After the Yankees failed to sign Cliff Lee after the 2010 season, the Yankees had a big issue with their starting rotation. AJ Burnett had been a bust, Andy Pettitte had retired, and none of the Yankees top pitching prospects seemed to be ready for the majors.
The Yankees caught lightning in a bottle by signing Freddy Garcia and Bartolo Colon in the offseason and having Ivan Nova step up as a rookie. With Garcia and Colon likely headed out the door, the Yankees must find help elsewhere, whether through free agency or trade.
The Yankees just re-signed CC Sabathia to a long-term deal, and Ivan Nova is a reliable No. 2, but after that there are a bunch of question marks.
There are many reasons why the Yankees should not go after CJ Wilson this offseason, but he is still an option.
CJ Wilson is already 31 years old and would guarantee a large contract because he is the best pitcher currently on the market.
While Wilson has showed he is a very capable regular season pitcher, he posted a 31-15 record, 376K and a 3.14 ERA in 427.1 innings of work over the last two seasons, he also struggled during the postseason by going 0-3 with a 5.79 ERA in October 2011.
Wilson is a young 31 years old because he spent his first five seasons in the bullpen. Wilson also had to pitch in a hitter's ballpark, which will ease his transition to Yankee Stadium, but the most impressive stat is his 2.16 ERA vs the Red Sox, Rays, Orioles and Blue Jays in the last three seasons (104 IP). And don't think he just beat up on the Orioles because he had a 1.16 ERA (38.2IP) vs the Red Sox and 2.64 ERA (14.2IP) vs the Rays.
I can see both views, but in the end, he will be too much of a risk for the type of money he will command on the open market. I think the Yankees should pass on him.
Yu Darvish is a 25-year-old Japanese pitching phenom. Most people try to compare Darvish to other Japanese pitchers, such as Daisuke Matsuzaka and Kei Igawa, but these comparisons just are not fair because he is a better and more complete pitcher than both of them.
Average of last five seasons in Japan:
Darvish: 205IP, 17-5, 1.71 ERA, 219 Ks
Matsuzaka: 163IP, 13-7, 2.62 ERA, 169 Ks
Igawa: 200IP, 15-9, 3.13 ERA, 190 Ks
Darvish pitched the most innings, had the best record, by far the best ERA and the most strikeouts even though he was the youngest of the three.
Next, his pitching repertoire is much better than either Matsuzaka or Igawa. Darvish has a four-seam fastball, two-seam fastball, 12-6 curveball, two sliders, changeup and a cutter. While Matsuzaka had a similar amount of pitches, Igawa does not even come close, as he could not throw his fastball with the same velocity as Darvish.
Yu Darvish has an average fastball of 96 miles per hour and tops out at 100 miles per hour, while Matsuzaka had an average fastball of 92 miles per hour and topped out at 95 miles per hour.
I think Darvish has the chance to become the first very successful Japanese pitcher in the majors.
I would prefer Darvish to Wilson because he is younger, he would not cost the Yankees a draft pick and his posting fee would not count against the luxury tax.
Surprisingly, Mark Buehrle is only 32 years old. Nonetheless, he would only be a short term answer for the Yankees. He is by far the safest player on this list, but his upside is not great either. Buehrle will get you about 16 wins and an ERA around 3.50.
Buehrle may not be the big-time free agent some Yankee fans want, but he would not command nearly the same number of years or amount of money and would help stabilize the rotation. He would be a great addition to the Yankees rotation, and I would be very happy if the Yankees signed him to a short term deal.
Edwin Jackson is only 28 years old and very talented, but he is one of the most inconsistent pitchers in the majors. If Larry Rothschild can effectively work with Jackson this offseason, he could be the steal of the winter, even though he is a Scott Boras client. Jackson will demand more than he is worth due to his age and ability, but his upside is hard to ignore.
As a two-year deal, I would love to have him in New York, but if he demands four years, as is reported, I would not even consider him.
Just kidding, these guys are not going anywhere, despite what some people believe.
I'm going to group these pitchers together because they both have been tied to the Yankees, but while the Giants may trade one of them, they will not let them both go. With a very strong rotation and a weak offensive, Giants GM Brian Sabean would be wise to at least listen to the Yankees regarding his two aces.
Both pitchers are true 26-year-old right-handed aces with playoff success, so which would you take?
Matt Cain has a 3.35 career ERA, including a 2.88 ERA in 2011, and has a 0.00 ERA in 21.1 innings of postseason work. Tim Lincecum, on the other hand, has a 2.98 ERA, including a 2.74 ERA in 2011, and has a 2.43ERA in 37 innings of postseason work.
Both are very impressive, but most believe Lincecum is the better pitcher even though his long term arm health could be jeopardized by his unorthodox delivery.
Tim Lincecum has refused to sign a long-term deal with the Giants but is signed through 2014, while Matt Cain has not showed any interest of signing an extension and is free agent after next season. Since Lincecum is the better pitcher and is signed for two years longer, I expect Lincecum to be more expensive than Cain, both in money for a new contract and in prospects.
Which would you rather have? Personally, I would love to have either, but if I could choose, I would choose to wait until 2012 and sign Cain without giving up top prospects.
Yes, the Rays did tell the Yankees they would not trade him at the trade deadline, but Andrew Friedman is smart enough to know that the Yankees are in dire need of pitching and that he could re-stock his already excellent farm system.
I doubt a trade between the Yankees and Rays will happen, but you can never rule it out.
The oft-injured but very talented 27-year-old Josh Johnson has only pitched 150 innings three times in his career, but when he does pitch, he is dominant. In those three seasons, he had a 2.80 ERA and has a career ERA of 2.98.
He would definitely be the cheapest of the possible trade targets, both in terms of money and prospects. He is signed for $35 million over the next three years, and because of his injury history, I doubt the Yankees would have to relinquish Jesus Montero.
Personally, I think his injury history scares me, and I would stay away from him.
The Yankees have two of the best pitching prospects in the majors in Dellin Betances and Manny Banuelos.
Although they both have control issues, their talent is undeniable. Both Betances and Banuelos were moved to AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre last season, with Betances even getting moved up to the majors. And while their stats do not show it, they impressed.
Last spring training, Manny Banuelos had a 2.20 ERA and was called the greatest pitching prospect he had ever seen by Mariano Rivera.
Dellin Betances, on the other hand, threw two scoreless innings, in his first start in the majors, against the Tampa Bay Rays.
Both are impressive young pitchers, and while they may not start the season in the majors, I expect them to be called up and make an impact when rosters expand.
This is a very tough decision, but if I were Brian Cashman, I would not make a trade.
By this time next year the Yankees will have $37 million off the books, followed by another $41 million after 2013, in order to give Curtis Granderson and Robinson Cano extensions and sure up the rotation.
Let's say that Cano gets $24 million a year and Granderson gets $18 million a year, that leaves $36 million to sign either two very good pitchers or a pitcher and a new outfielder to replace Nick Swisher.
If Cashman were to focus just on pitching, I would say he should sign Yu Darvish this offseason and Matt Cain next offseason. But if I were him, I would stand pat this offseason, use prospects and one-year deals to fill out the rotation, and then grab Matt Cain and Matt Kemp next offseason.
Only time will tell how Brian Cashman will fix the Yankees rotation.