Yankees Must Start 2010 Free Agency by Bringing Back Andy Pettitte

Doug Rush@Doug_RushSenior Analyst IDecember 5, 2009

NEW YORK - NOVEMBER 04:  Starting pitcher Andy Pettitte #46 of the New York Yankees gets set to throw a pitch against the Philadelphia Phillies in Game Six of the 2009 MLB World Series at Yankee Stadium on November 4, 2009 in the Bronx borough of New York City. The Yankees won 7-3 to win the Series 4 games to 2.  (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

Next week will begin the annual General Managers meetings in Indianapolis. Many expect the free agency period to really get into motion once those meetings take place.

Yankees' GM Brian Cashman has a lot of decisions to make as far as the 2010 roster, which will be looking to defend their World Series.

Everyone has been talking lately of the rumors of the Yankees making a trade to get Blue Jays' starting pitcher Roy Halladay to add to the staff that already includes CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett.

There is also talk of the Yankees getting Angels' starting pitcher John Lackey off the free agent market.

But before Cashman makes any of these moves, he has to take care of one of his own first.

The Yankees must bring back Andy Pettitte for 2010 if Pettitte puts off retirement once again.

In 2009, the rotation raised a lot of questions along with unfortunate injuries to its back end, so Pettitte's role increased after he was originally going to be the No. 4 or 5 pitcher on the staff.

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Because of Chien-Ming Wang's multiple injuries, Joba Chamberlain's inconsistency, and Phil Hughes' move to the setup role, Pettitte was moved into the No. 3 role.

Before the season even started, Pettitte's return to the Yankees in 2009 was uncertain because Cashman wasn't sure if he wanted to bring Pettitte back for another season after a nagging shoulder injury, which caused Pettitte to struggle in the second half.

Pettitte didn't re-sign with the Yankees until Jan. 26, months after the Yankees had already made investments into Sabathia and Burnett for the front end of the rotation. And his contract went from $16 million in 2008 to just $5.5 million, with incentives, in 2009.

Thankfully, Cashman did re-sign Pettitte, because he stayed healthy all season, went 14-8 with a 4.16 ERA, and pitched 194 innings with 148 strikeouts.

More importantly, Pettitte went 4-0 in the 2009 playoffs, including 2-0 in the World Series, and won every clinch game for the Yankees.

His 30 innings in the playoffs were something money wasn't going to get in the free agent market; Pettitte's experience was so crucial to the Yankees championship run of 2009.

Now, Cashman will not be as hesitant to re-sign Pettitte, because he knows how valuable Pettitte is to the rotation.

Pettitte's not a dominant pitcher like Halladay or Lackey, but any Yankee fan would send Pettitte to the mound in a big playoff game, against any top pitcher in the league, and come out on top.

So before Cashman decides to go after another starter outside of the organization, he must bring Pettitte back first.

And with a raise, too. Pettitte's 14 wins in the regular season were very important, but not as important as the four playoff wins.

Pettitte is now the all-time most winning pitcher in the playoffs with 18 career wins, surpassing John Smoltz this past October.

Numbers like that should bump him up from his $5.5 million base salary. (Because of his incentives, Pettitte ended up with roughly $10.5 million in 2009.)

Now, I am all for bringing Halladay and/or Lackey to New York, because they would make fine additions to a Yankee rotation that could use another strong arm. But I am firmly behind bringing Pettitte back first.

He had one of the most important jobs in 2009, easily closing out the playoff series in pressure-packed games.

Pettitte should be Cashman's No. 1 priority when it comes to the rotation.

Take care of Pettitte first, because he has earned it. Then go after those other guys.

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