There is no such thing as a can’t-miss, top-of-the-rotation starter on the free agent market. The closest thing — other than Andy Pettitte — might be Carl Pavano, and that’s a tough sell for the Yankees for many, many reasons. One thing the Yankees might try is a high-risk, high-reward, low-dollar signing. They’ve already added Mark Prior on a minor league deal, and one of these starters could have significant upside to go with a small price tag and a large injury risk.
Left hip impingement
Duchscherer has been an all-star starter and an all-star reliever, but a series of injuries have limited his career through seven DL stints. Most recently, a hip injury that wouldn’t quite go away required surgery in early June, limiting Duchscherer to five good starts with the A’s. He previously missed all of 2009 because of elbow surgery and depression, but in 2008 he had a 2.54 ERA in his first full season as a starter.
A shoulder injury began causing problems in 2008. It cost Francis all of 2009 and landed him on the disabled list twice in 2010. He’s had surgery, and last season he kept battling soreness. Francis was a pretty promising young pitcher with the Rockies in 2007, but he’s had an ERA above 5.00 his past two seasons. If he’s healthy, maybe he could bounce back. His best years haven’t been as good as the others on this list.
Shoulder, forearm and elbow issues
I wanted to mention Lowry because he technically fits on this list, but the guy hasn’t pitched in the big leagues or minor leagues since 2007. Various things have gone wrong, and he never quite made a comeback last year. He was a good young pitcher with the Giants, but that was a pretty long time ago, and it’s hard to consider him a viable option at this point, even as a long shot.
Strained right lat
Penny made just nine starts last season before taking his familiar spot on the disabled list, where he also spent much of 2008. Those nine starts were good — he had a 3.23 ERA with the Cardinals — but his rehab didn’t go well enough for him to pitch beyond late May. Penny didn’t pitch well with Boston in 2009, but he finished that season in San Francisco and actually pitched very well for the Giants.
Torn elbow tendon
I decided to include Sheets because his name is on various free agent lists, but truth is, Sheets is not a legitimate option. He’s out at least the bulk of this season, probably all of it — maybe the rest of his career — after Tommy John surgery.
For three straight years, Webb was among the top pitchers in all of baseball. He was the Diamondbacks Opening Day starter in 2009, and he hasn’t pitched in the big leagues since. Webb tried to avoid surgery in 2009, but finally had a procedure in August of that year and coming back has been a struggle. Like Wang, Webb pitched this fall. If the Yankees want to dream big, the best-case scenario probably doesn’t get much better than Webb, who won the Cy Young in 2006 and finished second in 2007 and 2008. At his best, he was kind of a more dominant version of Wang.
Associated Press photo