The New York Yankees are still in the market for one more starting pitcher to fill-out their starting rotation for 2014. That mission began late Friday morning when it was announced that the team had come to an agreement with Hiroki Kuroda on a 1-year deal worth $16 million dollars, and can get bumped up to $16.5 million based on an innings-pitched incentive clause in Kuroda’s new contract. The goal of filling 400 innings with two arms is now 50 percent complete. Now the difficult work begins.
In a perfect world, the Rakuten Golden Eagles over in Japan would post pitching phenom Masahiro Tanaka, the Yankees would post the maximum $20 million dollar posting fee, and Tanaka would choose to negotiate a lucrative free agent deal to come to the Bronx. However, there is no guarantee that 1. Tanaka is posted (even though it appears he will be) and 2. The Yankees don’t know Tanaka’s interest in coming and pitching in New York.
If for whatever reason, Tanaka is not posted, the Yankees have to look at the alternatives to fulfill their remaining vacant rotation slot. Much has been written about the three remaining upper-level free agent pitchers on the market in Ubaldo Jimenez, Matt Garza, and Ervin Santana, so the need to discuss them further is unnecessary. The Yankees will check in on each, but aren’t enamored by any of their choices because of the length of contract and money involved to sign each of the candidates.
Reports appeared on social media late Saturday night that Hal Steinbrenner is willing to now go over the $189 million dollar payroll threshold, but it doesn’t mean that Brian Cashman has to. One lower cost, low risk option the Yankees could consider is 2-time Cy Young Award winner Roy Halladay. He missed a large portion of the 2013 season after undergoing shoulder surgery, and didn’t quite look like the “Doc” of old when he did return in late August. Halladay is a competitor though, and most around baseball believe he rushed back because that is what type of player he is.
The season of concern if the Yankees set last year aside, should be Halladay’s 2012 season in which he his numbers plummeted back to Earth, with his earned run average going up more than two full runs. Halladay still won 11 games in ’12, but that is more likely the result of a good offense than was his pitching. His K/9 ratio has dropped in each of the last three seasons, going from 8.5, to 7.9, and finally 7.6 last season. Halladay’s velocity is down as well, but that begins to happen to most pitchers entering their mid-30s.
The key intangibles that Halladay would bring to the Yankees include his work ethic–which is arguably one of the best in the game, his warrior mentality, and his vast experience in the ball parks of the American League East. Most of the personnel on the teams within the division have changed, but the parks are the same. Halladay is an extremely intelligent pitcher, and uses his baseball IQ to his advantage. Many teams and scouts are waiting to see Halladay on display in a workout before offering him any type of contract, but the Yankees could hedge their bets and take a risk on him with an impressive, private workout session.
The Yankees have revamped their starting lineup, and aren’t done adding pieces just yet, so run support shouldn’t be a factor when supporting their starters. New York could offer Halladay a low base, high-incentive laden deal that could prove to be beneficial to both sides. If Halladay pitches back to form and can stay healthy, he will raise his value to hit the open market again next off-season, and could seek a multi-year deal. For the Yankees, they are going low cost, with the opportunity to have a resurrected Halladay win between 14-16 games for the price of a minor leaguer. At minimum, it is something the Yankees have to at least think about given the other starting pitchers on the market.