With all the rumors flying around the Yankees getting a starter to fill in for Andy Pettitte—Ted Lilly, Roy Oswalt, Fausto Carmona, Joakim Soria, Jake Westbrook, I’ll add one named. Ben Sheets.
OK, insert injury joke here—true, Sheets is a shoulder injury waiting to happen, but Sheets offers something a few things the other guys don’t.
Let’s look at some of the other possibilities. First off, Lilly is likely to get pounded in the American league—his fastball sits at 86 mph and is plummeting. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a quality pitcher who can spot his pitches, and would still command a high price tag. But in the hitting heavy AL East, a fastball at 86, which he trusts less and less—using it 31% of the time instead of 46% last year—won’t cut it in October. Just ask slow-baller Jamie Moyer, who has an ERA a hair under 5.oo the past 3 years in interleague games.
Next, Joakim Soria. The Royals aren’t trading Joakim Soria. Forget it.
Fausto Carmona and Jake Westbrook are quality targets, but would command prohibitive prospects in return, something the Yankees already said they are reluctant to do. Carmona is a former ace, is still young and has pitched very well this season. Westbrook is a solid veteran, a groundball machine, which teams love in the postseason, but who wants to remain in Cleveland. Cleveland has already said they don’t want to trade Westbrook, which is GM-speak for “It’s going to be expensive to get him.”
Next up is Roy Oswalt. Oswalt has a gargantuan contract and is signed through 2011. Also, Oswalt doesn’t have any experience pitching in the AL East in high-pressure October playoff games. Too many big-name NL pitchers folded under those conditions (Randy Johnson, Kevin Brown, I’m looking at you.)
However, the main point is that Ben Sheets brings something the others don’t— a relatively reasonable price tag. Oakland, out of the AL race, signed Sheets to a one-year 10 million dollar contract so he could be trade bait come July. Sheets, after a terrible start has been pitching better of late, with a .220 BAA and a 1.42 ERA. Of his 11 last starts, 9 have been quality, pitching a 3.73 ERA in those 11 starts. That said, Sheets hasn’t been lights out, not like Oswalt or Carmona and is a sneeze away from the DL.
But what’s in it for the Yankees is that Sheets provides nice coverage. Besides just filling in for Pettitte, should Burnett flame out or should Vasquez or Hughes regress, Sheets could step in. And would be a step up from Chad Gaudin, or Sergio “Who Knows What You May Get” Mitre (3 runs in 4 2/3 IP in AAA yesterday). And, come playoff time, when rotations get shorter, he could fill in the shaky Yankee bullpen (and by that I mean Joba Chamberlain).
Now if the A’s ask for the world—say Jesus Montero and Manny Banuelos, then forget it. But Sheets, while pitching better isn’t Roy Oswalt, Joakim Soria or Cliff Lee and the A’s know it. What he is is a relatively low-price, low-risk trade target.
Again, the benefits of Sheets are the expiring contract and the relatively smaller asking price (Juan Miranda, Kevin Russo, Mark Melancon, Marcos Vechionacci?). The Yankees are saying publically they want to full the hole from within, but what do you expect them to say? If the A’s ask the world, forget it. But it’s worth exploring.