New York Yankees: “Walk Year” Presents Intriguing Potential for Pitchers
Much like their hitters, New York Yankees‘ pitchers are in a variety of different places in their careers as they head into the final year of their contracts. Here is a review of each pitcher’s outlook as they face Free Agency after 2013:
Hiroki Kuroda: A different situation than most. Kuroda has nothing to prove coming off a season of dominance in the AL East. He doesn’t seem like the type of player incapable of walking away from the game if need be so proving he’s still “got it” is not a priority. Kuroda prefers one year deals and doesn’t seem to need extra motivation beyond proving to himself every single year he was worth the money. The Yankees need him to perform very well in 2013, but he carries no trade value beyond rental status and is not a long-term plan either.
Andy Pettitte: Similar to Kuroda in that he is never going to amount to more than a one year deal regardless of performance. Unlike Kuroda, Pettitte has shown issue with walking away from the game having already officially retired once already. It seems like Pettitte is more sure of his status as a MLB starter now than he was a few years ago, but he will be year to year and does not need extra motivation to perform. For both these pitchers, staying healthy is their only priority and winning a championship is their only goal.
Mariano Rivera: Another pitcher who offers no value beyond 2013. Rivera should announce within the next six weeks his intentions beyond this season and if this is his last year, the first ballot Hall of Famer will want to end out on a positive note. It was that motivation which prevented him from retiring last season after a freak injury robbed most of Mo’s 2012. Still. the contract status will have no impact whatsoever on Rivera’s performance.
Boone Logan: Logan can find a nice market for himself as a top lefty reliever if he has a big year. The throw-in turned key component of the Javy Vazquez for Melky Cabrera deal has seen his numbers decline the past three seasons, but has still managed a very positive time in New York. Logan has plenty of incentive as a niche reliever who will turn 29 in August to have a big year and he will hope the 55 innings in 2012 weren’t too taxing. With Cesar Cabral and Clay Rapada already on the roster and the lefty relief spot not being an essential part of the bullpen, it’s unlikely the Yankees will pay big for Logan, and may much rather acquire an extra pick by letting him walk.
Joba Chamberlain: What a weird career. More than perhaps anyone, Chamberlain likely just wants a normal year. He’s no longer considered a starter, he has no rules enforced on him, he’s not going to have to switch roles, he doesn’t need a major surgery, his inning is defined if he earns it and hopefully he won’t suffer freak accidents on trampolines. If all of that happens, Joba is poised to have a big year with a clear mind and a healthy arm. It’s kind of difficult at this stage to predict Joba’s worth or even his best role to a team, but suffice it to say he can be a solid reliever at a minimum with a nice year in 2013. If nothing else, this season can be make or break Chamberlain’s career, let alone his time in New York (who may have a use for him as a primary setup man in 2014 if everything fall into place appropriately).
David Aardsma: Similiar to Chamberlain. Aardsma went from a solid Red Sox prospect to a solid closer for two years in Seattle to basically missing two years of his career due to injury. At 32 years old, Aardsma is pitching for a future but not necessarily looking to break out. In New York, in 2013, he has the same upside as Chamberlain, someone who will fight for the seventh inning, but can become so much more in 2014 in New York. Not to mention, success this season may mean pitching somewhere else in 2014 since Aardsma can re-earn a “closer” label simply by showcasing he has the same old “stuff”. Plenty to prove for the reliever, but a giant wildcard nonetheless.
Phil Hughes: Once considered the best Yankees’ pitching prospect, Hughes has never turned into the dominant front of the rotation arm many felt he could become. Instead we’ve seen Hughes as flashing signs of brilliance, struggling to stay healthy, struggling in general, being a dominant reliever and pitching well in the postseason in his young career. For many Yankees’ fans, Hughes is kind of the forgotten prospect. If the righty can put together a second consecutive solid season as a starter for the first time in his career, he will be a 27 year old in his prime with back to back proven years in the hardest hitting division in baseball.
Even for a guy who may never earn under a 4.00 ERA, that could mean a giant pay check for multiple years. With CC Sabathia, Ivan Nova and Michael Pineda facing long-term commitments to the Bronx, the Yankees are hoping they won’t need Hughes because it’s very likely they can’t afford him. This is a major season for Hughes’ career and it’s very realistic the Yankees see nothing but a draft pick in 2014 from their homegrown talent.