Brian Cashman calls it the “key the kingdom,” and the game treats it as such. Starting pitching is the highest commodity in baseball these days, and the Yankees have made it a priority ever since the winter of 2008 when they signed CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett, essentially setting the stage for the 2009 World Series.
It was a priority again last season, and it will be a priority again this winter.
That priority starts with Sabathia. If he opts out, as he’s expected to do, the Yankees will lose their ace. The top starter on the free agent market is C.J. Wilson, who’s been awfully good these past two years in Texas, but that’s the extent of his rotation experience. Sabathia is a proven commodity, even with his so-so last two months of the regular season.
Beyond Sabathia, the Yankees have Ivan Nova, A.J. Burnett and Phil Hughes returning. They also have Hector Noesi and a series of young, minor league starters who could compete for spots.
Otherwise, the Yankees have to choose their targets and decide who rounds out the group.
Freddy Garcia opened some eyes this season, and he could be worth a return trip the Bronx. Bartolo Colon’s second half should raise some red flags, but he certainly gave the Yankees more than they could have expected. It’s probably safe to say Brian Gordon’s time has come and gone.
Is Wilson just the guy to bring some left-handed balance, and a reliable No. 2 behind Sabathia? Is someone like Edwin Jackson worth a middle-rotation spot? Is someone like Rich Harden worth the health risk? Is there a pitcher on the trade market who’s worth dangling Jesus Montero?
Moving forward means answering those questions, but first things first, it means resolving the Sabathia issue and giving the team a legitimate No. 1.
Associated Press photo