Going into this offseason most Yankee fans were optimistic. Losing the ALCS did a number on some fans, but even the pessimistic envisioned the Yankees adding Cliff Lee, bringing Andy Pettitte back, and making another run at the World Series in 2011.
Unfortunately Lee re-signed with the Phillies and that optimism took a big hit. Pettitte then retired and their playoff chances, let alone their World Series chances, took a huge hit. All of a sudden 2011 went from a good chance to recapture the World Series to one where a lot of fans don’t even believe their team could make the playoffs.
Here’s the thing though, the Yankees have a ton of depth in the minor leagues and with two openings in the rotation a lot of that depth will get a real chance to make to prove themselves.
Right out of spring training Ivan Nova, Andrew Brackman, Hector Noesi, and David Phelps will have a shot to make the major league squad. Behind them Adam Warren, and D.J. Mitchell will have a shot later on in the year and Dellin Betances and Manuel Banuelos will be in the running for a rotation spot by 2012.
That’s eight pitchers who could earn a rotation spot by 2012. Clearly not all eight of them will stick with the Yankees, but with so many possibilities in the running two or even three could emerge as legitimate long-term options.
Now consider if Lee and Pettitte had returned. Sure, the Yankees would field a more competitive team in 2011, but Pettitte would likely have stepped out in 2012 anyway and Lee would be an aging pitcher on a humongous long-term deal. 2011 might have been good, but the long-term success of the Yankees still wouldn’t be certain.
This isn’t going to happen overnight. First of all these rookies are competing with veterans Bartolo Colon, Freddy Garcia, and Sergio Mitre for spots which they might not get. Even later on if they get a chance, transitioning to a full-time role into a major league rotation takes time.
Still the potential is there. CC Sabathia (assuming he doesn’t opt-out or is extended) will be in the rotation long-term. As will Phil Hughes. A.J. Burnett has three years left on his contract, but whether or not he stays for the next three years depends on his performance in 2011. After them it is up for at least two of these eight pitchers to make the rotation, and more importantly, stick in the rotation. But two out of eight aren’t bad odds and without Lee and Pettitte these guys will be getting a legit shot.
So while everyone is upset at how the offseason went and the state of the rotation as it is, there is no guarantee that Lee and Pettitte would have made the Yankees better in 2012 and beyond. There is no guarantee with the rookies either, but if they never got a shot it would be hard to find out. Now they’ll definitely get a chance to show what they’ve got and if at least two of them make it, the Yankees will have a solid, and cheap, foundation for a rotation for a long time.
To find out more about any of these pitchers read our prospect profiles on them here.