January 03, 2006
The Next Left
The question was recently posed to me: Of the following potential 2007 Free Agent pitchers, if the Yankees were to chase one after 2006, who should they go after - Ted Lilly, Andy Pettitte, Mark Mulder or Barry Zito?
First, forget Ted Lilly. Yes, he's a great guy. But, he's somewhat injury-prone and he's basically had one very good year in his career - in 2004. Plus, his BB/9 IP rate has gone up each of the last 3 years. At 31 in 2007, he's trending the wrong way.
Pettitte will be 35 in 2007. He signed a three-year deal with Houston prior to 2004. Given his age, if he wants more than a three-year contract after this season, I would probably pass on him.
Barry Zito will just be 29 in 2007. He's been a bull the last 5 years - averaging 35 starts and over 220 IP per year. In these five years, he's been a solid SP in 4 seasons. There's a lot to like here. But, for some reason, I don't like him - probably because he's a "Bill Lee" kinda-flake.
Mulder will also be 29 in 2007. He's not as durable as Zito - but he's no Ted Lilly either. Nonetheless, there's something up with him. During 2004-05, he's allowed more hits and walks and whiffed less than from 2002-03. It's the K-rate that really scares me (as it's gone down the last three years in a row). The last two seasons, his command has been off for him.
So, this all brings it back to Pettitte versus Zito. If Pettitte is willing to sign for three years, then it's a toss of sorts (at first blush) for the Yankees on which one to go after. And, they have to chose the right one - because Boston will probably chase the other one.
Actually, at the same relative spots in their career, Zito matches up nicely to Whitey Ford, see the following via the Sabermetric Baseball Encyclopedia:
And, we know that Ford pitched well for New York in his early 30's.
OK, so, unless he falls on his face this year, my personal feelings aside, I think the Yankees have to make Zito their prime target from this group - with Pettitte as Plan B. And, they just have to hope that Pettitte's personal Plan "B" is not 'B' for 'Boston.'
Posted by Steve Lombardi at January 3, 2006 10:33 PM
Pettitte actually turned down the Red Sox's offer in 2003, which was reportedly $10 million better than the Yankees'. In fact, he selected the worst offer of the three in signing with Houston. Since he's due $17.5 million in 2006, I find it hard to believe he will be with the Astros even one minute past the trade deadline in July...if he isn't traded by Spring Training. Look for him to end up in Texas, either via trade or free agency. I seriously doubt he has the stomach for Boston. Nor do I blame him.
It seems that Zito is the best of that class, which was my initial thought. Lilly still has good stuff, sometimes. I think it was this year (might have been last), but every time we played the Jays and he was pitching, he really impressed me. I said to myself several times "We got rid of this guy? For Jeff Weaver?"
Something tells me, however, that Mulder is the most likely to end up in stripes, if any of them do. Zito is going to get traded more than likely (and then maybe signed to an extension?). If he isn't signed, he will probably be the most sought after FA in my opinion. Pettitte left for home, so if he comes back it will be for the fans, not the money. I agree with Johnny, he'll probably stay in Texas.
Mulder has had some solid seasons, and I just get the feeling that someone will throw a lot of money at him. He's been a 15 game winner since 2001. You know how much the Yankees love to waste money on pitchers that "win."
Lilly still has good stuff, sometimes. I think it was this year (might have been last), but every time we played the Jays and he was pitching, he really impressed me. I said to myself several times "We got rid of this guy? For Jeff Weaver?"
While I understood the reasoning behind the deal, I was annoyed when it went down. Effective LH starters are hard to come by. And he was cheap. 5 inning woes notwithstanding, I was hoping they'd let him work those issues out. He was the 5th starter, so it really wasn't a priority that he goes out and perform like an ace.
Man, that Irabu deal to the Expos was a heist.
I can forgive Clemens (and welcome him back) becuase of his freakish ability to strike people out and not give up HRs.
Re: Pettite...Screw 'im. Emotional, yes, but he should be left twisting in the wind.
I agree with Rich that Mulder seems the likeliest to end up in the Bronx.
The FA market might be tamer than in 2005 next year. There are a LOT of big FAs out there who are in the prime of their careers. Not just pitching.
The four you mentioned, plus:
Mike Cameron (team option)
That is a ridiculously crowded market. Prices should return to reasonable levels. Could be a good time for the Yanks to go after a long term 1st baseman.
Giambi is under contract thru 2008. Then it's Duncan time.
Posted by: Steve Lombardi at January 4, 2006 01:10 PM