November 30, 2006 -- The Yankees have talked to the representative for Andy Pettitte and Roger Clemens and are in the same holding pattern other teams find themselves in regarding the free-agent hurlers.
Do Pettitte and Clemens want to continue to pitch next year? If so, are they going to stay in Houston? Or, could they return to The Bronx as an entry or solo?
Can the Yankees, with question marks in their rotation, wait until the end of December for Pettitte's decision to hurl or retire? And where does Clemens fit into the equation?
Those are the dilemmas facing Yankee GM Brian Cashman as he prepares for the winter meetings next week in Orlando.
"We have talked to the Yankees about [Pettitte and Clemens]," agent Randy Hendricks told The Post via e-mail yesterday. "We have also talked to other teams as well. No decision has been made, but I expect one to be made before Christmas by Andy. Who knows about Roger?"
At Joe Torre's "Safe At Home Foundation" dinner in November, Pettitte told friends a return to The Bronx was an option. The Yankees would love to add his professionalism and proven success in New York to a rotation that at the moment is fronted by Chien-Ming Wang and soon-to-be 38-year-old Mike Mussina.
It also houses 43-year-old Randy Johnson coming off back surgery; Carl Pavano, who hasn't pitched since June 2005; and likely Kei Igawa, a unproven 27-year-old lefty from Japan, once he signs.
Is the dialogue between teams and Hendricks an indication Pettitte, 34, and Clemens, 44, are going to pitch next year? Or is the agent simply keeping all arteries open?
"I wouldn't say," Cashman said when asked about the nature of his talks with Hendricks.
While the Yankees have serious eyes for Pettitte, a Yankee from 1995 to 2003 when he went 149-78, they are interested in Clemens coming back with Pettitte. It remains to be seen if the Yankees would allow Clemens to come and go as he did with Houston for family activities, and it's not known if Clemens will be ready at the beginning of the season if he decides to pitch.
Pettitte was 14-13 with a 4.20 ERA a year ago. It was the lefty's highest ERA since a 4.35 mark in 2000. Pettitte's career mark is 186-104. Clemens, who didn't start pitching until late June, was 7-6 with a 2.30 ERA. He is 348-178 in his Hall of Fame career.
The Yankees' lukewarm interest in Gil Meche and Ted Lilly, both of whom will command in the $9 million to $10 million per season range, is a reflection of the Yankees' interest in Pettitte. While the feeling is that the Yankees are going to sit out the Barry Zito Derby, they will monitor it closely to see how it shakes out.
Where the Yankees used to set the market for free agents, now they read and react. It's the way they landed Johnny Damon a year ago.
Should Pettitte and Clemens split Houston, the Yankees are waiting with open arms for two pitchers who aren't young and will cost plenty of money but are proven winners in New York and would immediately fill the holes in the rotation. The question is this: how long can the Yankees wait for arms that may never be available?
In this man's humble opinion, I would not have a problem with the Yanks waiting to see what happens with Pettitte and then Clemens given the current free-agent market and the lack of options currently available.
Due to the ridiculous money that is going to be thrown at the marginal pitching talent on the market, I would much rather wait and see what Pettitte and Clemens is going to do and invest their money much more wisely and more of a short-term commitment.
Neither of these guys are going to sign a long-term deal, so either of them would be a much better option and a very good and temporary stop-gap for this rotation until there are other options next season via free-agency or until the youngsters like Hughes, Sanchez, Karstens, Rasner, and Clippard have more time to develop and get their shots at the rotation.
I would never have suggested such a thing at the end of 2006 after the Yanks lost to the Tigers, but they have since lost the bidding rights of Matsuzaka to their arch rival and they just made a ridiculous bid to obtain the services to a back of the rotation guy at best like Igawa. Simply put, I don't see any other options available that make any sense at all.
Of course, the toughest part is going to be persuading them into coming back to NY, but I believe Cashman should do whatever he can to get either of them back in pinstripes for next season, even if they have to wait until June or July in order to obtain Clemens.
Again, neither of these guys are going to be long-term solutions for the rotation and I would sign one or the other - not both. Wouldn't Yankee fans rather see this team invest in Pettitte or Clemens in the short-term and wait to see what options they have around the trade-deadline, than invest and overpay for guys like Lilly or Meche and subsequently forced to commit 3 years or more for their services?
I am perfectly content with letting Karstens, Rasner, Sanchez, and eventually Hughes get their shots at the rotation next season if Clemens or Pettitte doesn't want to come back and see what options are available at the trade-deadline if they need to make a move to improve the rotation for the stretch run and postseason.