Thursday, February 6, 2014

With Masahiro Tanaka now in the mix, the Yankees' starting rotation looks a lot better than it did a few weeks ago. The Yankees can now count on CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda, Tanaka and Ivan Nova being their first four starters, with a spring training battle to decide the fifth spot.

However, it's always possible that the Yankees could decide to sure up the rotation even more and add a veteran starter to compete for the fifth starter role, rather than just simply go with one of the young guys competing for the job.

Spring training starts next week for the Yankees, and there are still a good handful of notable pitchers worth signing, should Brian Cashman go that route.

Ervin Santana, SP: age 31, 211.0 IP, 9-10 W-L, 3.24 ERA, 161 K.

With Tanaka and Matt Garza having come off of the board in the last couple weeks, Santana remains as the top pitchers on the market, not far ahead of Ubaldo Jimenez.

He's been a guy with the potential be be a good starting pitcher, but he has never been able to put it all together for a full season. He's a guy that has given up a lot of homeruns in the past, making him no so compatible in Yankee Stadium. Phil Hughes gives up a lot of homeruns, and Yankee Stadium hurt his Yankees career.

The Bombers have not shown much interest in him this winter, though, and the signing of Tanaka probably threw away any small interest they might have had.

Ubaldo Jimenez, SP: age 30, 182.2 IP, 13-9 W-L, 3.30 ERA, 194 K.

Jimenez is probably the pitcher, of all of the free-agents that were on the market this winter, that I thought could most likely end up in pinstripes. I always felt that if they could land Tanaka, then the Yankees could go after Jimenez.

He is another guy that can be really good if he puts everything together. He finished the 2013 season with a great second half in Cleveland.

Declining a qualifying offer from the Indians means that he is tied to draft-pick compensation, bu that doesn't really seem to matter to the Yankees at this point after giving up picks to sign Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran.

Again, I don't think the Yankees are going to spend the kind of money on a start like Jimenez, when all they really need is a legit fourth or fifth starter. Not saying they can't do it, but I don't think they will.

A.J. Burnett, SP: age 37, 191.0 IP, 10-11 W-L, 3.30 ERA, 209 K.

I'm just going to come out and say this: why would some people even think of this as an option? The Yankees have already tried working things out with Burnett, and it ended with them trying really hard to get rid of him before the 2012 season, trading him to the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Yeah, it would be a great story to have him coming back to New York one last time, but things didn't work the first time he was here, so why would they work the second time around?

Sure, Burnett was decent in Pittsburgh in his two years there, but that was in Pittsburgh, not New York. Different league, different team, complete different setting.

Right now, I see the Baltimore Orioles being the favorites to sign him. They really need to add a starting pitcher before they get to Opening Day, and their heavy interest in the right-hander suggests that he could be the guy.

Bronson Arroyo, SP: age 37, 202.0 IP, 14-12 W-L, 3.79 ERA, 124 K.

Arroyo seems close to landing with another team as we speak, with someone on the west coast likely to come up the winner with him. Even though the Yankees reportedly "touched base" with him earlier in the offseason, I doubt there was any serious interest.

Yeah, Arroyo is a pretty tough, durable workhorse that will give you 25-30 starts each season, but I just didn't see him working out well in the Bronx.

Paul Maholm, SP: age 32, 153.0 IP, 10-11 W-L, 4.41 ERA, 105 K.

Personally, this lefty has been at the top of my "Fifth Start Free-Agent Big Board" for the Yankees this winter. I've always believed that if they sign someone to compete for the rotation stop, Maholm should be the guy.

Yeah, 2013 was not a great year for him (as you can see from the numbers above). He also failed to reach 175 innings last season, which he has done in six of his eight full big league seasons. That kind of workload would be great for a fifth starter.

Signing him on a short-term contract could be something that can help re-establish his value, and can turn out to be a good signing for the Yankees.

* * *

If the Yankees decide against signing another starting pitcher, I think the current group of starters that will compete for the fifth spot -- David Phelps, Adam Warren, Vidal Nuno and Michael Pineda -- can be a solid option, too.

I'm sure that Pineda will go into the spring with the best chance to win the job. Assuming that he is healthy, I think the Yankees will give him the chance to be the all-star pitcher that he was when they acquire from him the Seattle Mariners two years ago.


Gavin Ewbank is the Lead Writer of Yanks Beat Blog, and you can follow him on Twitter (below).


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