When Cliff Lee signed with Philadelphia, the Yankees were left with few reliable rotation options on the free agent market. The market was so thin, Brian Cashman reportedly considered bringing back Carl Pavano.
Instead, the Yankees had to sort through a series of risk-reward candidates — a mix of veterans looking for a comeback and proven talents trying to rebound from injuries. With no sure things on the market, the Yankees managed to sign two of the least risky contracts out there, avoiding the multi-million-dollar deals given to pitchers who might not produce at all this season.
There is uncertainty with all of these deals. Which would you prefer?
Major League contracts
Orioles, 33 years old
$700,000, $1.1 million if on the roster, total of $4.5 million with incentives
An all-star in 2008, Duchscherer made a total of eight starts the past two seasons, five in the big leagues and three in the minors. He did not pitch past April 29 last season, and in 2007 he was limited to 16.1 innings. He’s been good when he’s been healthy, and he seemed to win some believers with bullpen sessions this offseason.
Royals, 30 years old
$2 million, plus another $2 million in incentives
Missed all of 2009 and went on the disabled list twice in 2010. He showed good stuff in Colorado — and for a while looked like a young top-of-the-rotation starter — but he has a career 4.77 ERA, and a 5.01 ERA since 2007.
Tigers, 32 years old
$3 million, plus another $3 million in incentives
Having struggled with Boston through most of 2009, Penny bounced back when he finished that season in San Francisco. Last year he was pitching well for the Cardinals — 3.23 ERA — before a strained lat sent him to the disabled list after nine starts. In the past three up-and-down years, Penny has a 5.01 ERA while missing significant chunks of two seasons.
Nationals, 31 years old
$1 million, plus another $4 million in incentives
The Yankees watched Wang’s rise and fall. He hasn’t pitched since 2009, when injury limited him to 12 big league appearances, nine of them starts. The results were not pretty, with Wang finishing with a 9.64 ERA. The Nationals took a shot on him last season but he never got healthy enough to pitch.
Rangers, 31 years old
$3 million, total more than $8 million with incentives
The most accomplished pitcher on this list, Webb won a Cy Young award in 2006 and finished second in Cy voting in ’07 and ’08. He’s made one professional start since then. He was the Diamondbacks’ Opening Day starter in 2009 and he hasn’t pitched since. Initial reports of his instructional league work this offseason showed just how far he had to go.
Mets, 31 years old
$1.1 million, plus another $3.4 million in incentives
Through 2007, Young thrived in the Padres rotation, but he hasn’t pitched a full Major League season since then. He made 18 starts in ’08, 14 starts in ’09 and four starts last year. He did have a 0.90 ERA through those 2010 starts, and three of them came in September.
Major League, non-guaranteed
Mariners, 32 years old
$1 million, $6.35 million in incentives
Bedard made three minor league starts last season. He’s pitched 164 big league innings since 2007, a promising career thrown off track by injuries. When he’s pitched, though, he’s been terrific and the Mariners gave up a significant package of young players — including Adam Jones and Chris Tillman — to trade for him in 2008.
Minor league contracts
Yankees, 37 years old
$900,000 if on the roster
The American League Cy Young winner in 2005, Colon has not started more than 18 big league games in any season since. He last pitched in the Majors in 2009 when he had a 4.19 ERA through 12 starts with the White Sox. The Yankees were impressed by Colon in winter ball, where he had a 1.93 ERA this offseason.
Yankees, 35 years old
$1.5 million if on the roster, total of $5.1 million with incentives
Limited to a total of 12 Major League starts in 2008 and 2009, Garcia came back to make 28 starts for the White Sox in 2010. He went 12-6 with a 4.64 ERA. According to winter reports out of Venezuela, Garcia has not been experiencing any of the shoulder problems that previously hampered him, but from ’07 to ’09 he missed more time than he pitched.
Cubs, 36 years old
$1 million if on the roster, total of $3 million with incentives
Sat out all of 2010. In 2009, the converted reliever managed 14 wins with the Brewers, despite a 5.22 ERA and a league-worst 113 earned runs allowed. Presumably the Cubs could look at him as a bullpen option — or Triple-A insurances — considering their rotation is full.
Braves, 35 years old
I couldn’t find contract details for Lopez, and I honestly doubt anyone is especially interested in them. He spent most of 2009 in Triple-A, and had a 5.70 when he did get to the big leagues that year. Last season, he went 7-16 with a 5.00 ERA in Arizona. He has a career 4.85 ERA with a 1.45 WHIP, and he’s twice led the National League in both loses and earned runs.