“Not interested” have seemingly become Brian Cashman’s favorite two words, which hasn’t exactly been music to the ears of many Yankees fans (or agents hoping to ignite a bidding war). Although it’s easy to see why Cashman would remain aloof when it comes to big ticket free agents or inflated trade demands seeking the team’s best prospects, the cold shoulder given to pitchers like Hiroki Kuroda and Roy Oswalt has been harder for many to understand.
As the winter has progressed, and the Yankees’ Hot Stove has remained without a flame, there has been a growing disenchantment among the fan base. All of sudden, the likes of Oswalt and Kuroda have become “must haves”, and the Yankees’ lack of interest a sign of irrational fiscal restraint. Earlier, I suggested the team might be in a warped version of a rebuilding mode, and apparently, many in the Yankees’ Universe have taken that sentiment a little too much to heart.
Whether or not the Yankees are laying the foundation for when Cole Hamels becomes a free agent next season, there is no reason for the team to make a rash decision on players whom, only weeks ago, most would have agreed weren’t a great fit. After all, is a 34-year old Oswalt, who is coming off a season with a bad back, really what the Yankees need? Is a 37-year old Kuroda, who has spent his brief career in the NL West, any better?
As constituted, the Yankees’ rotation has several question marks, but the only real candidate to be removed for an acquisition would be Phil Hughes. Considering his struggles over the last season and a half, many fans would likely welcome a veteran replacement, but should the Yankees be willing to pull the plug on a pitcher who was not only a highly touted prospect, but has had some success in the major leagues? Granted, penciling Hughes into the rotation represents a risk, but the potential reward (a young, reliable starter under team control for three more years) suggests it should be one the Yankees are willing to take, especially when contrasted against what could be expected from some of the proposed alternatives.
If the Yankees’ signed Oswalt, Kuroda, or a pitcher of that ilk, it would be a sign that A.J. Burnett is here to stay and Hughes is probably destined for the bullpen. Neither decision would be in the team’s short-term or long-term best interest. Instead of settling for a stop gap measure, the best strategy, for both now and the future, would be to remove Burnett from the rotation and acquire a pitcher with staying power. Otherwise, the Yankees could find it hard to get ahead by opting for a fall-back.
Obviously, it will take some heavy lifting to dispose of Burnett’s contract, but there have been reports of interest from other teams. If true, maybe Cashman is currently working on a deal, one that could be the linchpin for another acquisition (John Danks or Gio Gonzalez, perhaps?). Admittedly, such a scenario is pure conjecture, but I’d rather hold out hope for a rotation that includes Danks/Gonzalez and Hughes than settle for one that features Oswalt/Kuroda and Burnett. Not only would that configuration represent an improvement in 2012, but it would also set the team up for a stronger rotation going forward (not to mention provide some financial flexibility for a run at Hamels).
Patience isn’t a virtue most Yankees’ fans possess, but before advocating a rush to judgment, it is worth remembering that the negative effects of a poor decision last much longer than the immediate gratification. The Yankees should be focused on making the right moves, not the most convenient ones, and fans of the team should have two words for those advocating panic: “Not Interested”.