Throughout this entire offseason, all we've heard was how All-Star pitcher Cliff Lee was going to take the biggest contract he could find, and it was going to be coming from the Yankees.
Wrong on both accounts.
Lee is in Philadelphia now, and the Yankees are left scrambling. The Bombers reportedly signed catcher Russell Martin on Tuesday, a signing that is relatively low-profile, but the Yankees still need pitching help, especially now that they've lost out on Lee.
Here's a look at a couple of names the Yankees may have to set their sights on:
Naturally, the minute Lee came off the market, everyone assumed the Yankees would make a strong push for the Kansas City right-hander. However, there have been a few reports claiming that the Yankees are still apprehensive and reluctant about trading for Greinke. Royals general manager Dayton Moore has a high asking price for the young right-hander. With the Yankees and Rangers both missing out on Lee, expect that price to go even higher. The Yankees may have the prospects to swing the deal, but they apparently don't have the right prospects to make something happen. Moving on.
The Rays have had a rough offseason. They lost Carlos Pena to the Cubs. They lost Carl Crawford to the Red Sox. They're eventually going to lose closer Rafael Soriano, also. They're reportedly looking to trade starting pitcher Matt Garza. He'll likely be moved before spring training, but don't expect it to be to New York. Even though the Rays will almost certainly fall in the standings, it doesn't make sense to deal Garza to the Yankees.
Is there anyone more bummed out about the Cliff Lee signing than Pavano? The right-hander, who had somewhat of a resurgence in Minnesota in 2010, has been waiting for Lee to set the market for free-agent starters, as Pavano is looked at by many as the second-best option. However, with Lee taking less money to go to Philadelphia, Pavano may have lost out on some dollars himself. When it comes to the Yankees, though, Pavano seems like a bit of a long shot. His four-year stint with the Yankees from 2005-2008 was, putting it nicely, a disaster. If the Yankees get really, really desperate, then maybe they'll make an offer. Expect Pavano to sign elsewhere (Milwaukee, perhaps?) before that happens.
If Pavano was bummed out about Lee deal, then Pettitte has to be psyched. If the 38-year-old wants to give it another go, he's certainly got the leverage in any negotiations with the Yankees at this point. The Yankees not only have a need for starting pitching, they've got a need for left-handed starting pitching. With the Red Sox adding Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez — both left-handed hitters — the Yankees will need more than CC Sabathia to counter what will be a lefty-heavy lineup for the Sox. With that in mind, and the familiarity the two sides have with each other, Pettitte may make the most sense, but he won't come cheap. But as the Yankees have shown in the past month, they're not afraid to sink millions and millions of dollars into players that are over the hill, or, at the hill's summit. Even if they are willing to give him that money, Pettitte still hasn't even decided if he wants to come back.
The Yankees are a prideful organization. For them to acquire Blanton, they'd have swallow that pride whole. The Phillies, who have a ton of money committed to their starting rotation after signing Lee, will likely look to move Blanton to free up some salary. From the standpoint of adding depth, he makes sense for the Yankees. He's nothing special, but has shown in the past that he can be an effective middle-of-the-rotation starter. It just doesn't seem likely, however, that the Yankees would allow themselves to help the team that took Lee from right out underneath them. There wouldn't be many things sweeter for Red Sox fans, though, than seeing the Yankee take on some of the Phillies' payroll to help pay for Lee.
Josh Johnson/Felix Hernandez
Just kidding. Kind of. Newsday's Erik Boland floated the names of those two young guns on Tuesday, but quickly followed it up by saying "neither are thought to be available." Stranger things have happened, and the Yankees may get desperate enough that they offer up half of their Baseball America Top 10 prospects. But unless that happens, Johnson and Fernandez are simply fantasies.
The Yankees will likely do something at some point. At this point, they don't have much of a choice. Their rotation, after Sabathia, is still suspect at best. Their biggest rival and biggest obstacle for the AL East title has gotten much better, especially offensively. The pinstripes will have to do something soon, or they're going to have to win a lot of slug fests in 2011.
Who knows? Maybe the Yankees are hoping newly-signed pitcher Mark Prior's comeback tour flourishes in the Bronx.