When it was initially reported that David Phelps complained of elbow soreness, a sense of surreal panic pervaded Yankees fans. It seemed a certainty that Phelps would join Ivan Nova and CC Sabathia on the "see you in 2015" portion of the disabled list, with standing invites to Messrs Masahiro Tanaka and Michael Pineda merely awaiting a signature. That pessimism has abated for at least a couple of weeks, however, as Phelps instead heads to the 15-day disabled list with elbow tendinitis - which may well be the best-case scenario for any reports of elbow pain. Despite the team's solid play of late and mere one game deficit in the Wild Card race, this news forced me to think of the future; or, more specifically, the future of the Yankees rotation. The 2015 Yankees have the aforementioned Nova, Sabathia, Tanaka, Pineda, and Phelps under team control for next season - a full starting five, at face value. Of course, face value is ultimately meaningless, as Nova is likely out until next summer, Sabathia's balky knee may be career-threatening, and Tanaka and Pineda should be filed under "TBD." I say this not with the intent of being a downer; rather, I say this as someone with a healthy amount of curiosity. With that in mind, I turned to MLB Trade Rumors to begin the way-too-early process of wondering what the off-season may hold for a rotation in flux. As per MLBTR, the following starting pitchers may be free agents come November:
Brett Anderson - team option Josh Beckett Chad Billingsley - team option Joe Blanton A.J. Burnett - mutual option Chris Capuano Bruce Chen - mutual option Wei-Yin Chen - team option Kevin Correia Johnny Cueto - team option Jorge De La Rosa Ryan Dempster Gavin Floyd Yovani Gallardo - team option Jason Hammel J.A. Happ - team option Aaron Harang Dan Haren - player option Roberto Hernandez Hisashi Iwakuma - team option Josh Johnson - team option Kyle Kendrick Hiroki Kuroda Jon Lester Colby Lewis Francisco Liriano Paul Maholm Justin Masterson Brandon McCarthy Brandon Morrow - team option Felipe Paulino - team option Jake Peavy Wandy Rodriguez Ervin Santana Joe Saunders Max Scherzer James Shields Carlos Villanueva Ryan Vogelsong Edinson Volquez Jerome Williams
An encouraging list, wouldn't you say?
There are top-of-the-rotation types in Lester, Scherzer, and Shields, a solid middle class (including folk like De La Rosa, Hammel, and Liriano), some back-end filler, and even a few of the reclamation projects that the team has utilized quite well in the past - Lewis and Masterson fit this mold, I think. Regardless of how you choose to define the pitchers within this class, the Yankees have multiple options to fill most any slot in the rotation, which is becoming a rarity in this age of extensions.
And, while the best course of action would likely be determined by the good health of the pitchers on the roster, it is somewhat comforting to know that help may only be dollar signs away.