Imagine this for one moment: the Yankees are heading into the final weekend of the season, and need to win 2 of 3 to clinch the second and final Wild Card spot for the American League. Brandon McCarthy and Masahiro Tanaka pitched during the previous series. So how does the rotation line up for that final weekend at Fenway Park? Needing 2 of 3 to advance, and losing a pair would send Derek Jeter, just like Mariano Rivera into retirement without a final October run. Pitching two of the three games…Shane Greene and Chris Capuano. Let that sink in for a minute. The final member of the Core Four is dependent on Shane Greene and Chris Capuano to extend his career one more time, and to keep this Yankees’ team from missing the postseason for the second year in a row.
It’s nobody’s fault but Brian Cashman’s. Sure, injuries have decimated the starting rotation, but think about it. C.C. Sabathia was never a given, especially coming off the worst season of his career. Michael Pineda had yet to prove he was truly ready for the grind of a full season. Hiroki Kuroda, the one healthy member from the original 5 is 40-years-old. There were options late in the spring that could’ve added depth to this rotation. Ervin Santana? Yep. Affordable and instead of pitching in the Bronx, he’s in Atlanta, with a 3.60 or so ERA. The other option? A pitcher with a track record of success, albeit when healthy, against the AL East. The Yankees missed the opportunity to sign Jason Hammel during the winter, they missed the chance to trade for him when Chicago was offering him up, and now it remains to be seen whether or not the third time is the charm.
A few days ago, Hammel’s second team this season, the Oakland Atheltics, had seen enough, and placed him on revocable waivers. To put it simply, he has stunk up the joint since coming back to the American League. In 17 games started for the Cubbies this season, Hammel was 8-5, with an ERA of 2.98. That’s extremely efficient for one of the worst teams in all of baseball. Since arriving in Oakland, it’s been a complete different story, as he is 1-5, with a 7.15 ERA.
Why should the Yankees take a flier on a guy with a 7+ ERA? Hammel should be more affordable now than he was a few weeks ago when the Cubs dangled him. In two seasons while pitching with Baltimore, he posted a 15-13 record, with a combined ERA of 4.20. He led the O’s when they took the Yankees to the brink of elimination back in 2012.
Hammel’s performance against the AL East this year has been a mixed bag. The Orioles blasted him in only 2 innings of work, as he gave up 5 earned runs. He pitched well twice against the Yankees, and then in his latest start against the Rays, he went 5 2/3 innings, and didn’t allow a single run. Is he an ace? Absolutely not. Is he better than Shane Greene and Chris Capuano? Given his track record over his career in the AL East, with the final series of the season being in Boston, that answer is obvious.