I’ve gotten a lot of emails from people asking about who the Yankees might turn to if they don’t sign Cliff Lee as their big offseason pitching acquisition and the short answer is “no one nearly as good.”
This free agent class isn’t particularly compelling overall and when you look at the starting pitchers available it’s particularly underwhelming. Good buddy Jeff Passan from Yahoo! Sports does an annual free agent tracker and if you peruse the top end of his listings you’ll see that the starting pitchers – save for Lee – are incredibly unappetizing.
I don’t necessarily agree with all of Jeff’s rankings but the gist this: After Lee, you’re talking about guys like Hiroki Kuroda, Jake Westbrook and – gulp – Carl Pavano.
The Yankees have been pretty tight-lipped about Lee and any contingency plans should the pursuit of him fall through, but lately you hear more rumblings that the Yankees would look internally to fill out their rotation should Lee opt to go elsewhere. In other words, a rotation like Sabathia, Hughes, Pettitte, Burnett and whoever wins the fifth spot in spring training (Ivan Nova?) would be a real possibility. If Pettitte chooses to retire, things get a little more dire.
Of course, there’s also the trade market (and no, I’m not including Zack Greinke in this discussion – there’s been zero indication he would want to come to the Yankees) but you’d have to think the Yankees wouldn’t be able to get any kind of impact name in a deal.
Short story long? If the Yankees want a big stud for their pitching staff, they better get Lee. Because the alternative – whoever it is – is pretty darn unappealing.
* That’s an AP photo of Carl Pavano’s mustache.