Tuesday, December 26, 2006

To Zito, or Not To Zito?

With the Randy Johnson trade rumors in full force, the addendum has been a possible Yankees pursuit of Barry Zito. To me, the trade of Randy Johnson does not equal the start of a Barry Zito campaign. I just don’t see it as part of Cashman’s plan. It’s not to say that it won’t happen, but I think it’s unlikely. It makes more sense to sportswriters who want to sell papers via speculation and sexy intrigue than it does to baseball blueprints. A lot of talk has centered on the idea that the Yankees need a good young pitcher to pencil in every day and stack up better against the Red Sox. It seems natural that many Yankee fans have watched the Red Sox spending big money to bring in famous and dynamic players and wonder where we are in all of this. After all, the roles have reversed a bit. The Red Sox took the retooling by big spending route in 2006, while the Yankees have downsized and bolstered the farm. To some Yankee fans that makes no sense. We want to win now, and to do so we need to keep up. If there’s a title to be won in 2007 with a bunch of veteran players in their primes, we need to spend on the best available talent to do so.

I don’t subscribe to that theory. As I see it, the Yankees are just fine with a frontline rotation of Mussina, Pettitte, and Wang. The back end of Igawa and Pavano, with a safety net of Rasner and Karstens, seems suitable and could potentially be very good. There’s no question that adding a top quality starter to this mix would look a lot better, and make all of us feel more comfortable up against the Red Sox improved rotation, but the question is not whether we do so, but how. There are a few options to consider.

1. Phil Hughes

Hughes will start the year slowly, and the Yankees will be cautious with him, as they should. They’ll limit his innings and baby him at SWB. Igawa, Pavano, Rasner, and Karstens can hold the fort until the All Star break, at which point you add Hughes to the stretch run. Hughes should be able to help the Yankees in a pennant race. With the top 3 guys leading the run, Hughes becomes a valuable secret (or not so secret) weapon. With 12 or 13 Major League starts under his belt going into the playoffs, we should feel very comfortable with our chances to advance deeper towards the Serious.

2. Roger Clemens

I’m not sure Rocket is going to leave his little dreamy situation in Houston. His son is in the organization. He plays when and where he wants. He gets paid top dollar. He faces a pitcher every 9 plate appearances. It makes little sense for Clemens to leave his home for the AL East. That said, Pettitte is in the fold, the Yankees are always right there at the end, and Clemens has the Hall on his mind these days. If he wants to wear a Yankees hat, he could make it more palatable by winning another title in the Bronx. If he wants to wear a Red Sox hat (as he probably should) he could go back to Fenway and make his last stand there. Cashman will be aggressive on this front, to be sure, and he should. We can pay HUGE money for Clemens and not worry about being saddled with a long-term contract that looks bloated in 5 years. Clemens would also be a good mentor to Hughes, should the two cross paths late in the year.

3. Barry Zito

Then, there’s Barry Zito. He’s a good pitcher. He has a career ERA+ of 126 and is favorably compared to some big names. I checked his similarity rating through age 28 at Baseball Reference and found that he looks very strong against a field including Mike Hampton, Ramon Martinez, Tom Glavine, Ron Darling, Kevin Appier, and Jack McDowell, to mention the modern era guys on the list. Are any of those guys ace pitchers? Hard to say. Hampton gets an incomplete with his injury problems. Ramon Martinez dropped off the face of the Earth at 29 due to injuries. Glavine is still going fairly strong at 40+ years old. Darling collapsed. Appier was mediocre after his 20s. McDowell also flamed out fairly soon after his 30th birthday.

Zito may be more like Tom Glavine than the rest of the pitchers in this comparison, but then again he may be like any of the guys that look bad after 30 years old. He may be like any of the other modern day pitchers on his career comparison too. Buehrle, Mulder, Carpenter, Hudson, Freddie Garcia. If you take both groups as a whole, it’s easy to see why he’d help the Yankees. It’s also easy to see why a long-term deal for Zito may not look so good at the end. If he wears pinstripes he’ll do just fine, and we may win a title or two with him in the rotation, but I’ll still pass. None of the names up there says, “must have” to me.


Anonymous said...

What kind of picks do we get for RJ if he leaves a a FA.

Anonymous said...

Mistake No. 1 Avoided


Joseph Pawlikowsi - yankees writer for Mvn. He's happy that yankees avoided the signing of Hillenbrand and it could be a mistake for the yankees. I agree with him that Signing Hillenbrand will cost yankees near $ 7 million. He also said on his article Yankees could pursue Kotchman . Kotchman is talented, cheap, only 23, great defensively, and has a strong minor league track record.

Anonymous said...

B/C, this year he's a type A. if he has another 5.00 era in 07, he might drop to a B or C. an A gets us a 1st rd. pick. B gets us a pick between the first 2 rds. C gets us nothing.

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