Last season, everyone knew the Yankees wanted to sign 2 pitchers. The first one was obvious: CC Sabathia. There was debate about who the second one should be, but in the end, most people agreed it came down to 2 choices: AJ Burnett or Derek Lowe.
Burnett was coming off a good, though slightly inconsistent year in the AL East, but had a history of injuries. Derek Lowe was coming off a string of solid seasons in the NL and was a workhorse, with no record of any injuries. Lowe also had thrived in the AL East before.
The safe sign was Lowe: he was less injury prone and had the better track record. Burnett, on the other hand, was the far superior pitcher in terms of “stuff.” His fastball/breaking pitch combo, when working, was better than anything Lowe could throw. But Burnett was inconsistent and often hurt. He was a lot of potential.
The Yankees went with Burnett of course and I wasn’t sure how I felt about it at first. I looked over their baseball-reference pages. They told me Lowe was the better pitcher.
I finally talked myself into Burnett though, based on two things: 1 – I needed to trust the Yankees scouts and 2 (and most importantly) – the Yankees need to pay players for what they will do, not what they’ve already done. Lowe is older than Burnett and farther removed from his days in the AL East trenches. Clearly the Yankees felt Burnett would perform better.
Well, for one year at least, the Yankees were absolutely right. Sure, Burnett had his rough spots, but pitching for the Yankees is a difficult task and Burnett came through. Lowe on the other hand? He gave up more hits than any pitcher in the NL. He had an ERA+ of 88. He was decidedly below league average and in the NL no less.
What does this have to do with this offseason? Well the Yankees have ostensibly exchanged Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui for Curtis Granderson and Nick Johnson. Just looking at this exchange from a production level, they should still have just as much on-base ability thanks to Johnson, and just as much power and speed thanks to Granderson. Defensively, Granderson is an upgrade.
However, there still is much skepticism amongst Yankee fans. Why not just go for the sure things? Why not sign the guys with the track records? Well, Granderson is 28 and Johnson is 30. Damon and Matsui will both be 36, same as Derek Lowe last season.
The Yankees have chosen who they think will produce moving forward. How do they know that? They have scouts and professionals to try and figure it out. Mark Feinsand already says not signing Matsui had everything to do with his knees and nothing to do with money. Of course. The Yankees are determining who will have the best 2010, not the best 2009. And that’s how they have to do it. Even if Johnson ends up hurt and Granderson has a mediocre year, they’re still evaluating players the correct way.
I haven’t even mentioned money yet, but when you consider that Damon wanted 3 years at $13 million each and Johnson is coming aboard for 1 year and $5.5 million, that makes Johnson’s deal even more of a no-brainer. The 2010 free agent class is amazing and the Yankees want to conserve their resources. Any way you look at it, the moves the Yankees have made thus far gives them plenty of potential moving forward and that’s a good thing.