Waiting on the 1 p.m. train to Stamford

pettitte_250_010809.jpgIt doesn’t quite deserve Gladys Knight, does it? While I wait, a few thoughts on Andy Pettitte.

Now, I am in something of a bubble while traveling, so if in the time I compose this dispatch Pettitte has re-signed with the Yankees, joined Joe Torre in Los Angeles, retired in a fit of Cajun pique, decided to discover Japan, or volunteered for the Roger Clemens Memorial Witness Protection Program, forgive me. YES is very generous, but they haven’t yet volunteered to subscribe me to a portable broadband service and I’d feel kind of Oliver Twist-y asking. I mean, I’m the only guy in the company with his own bunker. Sure, Bob Lorenz is a much bigger name than me, but when the blow down storms come, it’s me Bob is going to have to ask for a seat in the safe room. And he’s going to be very disappointed, because my chair sucks compared to his.

Earlier this week, I remarked that the Yankees need to leave a spot in the rotation open for youth. The most obvious candidate for that spot is Phil Hughes, but it could just as easily be taken up by Alfredo Aceves, Ian Kennedy, or a darkhorse candidate like George Kontos. The Yankees need the flexibility that youth generates, because as we’ve seen this winter, we’re entering a new paradigm when it comes to free agent action. The arbitration-based compensation system is dying.

Even the Yankees were reluctant to offer their departing free agents arbitration for fear that they would accept (in retrospect, had they known the Players Association was steering free agents away from accepting such offers, they might have been emboldened to take the chance). Simultaneously, those players who were offered arbitration have seen their possibilities dry up, because the buyers have finally, finally realized, decades into the free agent process, that a team’s chances of developing a decent player for a first-round pick, one that they control for the first six years of his career, are good enough that it’s just not worth forfeiting a pick for a player like Jason Varitek, who is going to come in for a year or two, be a character guy, and then retire.

With the pick you gave up for Varitek, you could have made a conservative draft pick, selecting the proverbial polished college pitcher who is not going to develop much but should safely turn into a solid four-five starter within those same two years. Given what four-five starters cost on the open market, it’s just not worth passing one up for a 35-year-old catcher. There really was a point at which teams did not get this. At one point the Montreal Expos gave up a first-round pick to sign a third-string catcher named Tim Blackwell. You could look it up.

As a result of this, hoarding old guys has less value than ever. It used to be that a departing vet classified as a Type A or Type B free agent would leave a parting gift in the form of a draft pick. Now, with clubs hesitant to buy into the system at both ends, when they depart all the leave is an empty locker. Bobby Abreu is going to play for another few years, but the Yankees will have nothing to show for it but memories of the many fly balls that went over his head.

This makes an Andy Pettitte something of a dead end in the life cycle. Sure, he might help the club to a pennant, but you can make a strong argument that the Yankees are close enough to that already that the marginal wins he provides over a youngster — we have to acknowledge that the big zero that the Yankees received from Kennedy and Hughes last year was an unlikely to be repeated fluke — are not only not worth the money but will also leave the Yankees naked when he finally heads off into retirement. He will have blocked off a youngster for small return, won’t be bringing a draft pick, retirement or no, and so when he’s gone, there’s a vacuum where there should have been the next guy standing ready.

Conversely, if the Yankees invest 20-25 starts in a young fifth starter this year, they might get 30 starts a year for the next five, at prices they control. There’s a lot of value in that achievement and not much risk. This is particularly true because given the team’s depth in young pitchers, they can pull the plug on any failing experiment very quickly. Hughes not working out? Back to the Minors and ring in a new Kennedy administration. Kennedy has a Bay of Pigs? It’s Aceves time. Aceves’s arm falls off? Try Kontos. The point is, at the end of the season you have something you didn’t have before, an additional asset to carry you forward into 2010.

Having written that, I am mere minutes from heading into the YES studios to get my spray-tan. Once again, the show airs at 6:30 p.m., and I’ll be checking through your comments for juicy tidbits with which to wow Bob and the gang. See you in the bunker. 


  1. captainjohnd@aol.com

    Couldn’t agree with you more, ten million for Andy would be way to much for a possible 500 pitcher, who probably will not stay healthy all year.

  2. gstack

    andy is buggin out out….he wants 16 million ….hahaha….he doesn’t deserve it…he went 14-14 last year…..he should be happy that the yankees are givin him 10 million…..but we dont need the old arms…..we got strong young arms..but i think the yanks should upgrade there bullpen

  3. jlevy1112@gmail.com

    It’s a tough call. I love Pettitte as a player, he’s durable and will give you around 200 innings, but he is in the decline of his career.

