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With Pettitte on Board, One Last Piece to Go

by Tom Phillips

This weekend Andy Pettitte became just the latest pitcher to fall prey to the slumping free agent market, signing a $5.5 million guaranteed contract with up to $6.5 million in incentives. A good deal for the Yankees, who now have their 5th starter, not such a good deal for Pettitte, who earlier this off-season passed up a $10 million guaranteed contract. He should still get there, but we see another example of a player who should have taken the money on the table earlier in the off-season.

The signing of Pettitte is a strong play for the club, who could have merely plugged in a Phil Hughes or Alfredo Aceves into the 5th spot of the rotation. Make no mistake, we're sure to see both those players starting games at some point during the year, as pitching rotations, especially the Yankee's, are all injury prone, but now the Yanks can boast an eight or nine starter depth at the position. There should be no fear in New York of seeing Kei Igawa or a Sidney Ponson trotting out to the mound this season.

The Pettitte signing also gives the Yanks more flexibility to fill the final gap on the roster, back-up catcher. Let's face it, no one will know until April or May whether Jorge Posada will respond favorably to his shoulder surgery. This leaves a major question mark in the Yankees lineup. Most teams would be able to get by with Jose Molina as a defensive specialist behind the plate, but we're talking about the richest team in baseball. Why should they have to settle for anything less than a top offensive and defensive backup? Not to mention that Posada's contract will be up in two years and 37 year old catchers do not have the greatest history of durability.

There's a team in the Majors that matches up well with the Yanks in the catching area, the Texas Rangers. They currently boast three of the top catching prospects in the Majors, in Jarod Saltalamachia, Taylor Teagarden, and Max Ramirez. They obviously can't play all three of them, and Salty's eventual move to 1B or DH is still several years away. Wouldn't it behoove the Yanks to make a play for one of these rising stars prior to spring training?

The Yanks have a surplus of pieces to deal, and could build a package around Xavier Nady and Ian Kennedy, two players that could make an instant impact in Texas. With the Rangers losing Eric Hurley to season ending shoulder surgery and the questions surrounding Hank Blalock and his position on the diamond, this package or something similar could entice the Rangers into making a deal for one of their surplus catchers. It behooves the Yanks to start planning now for life after Jorge, even if they plan on making an expensive push for Joe Mauer in the off-season of 2010.

It would be nice to get this final hole in the lineup filled before opening day.

2 comments:

  1. Currently, the Yankees starting centerfielder is a platoon of Brett Gardner and Melky Cabrera and you think they should focus on backup catcher??? Playing centerfield for the Yankees is one of the most prestigious positions in all of sports and we currently have 2 guys that, arguably, should not even be on a MLB roster as our starters - and you think the final piece is back up catcher? I don’t get this article at all…….

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  2. The above center field analysis is off a bit. Currently the Yanks are looking at any combination of Johnny Damon, Nick Swisher, Brett Gardener, and Melky Cabrerra in centerfield. Damon has a weak arm, Swisher is limited by range, and Gardner and Cabrerra are offensive liabilities.

    The combination of the 4 in a platoon solves the limitations of any one of those players, and running Damon and Swisher out to center 150 games combined wont dramatically affect the defense. If you remember correctly, the Yanks got by for over ten years with a poor armed center-fielder partolling that prestigious position. They've gotten by the last 3-4 years with Damon and Cabrerra, they'll get by this season with the platoon.

    Currently, if Jorge goes down, the Yanks will be stuck with 120+ games of Jose Molina in the lineup, and we all know how that turned out after his hot start last year. Backup catcher is a far more pressing issue with a 37 year old starter coming off shoulder surgery than some defensive issues in the outfiled.

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