With the recent trade talk involving the Yankees going after the Twins' Francisco Liriano, who should the Yankees be going after instead?
While I think the Yankees acquiring Francisco Liriano would be a great benefit to the starting rotation, it is bound to come at a high price (Jesus Montero and several of the young Yankees pitching prospects) for a pitcher who will be either the number two or number three pitcher.
Even though Liriano is the best pitcher currently available in the trade market, there are others who are available that would cost less (in terms of money or prospects).
Why are the Yankees even bothering to get another pitcher? Don't they have a bunch of young prospects and former Major Leaguers they signed this offseason? Yes, but the Yankees always want to win and in order to do that you need a solid pitching rotation, not one with a solid number one pitcher followed by four question marks.
If they can shore up just one more rotation spot before the season starts, they'll feel better overall about their chances.
I came up with a list of seven players, some are targets the Yankees stand a better chance of acquiring, others are long shots that will have to wait till at least June to see if they're even available and two are still free agents.
Let's start with the free agents available because they wouldn't cost the Yankees any prospects and thus would cost the Yankees the least.
The first free agent the Yankees should go after is Jarrod Washburn. Reportedly, they will only want Washburn if he signs a minor league deal like Colon and Prior did.
What the Yankees should do: They should offer him a major-league deal and use him as the number four starter (even compete with Burnett for the number three spot). Last year in 28 games started (between Detroit and Seattle), he had an ERA of 3.78, a WHIP of 1.188. an ERA+ of 115 and a K/BB ratio of 2.04.
Possibility of signing: Close to zero. Washburn wants big league money, but no one is willing to give it to him and this includes the Yankees.
Injury concerns have kept this one-time phenom from signing with any team.
What the Yankees should do: Offer him a minor league deal like they did Colon, Prior et al. No one should expect the 2006 Bonderman of 200+ strikeouts in 200+ innings so he would be another low-risk, potential high-reward player that could fight for the number four or number five spot in the rotation. At worst, he's a placeholder until the young prospects are ready.
Possibility of signing: Low. If Bonderman still truly wants to pitch, I do believe the best he will be able to get in the preseason is a minor league deal (heavy on incentives maybe). He could be a late preseason signee.
If the previous three possibilities don't happen, the Yankees could go after CC Sabathia's old teammate, Fausto Carmona. His decline after his decline/injury concerns since 2004 should keep the cost low.
What the Yankees should do: Don't offer any top prospects, but a combination of lower-level minor league players should suffice. He may even be a mid-season trade pickup if their prospects/minor-league deal veterans don't come through.
Possibility of trade happening: High, especially if the deal for Liriano falls through because the Twins, as they have in the past, ask for too much. He will be a decent number five starter and might even improve under the tutelage of CC Sabathia again.
The Phillies have two possible pitchers that may be available. If needed the Yankees might be able to get them to part with their number five starter, Kyle Kendrick. The cost may not be high due to Kendrick not being consistent in back-to-back years.
What the Yankees should do: Don't offer any top prospects, but a combination of lower-level minor league players should suffice. May even be a mid-season trade pickup if their prospects/minor-league deal veterans don't come through. Do not accept Joe Blanton as part of the deal.
Possibility of this trade happening: Very low. The Phillies don't want to part with Kendrick yet, they will however get anyone they can to take Blanton.
This is the first of three possible trades, that are long-shots mainly because they're either already signed to long-term deals, are just too good for a team to trade away or because they're on contenders that won't want to part with them.
The first of these is Johan Santana. Johan is easily the Mets' best pitcher and is signed through 2014. Also, with the Wilpon's financial situation, one of the few players the Mets have that make the franchise worth any money.
What the Yankees should do: Kick themselves for not giving up the prospects the Twins wanted for him years ago. If the Mets decide to cut salary during the season, give up almost everything for him. He can still be an elite pitcher, especially with an elite bullpen behind him and an elite offense scoring runs for him.
Possibility of this trade happening: Medium. It will all depend on how far out of it the Mets are in June and/or how much money the Wilpons end up owing to several people/organizations.
The second of my long shot trades is Chris Carpenter. His age and health concerns should keep the cost "low." Also, with Pujols' status for 2012 being unknown and Wainwright's return from Tommy John surgery a question mark, the Cards might be interested in acquiring several young pitchers.
What the Yankees should do: Don't offer the farm, but don't hold back on trading prospects like they have in the past. Yes, Carpenter is over 35, but when he's healthy, he's one of the game's best pitchers. Could easily be the number two pitcher behind CC and would counter the other great pitching staffs in baseball.
Possibility of the trade happening: Medium. This all hangs on if the Cards are out of a playoff spot in June and the status of Pujols for 2012.
Who is the one player that is on every team's wish list? Felix Hernandez of course, and he is my final long-shot trade possibility.
What the Yankees should do: Pray the Mariners are 20 games out of a playoff spot in June and are willing to look at offers. Then, give them anything they want except for Romine (who will be a MLB Catcher, unlike Montero who will be a DH/1B) and one other young pitching prospect.
Do not hold back on prospects like they did for Johan Santana or Cliff Lee last year. Felix is a once-in-a-generation pitcher, just do what it takes to get him and they'll end up matching Halladay/Lee quite well come October.
Possibility of this trade happening: Low. However, don't count it out. It's the ultimate long-shot and the Yankees will feel burned by missing out on Lee twice last year and will not let a chance to get King Felix get away. If the chance is there, they will pounce.
So, what do you think? Is there someone better than Liriano out there or should they go for someone different to save prospects? Please let me know your thoughts.