    I’d really like to see one of the Yankee’s young pitchers get a chance. If Pettitte really doesn’t want to come back I think the Yankees need to take the risk on a young pitcher. I was impressed by Aceves’ pitching at the end of last season. If Hughes lives up to his former hype the Yanks could have a great pitcher.

  4. urbanshawk

    I must confess that I had been holding out hope that Andy would be in the 09 rotation.
    But after reading that he is upset that the Yankees ONLY offered him ten million dollars to comeback this morning, I’m ready to say ‘thanks for the memories, Andy’.
    Call me sentimental, but I would’ve liked to see him retire as a Yankee.
    But now, because he’s insulted at the idea of getting a pay cut after the whole Mitchell report conundrum and the way he just stunk down the stretch last season, it appears that he’s either going to retire or sign with another team.
    What a bad way to go out.

  5. salcipriano@yahoo.com

    I completely agree in this particular case because I’d like a Phil Hughes type to try out, but the scary thing about this Hot Stove is that the vets are being shown no love, and this may lead to many an early retirement. It’s wrong to think that a Bobby Abreu has not found a job yet. I hope this trend is mostly due to the economy, and nothing more, or else baseball is going to be a much different looking sport in years to come.

  6. college7

    I agree with you. The yankees were more than nice enough to offer Andy Pettite the 10 million dollars he deserves. If he doesn’t want to take it then so be it, i’ll go to war with Hughes as my 5th starter. Hey Andy! Go sign with the Dodgers and try and get your 16 million you wish for. I wish for a lot of things too, bite the bullet and take the generous offer you received.

  7. lilnyygirl

    It never hurts to have insurance. As the Yankees have shown year after year, you can never have enough pitching. But I do agree. There comes a point where it is time for them to let a player ride off into the sunset and use the talent that they have.
    They Yankees will have Joba in the rotation for sure, but under an innings cap. With all of the bullpen-to-rotation-to-bullpen stuff, they have effectively babied him into a hindering factor in that he will not be able to pull of 30 starts for the team if he is healthy for the entire year. It’s time to take off the training wheels and let their kids go (within reason, of course).

    Hughes and Kennedy still have tons of promise, and the Yankees should allow them to learn in the majors, since they don’t have much left to prove in the minors. Aceves is one of their other options, as are Wright, Coke, Kontos, etc. They have to decide if 10 mill per year on a pitcher past his prime is worth the innings vs. the cost-effective innings that kids could also provide. To me, it looks like Pettitte overplayed his hand, especially after he originally stated that money would not be a factor.

  8. dachshund4

    Thanks for the memories Andy. Don’t let the door hit you on the way out. His agents are stirring him wrong. He will always be remembered as a Yankee but turning down $10M is ridiculous. I believe that Aceves or Hughes will do fine as #5 with Aceves having the slight edge. That is what spring training is about.

  9. beneffect

    It seems that since the Yankees have already spent a huge sum on their top two pitchers, spending another $10 million for another pitcher is chump change. But it also does not make much sense for the ball club. This team has two experienced players fronting the rotation with a solid core in Wang. Getting a little risky and putting a young guy in the 5 slot does not seem like a bad move at all to me. It makes the most sense economically, shows the young guys that the team has faith in them, and sets the team up for the future.


  10. gatoo5@aol.com

    While I’m not opposed to putting Joba back in the bullpen, I think it would be a repeat of last year to trust BOTH Hughes and Kennedy. I wouldn’t mind seeing one of them being given a chance, but would be too risky to have both of them in the starting rotation.

    As for not signing Pettite, I do think it would be a good idea to sign him or someone else (Sheets or Wolf?) for insurance, because you can’t assume that everyone will stay healthy. If they do, then chances are you’ll see the Yanks in the postseason. But if one of their starters were to go down, which is likely to happen, then you would simply move Hughes or someone else in their slot.

  11. petitte1

    I want Andy back. I think it’s his Agents that are holding out. Remember Mussina, he had a bad year and then last year, he was great. You all seem to forget that Andy has had TWO 21 win seasons while Mussina just had his first 20 win season. Most of the games he started, the Yankees did hit at all. There were so many games that should have been won but pitching is only one aspect of the game, you have to hit too. We need Andy, especially as a 5th starter. If someone gets hurt, you can bring up the younger guys for a few games. At least one more year for Andy. He’s a great pitcher and a great NY Yankee. When you look at most of the good games on YES Classics, it’s ones Andy has pitched. He still can pitch and we need him.

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