What Andy Pettitte’s comeback means for the New York Yankees

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Still reeling from the news that Andy Pettitte is coming back.  He sat in that press conference a little over a year ago and made a pretty convincing case that he was done.  I suppose they all do. And so many of them come back.

Which is fine. Because if you had the talent to do something that so many have described as the most magical wonderful experience in their lives — playing major league baseball — you’d hold on to it with all of your might.  So, no, there will not be any criticism of Andy Pettitte’s reversal from this quarter.  Good for him and God bless him.

So, with that out of the way, what does this all mean for the New York Yankees, who now have seven starting pitchers?

At first, probably nothing.  Pettitte is reported to have thrown some bullpens over the winter and he’s generally in shape, but it will take him a little time to get up to baseball speed.  He’ll likely take the rest of spring training to get back to major league shape and it would not be at all surprising to see him begin the year in extended spring training down in Tampa.

Oh, and after he gets in shape, one wonders if they’ll hold him beyond mid-to-late April. That’s when the Roger Clemens trial starts, and Pettitte is expected to be a witness.  Maybe no one with the Yankees cares about this, but I would think that it might be easier for all involved if he makes his big league return after that than before.

But when he does come back, who is the odd man out in New York?  My guess: Freddy Garcia.

At the moment, the fifth starter’s job is down to Garcia and Phil Hughes.  Hughes has worked from the pen before, however, and Garcia is just not suited for it according to most folks.  So the Yankees break camp with Garcia in the five slot and Hughes in relief.

But once Pettitte is ready, Garcia has no place. They could attempt to keep him around as a long man.  Or they could try to trade him. And assuming he gets one or two halfway decent starts under his belt before then, there may very well be a market for him.  But they could also simply DFA him and see if he’ll accept a trip to Scranton.  Doubtful he would, but worth a shot.

The upshot is that, assuming Pettitte is good to go, the rotation for most of the season should look like this:  Sabathia, Kuroda, Nova, Pineda and Pettitte, with Garcia finding new employment.

Oh, one final question: how will Andy Pettitte actually, you know, do?

I think he’ll do pretty well.  His last year, 2010, was his best since 2005.  His strikeout rate (7.0 per 9 IP) was higher than his career average. His hits per nine innings (8.6) was lower than his career norms too.  His walk rate was right where it always is at 2.9 BB per 9 IP.

Yes, he’s two years older and yes he’s coming off a layoff, but even if you adjust down for that, Pettitte figures to be no worse than an average starter, and likely somewhat above average.  Which is not a bad pickup for $2.5 million.

Texas Rangers ink free-agent ace Jacob deGrom to 5-year deal

Jacob deGrom
USA Today
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ARLINGTON, Texas — Jacob deGrom is headed to the free-spending Texas Rangers, who believe the health risk is worth the potential reward in trying to end a six-year run of losing.

The two-time Cy Young Award winner agreed to a $185 million, five-year contract Friday, leaving the New York Mets after nine seasons – the past two shortened substantially by injuries.

“We acknowledge the risk, but we also acknowledge that in order to get great players, there is a risk and a cost associated with that,” Rangers general manager Chris Young said. “And one we feel like is worth taking with a player of Jacob’s caliber.”

Texas announced the signing after the 34-year-old deGrom passed his physical. A person with direct knowledge of the deal disclosed the financial terms to The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the club did not announce those details.

The Rangers were also big spenders in free agency last offseason, signing shortstop Corey Seager ($325 million, 10 years) and second baseman Marcus Semien ($175 million, seven years).

The team said deGrom will be introduced in a news conference at Globe Life Field next week following the winter meetings in San Diego.

“It fits in so many ways in terms of what we need,” Young said. “He’s a tremendous person. I have a number of close friends and teammates who played with Jacob and love him. I think he’s going to be just a perfect fit for our clubhouse and our fans.”

Texas had modest expectations after adding Seager, Semien and starter Jon Gray ($56 million, four years) last offseason but still fell short of them.

The Rangers went 68-94, firing manager Chris Woodward during the season, and then hired Bruce Bochy, a three-time World Series champion with San Francisco. Texas’ six straight losing seasons are its worst skid since the franchise moved from Washington in 1972.

Rangers owner Ray Davis said the club wouldn’t hesitate to keep adding payroll. Including the $19.65 million qualifying offer accepted by Martin Perez, the team’s best pitcher last season, the Rangers have spent nearly $761 million in free agency over the past year.

“I hate losing, but I think there’s one person in our organization who hates losing worse than me, and I think it’s Ray Davis,” Young said. “He’s tired of losing. I’m tired of losing. Our organization is tired of losing.”

After making his first start in early August last season, deGrom went 5-4 with a 3.08 ERA in 11 outings. He helped the Mets reach the playoffs, then passed up a $30.5 million salary for 2023 and opted out of his contract to become a free agent for the first time.

That ended his deal with the Mets at $107 million over four years, and deGrom rejected their $19.65 million qualifying offer in November. New York will receive draft-pick compensation for losing him.

The fan favorite becomes the latest in a long line of ace pitchers to leave the Mets for one reason or another, including Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver, Dwight Gooden and David Cone.

The Rangers visit Citi Field from Aug. 28-30.

When healthy, deGrom is perhaps baseball’s most dominant pitcher. His 2.52 career ERA ranks third in the expansion era (since 1961) behind Los Angeles Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw (2.48) and Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax (2.19) among those with at least 200 starts.

The right-hander is 4-1 with a 2.90 ERA in five career postseason starts, including a win over San Diego in the wild-card round this year that extended the Mets’ season. New York was eliminated the next night.

A four-time All-Star and the 2014 NL Rookie of the Year, deGrom was a ninth-round draft pick by the Mets in 2010 out of Stetson, where he played shortstop before moving to the mound. He was slowed by Tommy John surgery early in his career and didn’t reach the majors until age 26.

Once he arrived, though, he blossomed. He helped the Mets reach the 2015 World Series and earn a 2016 playoff berth before winning consecutive NL Cy Young Awards in 2018 and 2019.

But injuries to his elbow, forearm and shoulder blade have limited him to 26 starts over the past two seasons. He compiled a career-low 1.08 ERA over 92 innings in 2021, but did not pitch after July 7 that year because of arm trouble.

DeGrom is 82-57 with 1,607 strikeouts in 1,326 innings over nine big league seasons. He gets $30 million next year, $40 million in 2024 and 2025, $38 million in 2026 and $37 million in 2027. The deal includes a conditional option for 2028 with no guaranteed money.

The addition of deGrom gives the Rangers three proven starters along with Gray and Perez, who went 12-8 with a career-best 2.89 ERA in his return to the team that signed him as a teenager out of Venezuela. Young didn’t rule out the addition of another starter.

With several holes on their starting staff, the Mets have shown interest in free agents Justin Verlander and Carlos Rodon to pair with 38-year-old Max Scherzer atop the rotation.

Now, with deGrom gone, signing one of those two could become a much bigger priority.