I’ve been putting off thinking about the Yankees rotation until we knew for sure what was going on with Andy Pettitte. He’s too good a pitcher and can make too big a difference to make any kind of pronouncement without knowing his status. Now that he’s apparently retiring, however, let’s ask the question: Is the Yankees’ rotation good enough to get the job done?
I’m going to give a qualified yes. It will be worse than if Pettitte was there, obviously, but a team with this rotation can compete, make the playoffs and make some noise. That is, if everything breaks right. The quick version:
- Sabathia: Arguably the best pitcher in the AL. No issues there.
- A.J. Burnett: The biggest wild card in all of baseball? If he’s 2009 A.J., things are fine. If he’s 2010 A.J., it’s panic time.
- Phil Hughes: I don’t know too many people who think that he’s not the real deal and that he won’t progress nicely. If healthy, he’s more than good enough to be a #2 or #3 starter on a championship team.
- The wild card #4: Ivan Nova, Freddy Garcia, Bartolo Colon or Sergio Mitre are currently in the mix. I wouldn’t bet much dough that any single one of them will have a solid, 30-start season, but I wouldn’t bet against at least one of them being solid. Does that make sense? In my mind it makes sense. It will take a lot of work, monitoring and gambling on Joe Girardi’s part, but if he reads the signs from spring training correctly, plays the hot hand and is eager to use the pen when necessary, any of the four of those guys — or more likely, some combination of them — may work out well.
- Fifth spot: The fifth spot in a rotation is almost always a crap shoot. Even one of the #4 guys who isn’t on-point can cover this competently if need be.
The optimistic spin here: the Yankees rotation is no worse today with Petitte’s retirement than it was yesterday with him not yet committed. The worry: there is no margin for error here. If Burnett has another lost season and if there is an injury to either Hughes or Sabathia, it’s time for a full-blown freakout.
Free agent right-hander Tim Lincecum isn’t ready to hang up his cleats just yet. At least, that’s the word from Lincecum’s agent, Rick Thurman, who says the 32-year-old is still “throwing and getting ready for the season” (via Andrew Baggarly of the San Jose Mercury News).
Lincecum may not be ready to enter retirement, but another quote from Thurman suggests that he’ll be picky about where he pitches next. He doesn’t appear open to pitching overseas, and despite not having a contract for 2017 (or even any serious suitors), the right-hander is set on pitching in the big leagues this year. Whether or not he’s willing to take a bullpen role to do so remains to be seen.
While Baggarly predicts some interest in the veteran righty, there’s not much in Lincecum’s recent history to inspire faith in him as a starter, or even a reliever. He picked up a one-year, $2.5 million contract with the Angels following his hip surgery in 2015, and went 2-6 in 2016 with a 9.16 ERA, 5.4 BB/9 and 7.5 SO/9 over 38 1/3 innings. At this point, a minor league contract seems like the surest path back to major league success, though he’s unlikely to find an open spot on the Giants’ or Angels’ rosters anytime soon.
Free agent right-hander Jeff Manship has reportedly signed with the NC Dinos of the Korea Baseball Organization, according to FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman. The righty was non-tendered by the Indians in December.
Manship, 32, completed his second season with Cleveland in 2016. He delivered a 3.12 ERA, 4.6 BB/9 and 7.5 SO/9 rate over 43 1/3 innings, a slight decline after posting an 0.92 ERA with the club the year before. During eight years in the major leagues, Manship carries a 4.82 career ERA, 3.6 BB/9 and 6.4 SO/9 in multiple stints with the Twins, Rockies, Phillies and Indians.
The right-hander will be joined by fellow MLB transplants Eric Hacker and Xavier Scruggs, each of whom took one-year deals with the Dinos last month. Steve Adams of MLB Trade Rumors notes that each KBO team is allowed up to three foreign players, so Manship will round out the trio when he joins the roster. Any salary terms have yet to be disclosed.