Picking Out The Most Realistic Targets From The Remaining Free Agent Starter Pool

Vogelsong vs KC However we all individually feel about things like the Stephen Drew signing, the recent bullpen moves, or the overall status and potential of the team, one thing we can all agree on is the need for more starting pitching.  There are serious questions and concerns about each guy in the projected rotation, most of them health-related, and the already thin organizational starting depth was dealt a small blow by the trading away of Manny Banuelos.  Ivan Nova's return will help some, but he can't  be expected to step back into the rotation and pitch like the 2013 2nd half version of himself.

The Maxes Scherzer and Jameses Shields of the world are still hanging there for the taking on the free agent tree of temptation, but all signs point to the Yankees sticking to their word and not inking either of those 2 this offseason.  The more probable outcome is them dumpster diving into the lower levels of the remaining free agent group and signing a reclamation project/replacement-level innings eater for cheap.  While the pickings are incredibly slim, there are a few guys who might make sense on a 1-year deal.  Guys like...

Brandon Beachy- The younger (28) and more seriously injury risky of the 2 former Braves starters, Beachy is a big time question mark after undergoing his second TJS in less than 2 years last March.  I haven't read anything on his rehab progress, but based on the timing of his last injury there is a chance he doesn't pitch at all in 2015.  If that's the case then obviously the Yanks should pass on him.  If he is on track to return to game action at some point, however, he might be worth a look.  When healthy, Beachy has proven himself to be a capable MLB starter.  He's far from the safest bet because of the elbow problems, but he might have the highest upside.  Any chance of him replicating his past performance for even a few starts is worth spending a couple mil on.

Chad Billingsley- Another player who's been dogged by recurring arm injuries, Billingsley had his comeback from 2013 TJS derailed by a flexor tendon injury in June.  He is expected to be ready to return to the mound much earlier than Beachy, but I haven't read any reports putting a solid statement on where he stands physically.  Billingsley was a workhorse for the Dodgers from '08-2011, but has made just 2 starts since the beginning of the 2013 season.  His shelf life shouldn't be completely over at age 30.  If he truly is back to full strength and able to pitch earlier in the year, he would be a nice insurance piece for the back of the rotation and a potential bridge to Nova's return.

Carlos Villanueva- No health issues here.  Villanueva has pitched in 33 or more games every year dating back to 2007.  His problem is one of identity crisis.  He's made a career of being a David Phelps-type floater on pitching staffs, doing the bulk of his work in relief while also making 5 or more starts in 8 of his 9 seasons and 13+ starts each year from 2011-2013.  His 5.00 ERA/4.72 FIP, 16.9% K, 7.0% BB career line as a starter compared to 3.55/3.75, 23.9% K, 8.7% BB as a reliever is pretty scary.  It is that split that probably explains why he's still on the market.  For that kind of starter production, the Yanks would be better off sticking with one of their Triple-A guys or maybe Esmil Rogers.  Still, he could be an option if they get desperate enough.

Ryan Vogelsong- Maybe the best option of this bunch, Vogelsong has the advantage of being mostly healthy and relatively productive over the past 4 seasons.  Throw out 2013, when he pitched very poorly and also suffered a broken finger, and he's been good for about 170-180 innings of 1-2 WAR ball every year.  He doesn't strike many guys out (17.2% career K rate) and walks a few too many (8.8% career BB).  His declining GB rate is also a concern, but all of those are things you'll live with as a back-end innings eater.  His velocity has held up into the early part of his late 30s, and he's easily the best bet of these 4 to stay healthy AND somewhat productive as a starter in 2015.  I could see the 1-year/$5 million deal that landed Capuano being a perfect fit for Vogelsong as well.

In addition to those 4 guys, there are names like Scott Baker, Kevin Correia, Bruce Chen, Felipe Paulino, Franklin Morales, Paul Maholm, and Chris Young that are also out there on the market.  Most of those guys have been pretty terrible for the better part of the last 2 seasons though, and would be better served as backup plans to this emergency backup plan.  The best chances to hit on either upside (Beachy, Billingsley) or reliability (Vogelsong) are in this group of 4.  If I were Cash and I knew I was committed to staying away from Scherzer and Shields, this is who I'd target to build some more depth.