Friday, March 25, 2011

Yankees trade Mitre, clear up potential rotation

(photo courtesy of

I haven't been writing much about baseball during Spring Training but with Opening Day less than a week away, I think it's about time. It also helps that the Yankees traded Sergio Mitre, who was in the mix to be their fifth starter, to Milwaukee for outfielder Chris Dickerson.

Ivan Nova seems on track to be the Yankees fourth starter, having allowed just two runs in 14 innings and boasting a solid 7:2 K:BB ratio. You would like to see more than a strikeout every other inning, but if he can continue to show the kind of control he has in his small Spring sample you won't find me complaining.

The battle for the fifth starter's role is a little more interesting, with Freddy Garcia supposedly still the frontrunner despite a rough spring. Bartolo Colon has pitched well but hasn't thrown a major-league inning in two seasons, leading Joe Girardi to believe he's better suited taking Mitre's 2010 role in long relief.

Even if the Yankees do go with Garcia over Colon, New York may only need to use their fifth starter two or three times in April. If Garcia's struggles continue while Colon does good work out the bullpen, I wouldn't be surprised to see the Yankees change their minds. Spring performance is one thing but once the real games hit, you need to go with the pitcher who's performing better, which very well could be Colon.

It's no fun as a Yankees fan debating between Garcia and Colon, two washed-up has-beens who are shells of their former selves. It sure would have been nice to see Andy Pettitte in pinstripes in 2011, but he seems perfectly content to watch this baseball season from his couch.

The other major question facing the Yankees heading into the season is: Who will bat leadoff? I think Brett Gardner is the most logical option with Derek Jeter sliding down to the two hole, where he's spent most of his career. Girardi has talked about leading off Gardner against right-handers and Jeter against left-handers, but I think it should be Gardner every day.

Jeter hit 69 points higher against lefties last season than Gardner (.321 to .252) but Gardner's OBP was still .373 compared to Jeter's .391. The OBP numbers aren't even close against right-handers and while Jeter has hit .338 against lefties over the past three seasons, I see no reason to shuffle the leadoff spot when Gardner gets on base almost as often and possesses far superior speed.

Either way, the Yankees lineup will be their strength this season. Their bullpen looks good at the back end with Mariano Rivera and Rafael Soriano anchoring the eighth and ninth innings but I still have issues trusting David Robertson and Joba Chamberlain, who somehow got fatter, in the sixth and seventh innings.

With A.J. Burnett's potential inconsistencies and Nova and Garcia/Colon likely being unable to last deep into games, Yankees fans will see a lot more of Chamberlain and Robertson than they may like. New York may recognize the need to shore up their middle relief at the trade deadline if their starters struggle like many expect.

The Yankees should be okay when C.C. Sabathia and Phil Hughes start, but the other three spots leave a lot to be desired unless Burnett can bounce back and Nova can outperform expectations. This has the potential to be a long season at Yankee Stadium and by long, I mean as few as 85 wins and difficulty making the playoffs.

That's okay for a lot of teams, but not the Yankees. Missing out on Cliff Lee and Zach Greinke may prove more costly than whatever money they would have wanted if we got them.

No comments:

Post a Comment