Dumpster Diving: Rotation Depth

Colon proved that someone can contribute following obscurity.
Colon proved that someone can contribute following obscurity.

We are just three weeks away from pitchers and catchers, which means this underwhelming offseason will mercifully be coming to an end. There are loose ends to tie, however. I wrote about some right-handed DH/Bench bats recently, but all is quiet on that front. Furthermore, the Yankees may still consider adding depth to the rotation.

No rotation is insusceptible to injury risk, which makes it important to have relatively reliable 6th and 7th starters. For the Yankees, we already know that one of Ivan Nova or David Phelps will become the 6th man, as Chris mentioned the other day. However, as currently constituted, Adam Warren slates as 7th. Although we’re picking at trivial details here, the Yankees could still conceivably upgrade. Besides, what else do we have to write about regarding new additions?

Warren has logged over 300 effective innings the past two seasons at AAA and probably cannot accomplish much more at that level, but would Yankees fans really want to see him making, say, 10 starts if all hell broke loose? Moreover, can we really trust Michael Pineda to return healthy and/or effective midseason?

Last year, the Yankees had 7 guys make at least 11 starts. With aging vets like Andy Pettitte and Hiroki Kuroda, plus CC Sabathia‘s accumulating workload, who knows what we’re in for in 2013. The club could even get blindsided by a Pineda-esque injury at any time.

Here are the remaining unsigned free agent starters, per MLB Trade Rumors Free Agent Tracker.

While the list is populated with some washed up big names and other seemingly useful pitchers, a good portion of this list had some sort of significant injury during 2012. In fact, the only guys healthy at the end of the season were Carlos Zambrano, Kip Wells, Joe Saunders, Roy Oswalt, Jamie Moyer, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Shaun Marcum, Derek Lowe, Kyle Lohse, Jair Jurrjens, and Freddy Garcia.

We must shrink this list further, however, considering Saunders, Marcum, and Lohse are all sure to get major league deals. Moyer and Matsuzaka can also be cut out due to age and/or ineffectiveness. Wells was pretty bad in limited action this year, hadn’t pitched since 2009, and probably is no better than Warren, so let’s scratch him off as well. Let’s also cut Garcia; he received some interest from other clubs back in December. Finally, Oswalt was bad last year, plus he wants to pitch on his own terms (a half season). That doesn’t provide the Yankees with a safety net, so let’s strike him from the list. That leaves us with Zambrano, Lowe, and Jurrjens. [UPDATE, 1/24: Jurrjens signs with Baltimore – I’m mildly surprised he got a major league deal]

Those three all have their flaws, whether it be personal baggage, ineffectiveness, health issues, or decline. Could they all be had on minor league deals? At this point, it seems like it. The thing is, guys signed for rotational depth often have underlying issues. Case in point: Bartolo Colon in 2011, who was out of baseball in 2010 and really hadn’t been effective in recent years prior. It’s really hard to figure out who the Yankees might be interested in for starting depth (or at any position this winter), considering pitchers like Colon have come out of nowhere in the past. Even though I eliminated the player who finished 2012 on the disabled list, Cashman could decide to take a flier on one or more of them.

The good news is that Cashman knows he’ll have a solid pitcher in the 6th slot already. After that, things get tricky. It’s certainly a luxury for most organizations to have 7 starters, but it’s something the Yankees require given the rotation’s age and workload. Sure, things could go favorably for the Yankees: Nova and Phelps have big spring trainings making it difficult to select the 5th starter, CC and Kuroda stay healthy all year, Pettitte makes 20-25 starts, Hughes picks up where he left off in 2012, and Pineda rejoins the club and meets his billing. Realistically, we know that’s not happening, which is why some extra help at the back end wouldn’t hurt.

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