The Yankees are suddenly being very picky when it comes to filling out their starting rotation. Supposedly it's Masahiro Tanaka or bust, leaving Ubaldo Jimenez, Matt Garza and Ervin Santana to look towards the 29 other teams for contracts. Now I'll believe it when I see it, but the team seems intent on allowing two from their group of young starters to fill out the rest of the rotation if they lose the bidding on the star Japanese import. This would be mostly a positive change from years past when the team would continually trot out ineffective veterans rather than give their young hurlers a chance. But with some injury concerns and/or small samples of major league work in play, it might serve the Yankees to bring in a veteran to shore up the backend just in case. Here are some of those lesser (i.e. cheaper) vets still available not named Bronson Arroyo.
2013: 139.1 IP, 0.7 fWAR, 6.2 K/9, 3.1 BB/9, 1.42 HR/9, 4.97 ERA, 4.93 FIP
Hammel is young at 31, so of the vets on this list he may be most likely to receive more than a one-year deal, but he could still very well be worth it. His '13 campaign was nothing special and his home runs allowed were up, but he was worth 2.6 fWAR in only 111 innings in 2012 and is a good candidate for a bounceback season. The Yankees would be smart to keep an eye on him as the bidding for the big pitchers gets underway.
2013: 105.2 IP, 1.0 fWAR, 6.82 K/9, 2.04 BB/9, 0.94 HR/9, 4.26 ERA, 3.55 FIP
Capuano is 35 and unremarkable, but he's generated at least 1.0 fWAR six of his last seven seasons. He's suffered from injury problems in the past but pitched well when when the Dodgers called upon him last year, and his FIP shows that with a more normalized BABIP he could be better in 2014.
(I kid, I kid)
2013: 153 IP, 0.7 fWAR, 6.15 K/9, 2.76 BB/9, 1.00 HR/9, 4.41 ERA, 4.24 FIP
Maholm is 31 like Hammel and coming off a bit of a down year with the Braves, as he had managed to have an ERA under 3.7 in his prior two seasons. A career HR/9 rate of 0.85 would be a lovely presence in Yankee Stadium.
As you'll notice, these pitchers are all pretty similar. They're strike throwers with average stuff, but that can be pretty useful when you're looking at a fourth or (hopefully) fifth starter. It also helps to keep their asking price down. Obviously I would prefer if guys like David Phelps and Michael Pineda are the ones who break camp as the Yankees starters, but it can never hurt to pick up a veteran on the cheap just in case of the worst case scenarios. It can provide insurance while not blocking the youngsters for any significant period of time.