Despite facing at least a month without Andy Pettitte, who was having one of the best seasons of his career, Brian Cashman continues to insist that the Yankees are not in the market for starting pitching. Of course, that’s precisely what you’d expect him to say regardless of his true intentions.
I’m not looking for starting pitching. I don’t feel compelled. This is why we have Sergio Mitre.” – Brian Cashman, quoted in the June 20 New York Post
It was only two weeks ago that the Yankees sat on the verge of acquiring ace lefty Cliff Lee, so we know Cashman has at least some doubt about his rotation. After watching AJ Burnett have a mental breakdown and the 38-year old Pettitte’s left groin give out, you’d have to assume that skepticism has increased somewhat. The only problem, however, is there aren’t many quality options available on the market. The Yankees have been rumored to have interest in the likes of Dan Haren and Ricky Nolasco, but both of those pitchers seem unlikely candidates for a trade. Instead, guys like Brett Myers and Ted Lilly are more likely targets, but would the Yankees be willing to pay a price for stop-gap mediocrity?
Although Cashman was willing to part with top prospect Jesus Montero for an ace level pitcher like Cliff Lee, it is doubtful that he would trade highly regarded prospects for the names that are likely to be available. Over the past several years, Cashman has been more than willing to roll the dice with the last spot in the rotation (see chart below), so there’s no reason to suggest he’ll operate differently now.
If Pettitte returns on time, Cashman’s prudence will undoubtedly turn out to be the correct decision, but if there are any doubts about his recovery, then the wait-and-see approach could backfire. Contrary to Cashman’s stated belief that Sergio Mitre “would be starting in most people’s rotations”, the journeyman has no track record to suggest he will be effective as a temporary fifth starter. If the position was made permanent, all of a sudden the likes of Lilly and Myers would wind up looking pretty darn good. For that reason, one hopes Cashman’s poker face is being supported by his confidence in Pettitte’s healthy return, and not by an unfounded expectation that Mitre will be an effective option down the stretch.
Fifth Starters During the Cashman Era*
|1998||Ramiro Mendoza||14||88 1/3||6||1||3.87|
|2000||Denny Neagle||15||90 2/3||7||7||5.66|
|2000||Ramiro Mendoza||9||53 1/3||5||3||4.05|
|2001||Orlando Hernandez||16||90 2/3||3||7||5.06|
|2001||Sterling Hitchcock||9||49 2/3||4||4||6.16|
|2001||Randy Keisler||10||50 2/3||1||2||6.22|
|2002||Andy Pettitte||22||134 2/3||13||5||3.27|
|2002||Ted Lilly||11||67 2/3||3||5||3.59|
|2002||Jeff Weaver||8||55 2/3||4||2||4.53|
|2003||Jeff Weaver||24||147 2/3||7||9||5.73|
|2003||Jose Contreras||9||57 2/3||6||1||2.34|
|2004||Jose Contreras||18||95 2/3||8||5||5.64|
|2004||Orlando Hernandez||15||84 2/3||8||2||3.30|
|2005||Kevin Brown||13||73 1/3||4||7||6.50|
|2005||Jaret Wright||13||63 2/3||5||5||6.08|
|2005||Shawn Chacon||12||77 1/3||7||3||2.79|
|2005||Aaron Small||9||59 2/3||8||0||3.47|
|2006||Corey Lidle||9||44 1/3||4||3||5.08|
|2006||Jeff Karstens||6||36 2/3||2||1||4.17|
|2007||Phil Hughes||13||72 2/3||5||3||4.46|
|2007||Kei Igawa||12||61 1/3||1||3||6.90|
|2007||Matt DeSalvo||6||27 2/3||1||3||5.20|
|2007||Darrell Rasner||6||24 2/3||1||3||4.01|
|2008||Joba Chamberlain||12||65 1/3||3||1||2.76|
|2008||Ian Kennedy||9||36 2/3||0||4||8.35|
|2008||Carl Pavano||7||34 1/3||4||2||5.72|
|2009||Phil Hughes||7||34 2/3||3||2||5.45|
*Pitchers with at least 5 starts in a season who occupied the “fifth starter” role (i.e., did not rank among the top-4 in games started).