So Cliff Lee is a Phillie... now what?


In an effort to continue this ridiculous tradition, I've decided as a jilted Yankee fan (who is teetering on the edge of over-reacting) to look at some possible Plan B's and C's since it's only imperative that we get our rotation into fighting AL East shape... right?

1. Those Damn Red Sox

When the BoSox announced the trade of 1B Adrian Gonzalez for three solid prospects and the signing of Carl Crawford, it became vital that the Yankees counter this move by acquiring Cliff Lee who could help neutralize some the Red Sox's new left-handed hitting toys.  Of course, going six or seven years for a pitcher established on the wrong side of 30 is a gamble but... screw it, we'll worry about that in 2013 and beyond.

It was also learned that the BoSox were the "Mystery Team" behind getting the Yankees to blink on seven years.  Of course, the Red Sox were never serious about signing Lee but it did make for great drama, nonetheless. 

2. The 2011 Yankee Rotation - as it currently stands...

CC Sabathia

Phil Hughes

A.J. Burnett

Ivan Nova

Sergio Mitre

That, my friends, is a pretty good rotation if we were in - say, the NL Central:

I know that Sabathia is coming off minor knee surgery but he is still expected to be above average; Hughes is developing well according to schedule, however his pitch location can be a bit nauseating - but he is 24, so let's give him some time.

Burnett, obviously he is key but his antics of being high-maintenance combined with sloppy command and questionable mental focus is definitely wearing on us Yankee fans.  His contract certainly makes the man untradeable and the lack of MLB capable starters on next season's team gives us no choice but to plug him in the #3 spot.

At the bottom, we have a couple of contact pitchers who excell at inducing groundballs without doing anything flashy.  Both Ivan Nova and Sergio Mitre do have value based on their above average command but their pitch-to-contact style doesn't seem like a perfect fit since the Yankees have been content with fielding an average to below average defensive team over the years.

in other words, this rotation needs a solid #2 starter, minimum.

3. Andy Pettite

At this stage, his return is absolutely necessary but his days of notching 200 innings seems to be in the past. In June Pettite will turn 39 years old and if he agrees to return then 175 innings could be his ceiling.

Last year at this time, Pettite was signed after being on the fence about retirement... not a good sign.

4. Plan B (the trade market)

Last week it looked as though the Cliff Lee sweepstakes came down to two finalists: Yankees and Rangers with Zack Greinke as the losing team's fallback option.

Based on a few analysts, the Rangers looked like a good fit for Greinke and the Royals.  But with the Royals looking for two "can't miss" prospects including one as a middle infielder, talks broke down.  Recently, the Yankees have came out and said they wouldn't be "actively pursuing" Greinke and may instead focus on bolstering their bullpen?

Looking over the current Yankee rotation it will be necessary for them to have some capable long-inning arms out of the pen especially with Afredo Aceves coming in 2011 as a major question mark but even with eight solid pitchers in the pen, that still won't hide the fact that we will be entering a long season with three of our five starter having serious question marks

Possible targets:

Josh Johnson - some fan posts have called for the Yanks to trade off a good portion of our farm for him.  He will be 27 and is a legitimate top of the rotation pitcher.  According to Cot's, he did sign a four-year extension that expires after the 2013 season.  The contract based on the number of years and money owed would be very team friendly to the Yankees.  Last season, the Rangers did inquire about Johnson but was told he was "unmovable." 

Ricky Nolasco - was briefly mentioned to be on the Yankees radar during last season's trade deadline.  Nolasco is still eligible for arbitration this offseason and next.  Nolasco does come with a lot of promise but he still hasn't shown us that he is certified top of the rotation material.  The Marlins are gauging interest in Nolasco but their is one wrinkle: he did undergo surgery in September to repair torn meniscus in his knee.  The surgery was deemed successful but I'm sure the Yanks would like to perform their own tests before prospects are mentioned.

Felix Hernandez - as much as us Yankee fans like to dream, this is not happening... but what if we get desperate you ask?  Maybe, if we trade Betances, Banuelos, Brackman, Montero and throw in Joba they may listen... but that would be ridiculous and too high of a cost and I'm still not sure if the M's would agree.  King Felix is at his highest selling point, enough said.

Wandy Rodriguez - could be a one season rental so the trade package could be brought down to Earth a bit.  He did have a slow start last season and that did hurt his perceived value but he is solid in terms of periphs and has a healthy groundball rate along with one of the better curveballs in the game... think of him more as A.J. Burnett but younger and with better command.  He would be interesting to gauge.

Brett Myers - this is the pitcher Houston would love to move (although I do suspect that GM Ed Wade has a slight mancrush on him).  Last season, he figured out how to keep the ball in the park and suddenly his numbers greatly improve.  The jury is still out if he can recreate that and career-wise he can hold his own against left-handed hitters with his curve that serves as his off-speed weapon.  He is owed $20 million over the next two seasons which will also help in terms of what the Astros can reasonably demand.

Derek Lowe - another expensive piece that the Braves have wanted to move for a few seasons.  Solid groundball pitcher who will be 38 in June... a bit pricey for a #3 or 4 but we wouldn't have to give up the farm for him.

Johnny Cueto/Edinson Volquez - Cueto would be a bit of a "sell high" at this point but he is intriguing in terms of where his ceiling exactly is - last season we saw him flash an above average cutter along with improvements to his change.  Cueto can be a bit long-ball prone but his numbers seem average compared to other Cincy starters.  Cueto does have better command and a little more polish than Volquez but in terms of stuff and higher ceiling, Volquez does have Cueto beat.  Another opportunity for the Yankees to gauge and since the Reds do have a glut of starters they could be open to talks but the talent coming back would have to be MLB ready and I think Monetero is too expensive and Gardner and others wouldn't enough.

Matt Garza - forget it, say what you want about FIP but his consistent discrepancies combined with his high flyball tendencies and shrinking K rate should be a cause for alarm... no wonder the Rays are dying to move him and if an interdivisional trade would hapen it would be too costly and do us no good.  Move on.

5. Plan C (free agency)

Sitting at the top of this pack is Carl Pavano.  What a sad twist of irony that would be if we signed him to another slightly more expensive four-year contract.  I wonder if he would be willing to "go to war for Joe Girardi" this time.  Pass.

Jeff Francis - after losing out to Cliff Lee it would take quite an adjustment to then settle for a low profile pitcher like Francis.  One season removed from TJ, Francis was effective in 104 innings despite a disasterous ERA aided by a high BABIP last season.  He does have solid command and does change his speeds very well but essentially Francis is an 87 mph fastball pitcher who likes to pound the strikezone.  Good in some situations but very bad in others.

Brandon Webb - will he pitch?  Everyone thought he was ready last season when the Dbacks picked up his option.  Shoulder injuries can be devastating and with the Nationals willing to gamble on Webb's right arm there shouldn't be too much competition for his services... but if he is unsure during Spring Training then we are back to square one.  He would be a nice buy-low option but we need sure things at this point.

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