This offseason we’ve seen a couple of young ace pitchers, Felix Hernandez and now Justin Verlander, get locked up for the long-term. Those two moves should serve as a good reminder to the Yankees that it is important for the team’s long-term success that Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughes become starters.
In an offseason where there was a small market for Matt Holliday and almost no market at all for Johnny Damon, two players who would have signed big contracts if this were five years ago, Hernandez and Verlander managed to land big contracts with ease. The Tigers even found money for Verlander when they couldn’t for Curtis Granderson.
Even when teams are up against a budget they will find money for good pitchers. Just look at the Red Sox this offseason. With a hole in left field they were not even in the market for two very good ones Holliday and Jason Bay. Instead they went after John Lackey, gave him over $80 million, and signed a bargain outfielder.
Top starters are expensive, Verlander, Hernandez, and Lackey each got at least $16 million and that’s where the bidding for next year’s free agent crop of Cliff Lee, Brandon Webb, and Josh Beckett is going to start. In reality each could potentially bring in as much as $20 million a year or more and we are talking three pitchers on the wrong side of 30.
Being on the wrong side of the 30 is bad for two reasons. Typically it means you are paying a pitcher for something he’s done in the past with less of a potential for future big seasons. It also means that they’re at more of a risk of breaking down. Bad elbows, bad shoulders, bad backs. They’re part of the job when it comes to pitching and the older they get the likelihood of breakdowns happening just increase.
Obviously Joba and Hughes are not on the level of these pitchers yet, but they do have the potential. Both are hard throwing, young, and have deadly strike out pitches that give them ace potential. Most of all, for the next four years, they are both going to be on bargain contracts.
But instead of fulfilling their rotation from within with younger and cheaper alternatives, some Yankee fans and members of the media, B-Jobbers, are advocating that the Yankees should move one or both of these pitchers to the bullpen. Just remember, for every CC Sabathia on the free agent market there are two Jaret Wright‘s and Jose Contreras‘ because the Verlander’s and Hernandez’s just don’t hit the market in their prime.