New York Yankees Should Strongly Pursue Ben Sheets for Starting Rotation

December 16, 2009   ·     ·   Jump to comments
Article Source: Bleacher Report - New York Yankees

It’s been a year since the Yankees made a major facelift to their starting rotation.

They brought in CC Sabathia for seven years and $162 million and A.J. Burnett for five years and $82.5 million, plus re-signing Andy Pettitte to one year and $5.5 million.

That rotation of Sabathia, Burnett and Pettitte went a combined 46-25 in the regular season and 8-2 in the postseason en route to the 2009 World Series.

With the front of the rotation set, the Yankees are looking to add to it to make it even stronger, because as we learned from the 2009 season, you can never have enough good pitching on your team.

Chien-Ming Wang was injured twice and out for most of the 2009 season and was not tendered a contract for 2010, so Wang is now a free agent.

The other two starters for the Yankees, Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughes, both started out in the rotation, but eventually moved into the bullpen. Hughes was moved in the summer to become Mariano Rivera’s setup man and Chamberlain was moved in the playoffs to regain his form and confidence.

Both Chamberlain and Hughes are being told to come into spring training next February ready to be starters, but we all know that can change very quickly.

With the rotation still wide open, the Yankees are still looking to make improvements, but they are starting to run out of choices.

Now, they did re-sign Pettitte again to a one-year, $11.75 million deal, which was a necessary move.

However, John Lackey just signed a five-year, $82.5 million deal with the Red Sox.

Randy Wolf just signed a three-year, $29.5 million deal with the Brewers.

Roy Halladay was traded in a three-team blockbuster deal from the Blue Jays to the Phillies.

Rich Harden just signed a one-year, $7.5 million deal with the Rangers.

Carl Pavano just accepted arbitration to return to the Twins.

Those are six main names that are removed from the list of starting pitchers and it’s not even Christmas yet. If Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman is going to pull the trigger on a deal, he needs to do so soon.

There are a couple of names still out there, mostly middle-tier type pitchers like Jason Marquis, Joel Piniero, Jon Garland and Braden Looper.

But there is a top-of-the-rotation pitcher out there who could be very useful if he is completely healthy.

Ben Sheets.

Sheets nearly signed a deal with the Rangers last season, but tests revealed that Sheets had a torn flexor tendon in his elbow, which required major surgery and knocked him out for the entire 2009 season.

But now Sheets is healthy and ready to go for 2010, yet nobody has officially made an offer yet to him.

Mostly it is because teams are very skeptical about handing out a major contract to a guy who just came off elbow surgery, and not to mention to a guy who will be 32 next July.

But the Yankees are different from most teams because they have the type of money to give out on a risk like Sheets.

They did it once before with Jon Lieber in 2002. Lieber recovered from Tommy John surgery in 2003 and ended up pitching very well for the Yankees in 2004.

Sheets could end up being a high-reward risk if Cashman decides that Sheets is worth taking on.

When Sheets was last healthy, he went 13-9 in 198 innings with 158 strikeouts in 31 starts. He was also the starting pitcher for the National League in the All Star Game of 2008, which was held at the old Yankee Stadium.

Now, Sheets has never pitched in the American League, much less for anyone other than the Brewers, but his former teammate in Sabathia is there and if anyone can get Sheets accustomed to pitching in the Bronx, it could be CC.

Also, Pettitte has been a great mentor to the younger and newer pitchers to the Yankees, also helping them get used to life in New York.

Sheets’ type of pitching could work. He’s a power fastball type with dynamite breaking stuff, similar to Burnett’s style.

According to Sheets’ agent Casey Close, Sheets is looking for somewhere around $12 million per season. That might be too much to ask for, considering Sheets hasn’t pitched since September 2008.

The Yankees could simply go with Chamberlain and Hughes as the No. 4 and 5 starters, but after 2009, it’s quite clear that Joba should be back in the bullpen, maybe even Hughes too.

Joba as a starter was at best average, and at other times, dreadful. He had his moments of greatness, but he could never put successful starts together. As a reliever, he can throw harder, pitch with more confidence, and dominate the later innings again.

This is why the Yankees should make a strong effort and pursue Sheets. They do have Chad Gaudin as a backup option just in case anything happens, but Sheets has great enough stuff to return to dominance in the majors, and if given the right opportunity, could be a benefit to a pitching rotation.

The Red Sox already made their staff stronger with their addition of Lackey to go along with Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Clay Buchholz and Tim Wakefield, plus trading for Boof Bonser.

Adding Sheets to a staff with Sabathia, Burnett and Pettitte already on it could make it even stronger.

I am here to make the case that the Yankees should make a strong effort to get the former Brewers ace.

I can only hope the Yankees feel the same way about Sheets to get him in pinstripes for 2010 and beyond.

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