It was during the 2008-09 offseason when the Red Sox were largely hailed for a series of low-risk, high-reward signings of either aging pitchers or those recovering from injury, or both. Brad Penny, John Smoltz and Takashi Saito were at the core of the crusade.
While Saito, then 39, performed pretty well, posting a 2.43 ERA and a pair of saves in 56 games out of the bullpen, the other two combined to go 9-13 with a 6.24 ERA in 32 starts, part of a pitching staff that ranked seventh in the American League with a 4.35 ERA.
The moves, designed to provide more pitching depth at a pretty good cost (the trio of quality but risky arms costs a combined $12 million), largely failed. The Red Sox were utilizing Paul Byrd, Justin Masterson and Junichi Tazawa to make starts down the stretch. Then again, it was a low-risk venture. If Penny and Smoltz were able to showcase just some of what had made them special in the National League, it would've been worth it.
Now, the same strategy has been employed by the rival New York Yankees, mostly out of necessity, who have been accumulating candidates to fight for a spot in their rotation.
The latest effort sees the Yanks signing 35-year-old Freddy Garcia to a minor league deal. This comes days after they inked 37-year-old Bartolo Colon and several weeks after former Chicago Cubs standout Mark Prior was brought into the fold. Each one-time star will fight with a few youngsters for one of two rotation spots, which would become just one spot if Andy Pettitte returns.
Garcia is coming off a 12-6 season for the Chicago White Sox and was not bothered by shoulder issues that had dogged him in recent years. He earns $1.5 million if he makes the major league roster, the same figure that Saito received with the Red Sox. It's reasonable to anticipate that the Garcia move could pay off at that amount, even if it is just as a guy who can give the club six pedestrian innings every fifth day.
Colon, like Smoltz a former Cy Young Award winner, and Prior are less-sure things. The former hasn't thrown in the majors since 2009, while the latter hasn't been in the bigs since 2006, having thrown only one inning at in the minors during that time. It's reasonable to anticipate that help from these two is a long shot.
Ivan Nova, Sergio Mitre and former North Carolina State standout Andrew Brackman will also be in the mix.
It is almost a guarantee that the Yankees, who have some money to spend after missing on a few free agents this offseason, will be extremely active in pursuit of a pitcher at the trade deadline. They will be linked in rumors to every single "salary dump" starter on the market.
If Garcia, Colon, Prior or whoever fills those last two spots in the rotation (provided Pettitte is a no-show) goes the route of Penny and Smoltz in 2009, that pursuit will be intensified. It is a low-risk, high-reward route, but the chances for high reward are low.
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