Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Options

What if Sergio Mitre isn't the answer?

What if Sergio Mitre comes up and pitches for the Yankees, not like the guy who was 4-1 with a 2.32 ERA in AAA, but more like the guy with the lifetime 5.36 ERA and the 1.545 WHIP?

What do the Yankees do then?

With the report that Chien-Ming Wang was most likely lost for the year, the buzz in Yankee Universe was nearing panic mode. Joel Sherman of the Post fears if Mitre doesn't pan out, Kei Igawa is the next option. The overwhelming majority of Yankee fans in a Newsday poll said the Yankees should do whatever it takes to get Roy Halladay—even empty the farm system and pay him whatever he wants for as long as he wants. As stated previously: Panic is in the air.

When the Yankees came into the season they had a number of options at the 5th starter spot: Phil Hughes, Chien-Ming Wang, Ian Kennedy. Now they have....Sergio Mitre.

So realistically, what are the options? Moving Phil Hughes back into the rotation is a move that is off the table, so sayeth Joe Girardi. Hughes has become too valuable as the eighth-inning guy and the time it would take to stretch him out and build him back up to a higher pitch count is prohibitive. And more to the point, an unsettled role would jeopardize Hughes' arm, something the Yankees really, really don't want to do.

Another in-house option would be to move Alfredo Aceves back into the rotation. Again Girardi rightly doesn't want to do that either. First off, it would greatly weaken the bullpen and overwork Rivera and Hughes. Secondly, Aceves' numbers as a starter are much worse across the board; as a reliever he's been dominating or close to it. So why move him from a spot he’s doing very well in to a position he doesn’t do well?

OK, so what are the other options? The Halladay trade rumors persist, but "unlikely" isn't a big enough word to describe that possibility. And neither is a trade for Eric Bedard or Cliff Lee; first Seattle is becoming less interested in trading him and second, the Indians want way too much for Lee. No, more likely would be a trade for someone low-key the Yankees could take a flier on. There has been some talk about Ian Snell, who was recently demoted—by his request—to AAA. Apparently, Snell blames his pitching woes on depression. A report on MSNBC earlier this month revealed that Snell was depressed, even suicidal playing in Pittsburgh and wanted a change. Since his demotion, Snell has a 0.34 ERA in 26 innings in AAA. Reports have Yankee scouts watching him pitch in AAA ball. And he can pitch in the bigs—when his head is right—as evidenced by his 23 wins in 2006 and 07. It's possible the Yankees could take a flier on him. It would cost nowhere near what Lee, Bedard or Halladay would, and really couldn’t hurt should Mitre fail.

Another interesting option, brought up by Buster Olney of ESPN, would be Justin Duchscherer of the Oakland A's. Duchscherer hasn't pitched in 2009 due to an elbow cleanup—but—he is a free agent next year and Oakland loves to sell high just before the trading deadline—the better to snag an array of prospects from a desperate playoff-hunt team. And while, yes, Duchscherer is as injury-prone as Elmer Fudd, his lifetime ERA is 3.14 and he has an ERA+ of 137. The A's wouldn't give Duchscherer away cheaply, but again, the cost wouldn't be that of Halladay, Bedard or Lee.

Another option mentioned is Aaron Harang. Problem with Harang is, even with his 4.17 ERA, he gives up a ton of hits—he's currently leading the NL in hits allowed with 143—and the majority of balls hit off him are in the air—almost 2-1 in fly balls vs. ground balls. In the new Yankee Stadium, that's a recipe for disaster.

Down on the farm, the Yankees can call up Casey Fossum, who's pitching well down there. Problem with Fossum is a tendency to give up a multitude of moon shot home runs—his ERA last year while playing in cavernous Comerica Park was 5.66. Scary stuff.

So, what to do? Well, prayer is an option—if your beliefs run that way. Or we could mortgage the farm for a Cliff Lee or Eric Bedard or some such. No, the best options, should Mitre flop, would be Snell or Duchscherer, if the cost were right. The Yankees made a trade deadline deal last year with the Pirates, so the communication is there. A deal could be possible.

Or there is one last option. a farm option: A guy who is in the top 15 in a bunch of AAA pitching stats and has a lifetime 3.53 AAA ERA. A guy with big league experience.

But I have a feeling the Yankees aren't going to rely on Kei Igawa.

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