Well, that news certainly changes the urgency of the second half of this analysis.
All of the sudden losing two out of three, or even all three of the free agents doesn't seem impossible.
Improbably, but not impossible.
So how well would our young pitchers need to perform to fill that void?
Well, let's start with the basics. There's no convenient listing of Win Shares on the web, and there's no WARP for pitchers.
Value Over Replacement Player (VORP) is the best we can do, so I'm going to ask you to trust me that 10 VORP is roughly equal to one win better than the average quad-A player over the course of an entire season.
For pitchers, replacement level is one run-allowed (as opposed to ERA) higher than league average.
So assume that Pettitte will be back and give us the 3.7 wins (above replacement) that he was worth this year.
Let's start with the easy guys. Karstens, Henn, Ramirez, Brower, Igawa, Bean, DeSalvo, Wright, and Clippard combined for a negative 3.9 wins. Karstens and Henn account for nearly half of this on their own.
This isn't to say that those guys can't pitch for us in 2008, but they certainly can't pitch the way they did and in the roles they did.
A big part of that negative VORP is contingent on those injuries that plagued the team early in the season. We'll still have pitchers pitching below league average, just not for as long.
If Wang makes another 4 starts next year he moves from being worth 4.8 wins to 5.6 wins.
It's not much, but it's a start. Our team expects to win 84 games.
Phil Hughes started 13 games this season and was worth just under a win above replacement on his own. So if he can make 34 starts and pitch just a little bit better than he did, he should easily be worth an extra 2 wins in 2008.
So we're back to 86 wins.
Roger Clemens was worth 1.4 wins in his 17 starts. But he only pitched part of the season, so I'm going to match him up with Kei Igawa (-0.3 wins in 12 starts) and Tyler Clippard (-0.1 in 6 starts). That's 1 win above replacement in 35 starts.
Am I wrong to think that Ian Kennedy could give us 3 wins in 2008? That would be roughly what Jered Weaver gave the Angels in his 28 starts this year: 161IP, a 4.30 ERA, and a 1.38 WHIP.
That would get us back up to 88 wins.
Now the wild card: Joba Chamberlain. Obviously, it'd be wonderful if he could turn his 1.4 wins in 24IP into 8.8 in 150 IP because that would solve the whole problem.
Frankly, that's not going to happen.
So what should we expect?
I'm expecting the world from Joba: check out Scott Shields' 2003 (148IP, 2.85ERA, 1.16WHIP). Because Joba will have an innings cap around that total, I'm pencilling him in for 20 starts and the rest of his innings in relief. Those are Rookie of the Year numbers, and 3 more wins than he contributed this year.
91 wins. Now we're getting somewhere.
Which brings us to the fifth starter:
Mr. Michael Cole Mussina.
Moose's 152IP were only worth a single win above what a replacement player would have given the Yankees in 2007. That's reason one to find a way to trade Moose.
If we can get 148 starts (assuming some injury) from Pettitte, Wang, IPK, Hughes, and Joba that leaves only 14 spot starts. That's reason number two.
I think Sanchez, Horne, White and whomever else could be as effective as Moose. I could argue for an additional win here (over the likes of DeSalvo and Chase Wright), but let's call it a push.
I'm going to agree with Jeff Sackman that if the Yanks don't resign Mariano, they've got to go get an experienced guy like Francisco Cordero.
It's not Cordero's statistical value that I'm looking at here, it's the experience value/cost that will keep him in the closer's role the first time he blows a save and the baseball world calls for Joba to switch to the bullpen.
He was worth half a win less than Mo in 2007, but hopefully the other changes to the pen will make up for that.
Who's going to replace the Viz? (And for the record, I would not bring him back for more than the $3 million he made this year).
Our own Ross Ohlendorf. He pitched well enough to make the postseason roster (he stunk once he got there, but his minor league numbers suggest that performance is the outlier). He's got that mid-90s sinker and he works quickly, so it'll be like bringing Wang out of the bullpen to earn Viz's 1.2 wins.
Scott Proctor and Mike Myers were worth 2 wins combined, 90IP between them. I'm going to look to the big boys to eat those innings: Humberto Sanchez and Chris Britton (oh snap, I went there).
The last major piece to fill are the 90 innings thrown by Brian Bruney and Ron Villone. Should be easy to improve on, right? Not so fast- since VORP doesn't count inherited runners allowed to score against relievers those two managed to be worth 1.4 wins in 2007. This is where Edwar and JB Cox finally fit into the picture.
Cox pitched in AA before his surgery. He might not break camp with the team, but I expect him to work his way onto the roster.
I went to considerable lengths to document how usage effected Edwar's performance (both who pitched before him and how often he pitched in a month). I think a 50 inning role would maximize his skills. (Edwar going from -0.5 wins to +0.62 wins would neutralize the difference between Mo and Cordero).
I think the 2008 bullpen will be at least one win better than the 2007 pen because the fillers like Melancon, Sanchez, and Whelan are a definite improvement over Colter Bean, Jim Brower, and Jeff Karstens.
That gets us to 92 wins.
I'd like to think that Sean Henn's could improve on his -0.8 wins in 28 relief appearances, but I'm not sure that'll happen. So if I'm Cashman, signing J.C. Romero becomes a priority. The difference between Henn and Romero? In the same 36 innings, Romero was worth 2 wins more than Henn!
Well, well. 94 wins without free agents 1A, 1B, or 1C.
But my goal was 95 wins, and we're still one short...
Well, I don't know how to guarantee that. Hope that Abreu rebounds, Cano continues improving, or that we get more than 1.8 wins out of Jason Giambi (he's only contributed fewer than 4.9 wins to his team in 2004 and 2007, both injury seasons).
However you slice it, I think the Yankees can contend in 2008 without Arod, Jorge, or Mo- but it won't be easy. We'd have to replace them with the best available free agent options (Lowell, Torrealba, and Cordero, plus JC Romero) and get good (but not great) performances from all the young guns.
Obviously, things get easier by bringing back any of the free agents.
What do you think?