Plan B As in Buehrle

(The following is being syndicated from The Captain’s Blog).

In 2011, the Yankees’ starting rotation posted the fifth lowest ERA (4.03) in the American League. However, most of the season still had the feel of waiting for the other shoe to drop. Despite featuring a mix of inexperienced youngsters and veteran retreads, the Yankees’ staff was able to survive the year intact, but the offseason is almost sure to bring about change.

Is the pursuit of Mark Buehrle in the Yankees' plans?

It’s entirely possible that the 2012 Yankees could have a completely different starting rotation than last season. Although Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia provided an unexpected shot in the arm during 2011, the chances are high that neither will return next year, particularly because they both seemed to run out of gas in September. In his post-ALDS summation, Joe Girardi stated that while Phil Hughes and Ivan Nova would be given a chance to compete for a spot in the 2012 rotation, nothing would be set in stone. Following an impressive rookie season in which he won 16 games, Nova seems like a sure bet to be one of next year’s starting five, but Hughes still has a lot to prove. At this point, getting rid of A.J. Burnett is probably more of a pipe dream than a realistic option, but after two futile seasons, the Yankees could decide to swallow hard and eat most of his remaining contract in order to facilitate a trade. Finally, CC Sabathia wearing something other than pinstripes in 2012 might be inconceivable, but until his opt out situation is settled, that unpleasant thought remains a possibility.

Even if Sabathia returns and Nova holds on to his slot, the Yankees will still need to bolster their rotation, especially because internal options like Dellin Betances and Manny Banuelos are probably at least a half-season away. Earlier in the week, Larry Koestler set about to answer what free agent pitchers the Yankees should pursue and narrowed it down to two choices: Yu Darvish and CJ Wilson. Larry makes an interesting case for both pitchers, but perhaps the decision doesn’t have to be an either/or proposition?

The Yankees will undoubtedly make an offer to C.J. Wilson and probably will participate in the posting process for Darvish, but unlike last year when Cliff Lee slipped through the net, the team should be prepared with a plan B…as in Buehrle. Although lacking the “ace-like” potential of Wilson and Darvish, Mark Buehrle has established himself as one of the most consistent pitchers in the American League. For 11 straight seasons, the left hander has won at least 10 games and thrown over 200 innings (the most among all active pitchers), while posting an above average ERA in all but one season. Buehrle may not have a Cy Young award in his future, but his reliability would help the Yankees round out a rotation that could soon include its fair share of young pitchers.

Most Innings Thrown Over the Last 10 Seasons (2002-2011)

Player IP W L ERA ERA+ AvgWAR
Mark Buehrle 2204 141 110 3.87 118 40.9
Roy Halladay 2194.2 170 75 2.97 148 61.9
CC Sabathia 2184 159 91 3.44 128 50.3
Livan Hernandez 2121.2 117 123 4.38 97 21.1
Javier Vazquez 2071.2 124 117 4.11 107 36.1
Derek Lowe 2031.1 146 114 4.01 108 29.1
Roy Oswalt 2012.1 145 90 3.25 131 44.1
Barry Zito 1945 121 112 4.02 109 24.5
Tim Hudson 1929.2 132 80 3.34 127 37.3
Jon Garland 1896.2 122 104 4.28 104 22.2

Note: AvgWAR is the average of BR’s and fangraphs’ version of WAR.
Source: Baseball-reference.com and fangraphs.com

Signing Buehrle, or any 33-year old pitcher with over 2,400 innings, to a long-term deal would come with risks, but if the Yankees can ink the left hander for only three years, it may not only be attractive as a plan B, but even as an alternative to a longer, more lucrative contract for relatively unproven commodities like Darvish and/or Wilson. Regardless of what course the Yankees decide to take, if Brian Cashman learned one lesson from last winter, it’s that he shouldn’t put all his eggs in one basket. The Yankees were able to win in spite of taking that approach in 2011, but lighting usually doesn’t strike twice.  So, if Wilson and Darvish prove to be elusive, or too expensive, Cashman shouldn’t hesitate to move on to quality alternatives like Buehrle.

24 thoughts on “Plan B As in Buehrle

  1. I try to like Buehrle as an option, but I just can’t get behind it. His durability is great and he’s got impeccable control, but he’s had a strikeout rate under 5 for the last three years. And despite the fact that he’s managed to keep HRs down (1.0 for his career) in a hitter’s park, I still think we’d see a bit of HR spike in the ALE.

  2. I’d actually prefer Buerhle on a cheaper, shorter term deal as Plan A over gambling on Wilson or Darvis. He may not have their stuff but there’s a lot to like about him: throws lefty, workhorse good for 200-220 innings, great fielder, very consistent (20 out of last 25 starts were quality starts). With the Yankees offense and bullpen, I think he’d win a lot of games.

  3. I like Buehrle if the Yankees can’t sign CJ Wilson for about 5 years and $85 to $90M. If it takes anymore then that to get CJ Wilson I’d look at Buehrle for 3 years $40M plus or minus as a heaven sent. Of course that assumes CC stays in the Yankee fold. Then come the end of the 2012 season with just 1 more year left on AJ Burnett’s contract I hope the Yankees decide to eat a portion of the last year and trade him. Right now come the end of the 2012 season there are some awfully attractive FA that will become available.
    Yu Darvish really troubles me. The Yankees have not had a lot of success with pitching imports from Japan. And with an asking price of about $100M (posting fee and contract)I think the risk outweights the possible reward. I much rather see them use that money on one of the possibilities in the 2013 FA class. Just my opinion.

  4. Instead of Buehrle on a 3 year deal, why not Edwin Jackson? He has pitched in the AL east before and all of his numbers are trending upwards. This all stems from signings CC. Assuming we do, I want Darvish. If we don’t sign Darvish I would rather go on a 1 year deal and save the rotation spot and the money for a better starter in next years free agent class. Some of the pitchers to be considered for a 1 year deal are: Jeff Francis, Freddy Garcia, Jon Garland, and Roy Oswalt. Keep in mind we have several pitchers in our farm system who are major league ready muc in the way Nova was in DJ Mitchell, Adam Warren, David Phelps, and Hector Noesi. Adam Warren and David Phelps particularly intrigue me as I think they projected better than Nova before he was called up.

  5. One problem:

    Everything I’ve read about Buehrle in the past says that he wants to stay in the Midwest and/or go to the NL. In the past he’s indicated that it’s CHW, STL or retirement.

  6. I favor Edwin Jackson over Buerhle for all the reasons T.O. Chris mentioned. I don’t think Garcia can replicate his success of this season again, but then again I don’t think Garcia, Garland, and Francis would be asked to do anything but keep us in games somehow. E Jax gives you innings, Buehrle gives you more but is not as dominant anymore. Oswalt on a 1 year deal is more preference over Buerhle or EJax anyway.

  7. I really have no idea how much he is about the money. I would certainly think he has made more than enough to retire on, and he is a beloved figure in Chicago. He’ll always be more of a fan favorite with the White Sox than he could ever hope to be somewhere else, especially New York. Sometimes players who are financially set weight that more than simply money. But I have no idea exactly how he feels about that.

  8. I would love to see Bartolo the Bonanza cut the plate up with 2 seam / 4 seam magic scissors again, with a full tank of gas. And Freddy was plenty steady for me.

    On one year deals they make for competence while awaiting young recruits to develop. They can take a month off, mid-season, to gas up while the best of Noesi, Phelps, Warren and Mitchell give it a try.

    And the big bucks will be ready for something special out of the 2012 crop, if need be.