For the New York Yankees, the mere fact that general manager Brian Cashman admitted to entertaining the ineffable thought of reacquiring starting pitcher Carl Pavano this week is an ominous sign of the times.
Again, if you’re Brian Cashman, when Carl Pavano — a man who, to Yankees fans, is one of the most hated figures in recent memory — comes to mind as a possible addition, your starting rotation must be in deep, deep trouble.
Pavano, to his credit, had a solid 2010 season for the Minnesota Twins, going 17-11 with a 3.75 ERA, but in New York he will forever be ignominiously known for having a much-maligned, injury-plagued tenure with the Yankees after signing a four-year, $39.95 million contract with the team in December 2004.
In four seasons (2005-2008) with the Yankees, Pavano made 26 starts, compiling a 9-8 record with a 5.00 ERA. His long list of injuries included two broken ribs in an automobile crash in 2006, and a strained right elbow in ’07 for which he underwent Tommy John surgery.
To put into perspective how much of a fixture Pavano was on the disabled list as a Yankee, consider that, in 2010 alone, CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, Phil Hughes and Javier Vazquez made 26 or more starts for the Yankees.
Now, you don’t need a doctorate in math to conclude that the Yankees’ ill-fated signing of Carl Pavano — when taking into account what they got in return for nearly $40 million over four years — was one of the worst (if not, the worst) signings in the history of sports.
While this Examiner recently cited the Yankees’ bullpen as a potential strength going into the 2011 season with the additions of Pedro Feliciano and Rafael Soriano to a relieving corps that features closer Mariano Rivera, Cashman’s interest in Pavano, who ended up returning to Minnesota for two years, $16.5 million, illustrated how desperate the Bombers’ efforts to improve their starting rotation have gotten.
And not that the Yankees are without their reasons to be desperate. A.J. Burnett is coming off a 10-15 season; staff ace CC Sabathia will be returning from knee surgery, and Andy Pettitte is pondering whether he should be a full-time dad, or pitch one more year.
But if Pettitte elects to retire, the burden to back up Sabathia and Burnett — the latter being no sure bet in his own right — will fall on Phil Hughes (18-8, 4.19 ERA in 2010). However, that’s a challenge the Yankees may not want to present their 24-year-old starter with just yet, because they’ll be competing against a reloaded, lefty-hitting Boston Red Sox team in the American League East.
Then there is 23-year-old starter Ivan Nova, who, as of now, is the favorite to earn a spot at the bottom end of the rotation. Are the Yankees willing to drop games in the standings if it means developing Nova, or any other young, unproven starter? After all, the word “rebuilding” isn’t used west of Flushing, Queens.
As it stands, outside of Sabathia, there are too many questions surrounding the Yankees’ rotation. So many that Pavano actually became a candidate to rejoin it.
Pavano’s stats last year may, for a second or two, justify Cashman flirting with the idea of bringing the Connecticut native back to The Bronx, but when evaluating prospective acquisitions, sometimes statistics should be thrown out of the window.
Statistics told Cashman to re-sign designated hitter/first baseman Nick Johnson and trade for Javier Vazquez last year.
How did either of those moves work out?
Some players aren’t meant to be Yankees, but apparently proving that in a Yankee uniform isn’t enough. Such is the current, unfortunate state of Cashman’s starting rotation.