Reports over the past few days have talked about how the Mariners are now favored to sign Masahiro Tanaka. There are also reports of the Minnesota Twins “kicking the tires” on bringing back Matt Garza. Let’s say those two things occur. That leaves the New York Yankees a pitcher (or two) short. So what could be their backup plan.
Co-editor Billy Brost has touted Ubaldo Jimenez on this site. Now if the Yankees lose out on Tanaka and Garza, I’d be okay with that move because I think he would be a better fit than Ervin Santana. But let’s think a little out of the box and look at someone who would probably be cheaper than any of the aforementioned pitchers.
Back in 2012, one of the reasons that helped make the Baltimore Orioles successful was the breakout campaign of pitcher Jason Hammel. No one saw the Orioles coming, and no one saw the kind of season that Hammel had coming either. Hammel is a free agent after an injury-plagued campaign with the Orioles last season and could be a steal for someone.
The pitching market has been quiet, but once Tanaka signs, the levee could break. Many teams were interested in Hammel earlier in the off-season, but his market has since quieted down.
If Hammel’s velocity can go back up to where it was in 2012, he could be that kind of pitcher again. Hammel’s velocity dropped one mile per hour from 2012-2013 and even that little bit can make a difference. Before his time in Baltimore, he was a guy who could log 170+ innings every year.
Another big thing for Hammel is his ground ball rate. In 2012 he was at 53%. In 2013, he was just a tick over 40%. Larry Rothschild has been an excellent pitching coach and there’s no reason that he can’t help Hammel. He also may be fully recovered from his forearm tightness that plagued him last season.
He’s apparently looking for a three-year deal, while teams having been giving him one year offers. The Yankees can get creative and offer a one year pact with escalators that trigger a second year at a higher rate. How bout $8 million this year and if he pitches 175 innings, then 2015 at $12 million? That’s the $20 million posting fee for Tanaka right there.
The Yankees can get creative and not spend a ton of money in what’s a relatively weak pitching market right now. Hammel could be a guy who could give them some nice value and come cheaper than many of the other free agents on the market. The market next winter could have guys like James Shields and Max Scherzer. If the Yankees fail to get Tanaka or Garza, buying low on Hammel and saving the money for a trade later on or a free agent next year could prove beneficial.
There’s always alternatives, it’s just acting on it and doing it wisely which is the key.