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. bg90027

    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. UYF1950

    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.

    • T.O. Chris

      Dice-K was essentially bough for around 104 million, but I think Yu will cost significantly less. I don’t think the bidding this time will get all the way up to 51.1 million, and because of that I think the agreed to contract will be less as well. I could see the actual contract for Darvish being around 6 years/45 million. I think the bidding could even be as low as 20-25 million. So you could possibly end up getting him for somewhere around 75-80 million total. I believe anyway, I could be proven completely wrong. Obviously.

      • UYF1950

        If Darvish can be had for about $60 to %75M (posting fee and contract 5 or 6 years) then I say it may very well be worth the gamble. Amymore then that I say pass. To many unknowns. In my opinion.

        • T.O. Chris

          Obviously I can’t say anything more than my opinion. But I don’t think people will be going as nuts upping the big this time. The Yankees and Red Sox really created a situation for Dice K’s bid to be 51.1 million. I know it’s blind bidding, but I think there will be more restraint this time.

          The winning bid for Oakland last year was 19 million. So I expect it will be more for Yu, but less than Dice K.

          The total numbers for Yu and Wilson could actually become very close, even though Wilson’s will be a bigger actual contract.

  4. Michael P.

    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.

    • UYF1950

      I think the Yankees would be better served with another lefty in the rotation that’s why I think Buehrle is a better option. I like Oswalt on a 1 year deal though even though he’s not a lefty and then that leaves the Yankees with several options come the 2013 season. As for Francis, Garcia and Garland I’d pass. Even though Garcia did better then most thought I don’t see him as a viable option in 2012. Just my opinion.

      • T.O. Chris

        I agree with you UYF. I would pass on Garland, Garcia, and Francis. Francis and Garland should probably be on in the NL at this point, and I don’t see Garcia performing like this again next year.

        I however I agree with you Michael when it comes to Edwin Jackson. I think Both and Edwin and Mark are probably 2-3 year deals, with similar money. Given that, I think Edwin is a much better option. Due to his youth, K rate, and history of pitching in our division before. As you mentioned.

        I would say however that I don’t think DJ Mitchell is ever going to be a starter, and I would be worried going into the season with any of those kids at number 5. Because that would probably mean Nova is our 2, and to field a championship winning team I think he needs to be our 3.

        • UYF1950

          Chris the last time Jackson pitched in the AL East was 2008 with the Rays that’s 3 years ago. And if you look at his numbers with back then they were not all that good. Sure he’s younger than Buehrle but on a 2 or 3 year deal you are only talking about Buehrle starting the 3rd year of a contract at 35 not exactly ancient. I just think being a lefty and their numbers not significantly different Buehrle is a better option in Yankee Stadium. I could be wrong but the Yankees need another lefty in the starting rotation.

          • T.O. Chris

            I know his AL East experience was a while back, and well before his current trend of maturation. But he wouldn’t be coming in cold, and for someone like that I think it’s somewhat of an advantage. A tipping point to the argument if you will. He knows what it’s like to face the Yankees, and the Red Sox, as a member of the AL East. Something that for pitchers, I think is invaluable. Because I do think it’s different facing the Yankees and Red Sox once or twice as a White Sock, and facing them as a member of the east. However Buehrle is a vet, has pitched in big games, and has no hitters. So I can certainly see the argument for Mark.

            I understand liking lefties for Yankee Stadium, and to some degree I do worry about Edwin Jackon in that regard. But he has proven that he has become a solid pitcher, and I like his stuff a lot more than Mark’s.

            I think both would be number 3’s in our rotation, but I think Edwin has upside that Mark simply doesn’t There are stretches where he can be dominant, and I don’t think Buehrle can be dominant in stretches like that anymore.

  5. PortlandYankee

    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.

    • UYF1950

      Players say a lot of things. It never hurts to try, make an offer you can live with and see what happens.

      • T.O. Chris

        I do think he would probably pull a Wakefield, or a Wood and take a cheap 1 year deal just to stay with the White Sox. If they tell him to get out, he may sign somewhere else, but I think that’s his first and second choice.

        • UYF1950

          You’re probably right. It may be his 1st, 2nd and even 3rd choice. But it would be interesting if the White Sox offered him say $8M for 1 year and say the Yankees offered him say $25M for 2 years or maybe even $30M for 3 years. Might give him something to think about. Just food for thought.
          Some this this will be a lot clearer in about 30 days. It should be a fun off season/FA period.

  6. Michael P.

    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.

    • T.O. Chris

      I don’t care for Oswalt because of his back. He was held down to 139 innings this year, and this isn’t the first time his back has acted up. His K/9 also dropped down to a career low 6.02 per 9, which should only get lower in the AL East. With his health (especially the back) being a real concern and his stuff not being what it was even last year, I have too many question for him. a 1 year deal would come with limited risk, but I believe he wants even multi-years from the Phillies. He may not get that anywhere and have to accept a 1 year deal, but at that point he would be better off staying in the NL.

      • Michael P.

        His back is exactly why we would be able to get him on a one year deal and since neither of us have seen his medical records its not like we are in position to make a judgement either way. But after the Yankees sign CC whats the payroll looking like? Hal and Hank won’t go over 200 million marker unless a true ace pitcher is on the market which I don’t believe CJ is. We may have to settle for resigning CC and getting a guy on a one year deal.

        • T.O. Chris

          I am no doctor, this is true, but I believe I can lend my opinion on the subject without a PHD. Oswalt pitched less innings than he has in 5 years, had the lowest fastball velocity of is career, and the lowest K/9 mark of his career. When you consider this stems from a bad back, one of the worst things a pitcher can have. Then I think there is more than enough evidence to say he can’t be counted on. I personally want nothing to do with him in pinstripes. If I was Oswalt I wouldn’t want to go the AL, let alone the AL East at this point in my career. Sure the Yankees could sign him, it’s just not something I would do. Doesn’t make it right or wrong, just not my plan A, B, C, or D. Since I would want CJ, Yu, Edwin, and Mark all before Oswalt.

          Cashman has convinced the boys to go back out on the market when they didn’t want to before, and after Levine overruled him for Soriano they kind of owe him one again. I don’t think it kills the organization to hand out a 5/65-80 kind of contract.

  7. T.O. Chris

    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.

    • UYF1950

      Just for reference he’s made about $70M through the 2011 season. I’m sure that’s enough to retire on and then some. I still think it’s going to be interesting depending on what another team offer him if their is a relatively big difference between and White Sox offer and that of another team any team.

      • T.O. Chris

        Yeah, I figured he had made more than enough to do whatever he wants. I honestly think the only way he leaves the White Sox is if they simply don’t want him back at any cost. As I said he is a real fan favorite with the pale hoes, and strikes me as a loyalty first kind of guy. I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see him take a 1 year deal, and turn down multi-year offers from other teams.

        If I was him though, and Chicago didn’t want me back, I would look into the NL. He’d be able to face weaker competition, and hit while enjoying the back half of his career. Though that’s just me in his shoes, and has no real barring on his decision. He may also look into joining the Cubs. I’m not sure if they would have any interest. Though it would be a good way for him to remain in Chicago if he isn’t wanted by the W.Sox.

  8. smurfy

    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.

    • T.O. Chris

      It would be highly unlikely for either one to perform as well as they did this year. The Yankees tried to catch lightning in a bottle with both of them, and did so. You hardly ever catch lightning in the same bottle twice. We need to just let both go, unless they want to come back on the same kind of minor league deals with invites to spring training.

      Garcia has a better chance to repeat than Colon, so if we have to bring one back I’d rather it be him. However I wouldn’t want either back.

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