensive to break up their pitching staff. The problem is that circumstances might dictate that one of their starters gets moved.

    Their offense is going be awful, even with National League Rookie of the Year Buster Posey becoming a superstar. Pablo Sandoval has to prove that he is capable of getting in playing shape and staying in playing shape. Other than that, there's nothing on this offense.

    Pitching wise, they are loaded with Sanchez, Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner. However, those guys will be due for pay raises very soon and they still have that Barry Zito contract on their hands, so someone might have to go to upgrade the offense and keep the team within their spending means.

    The most likely candidate from the group to get dealt is Sanchez. They won't deal Lincecum and Cain, and Bumgarner won't hit arbitration for another two years, so Sanchez could find himself being the odd man out.