THERE’S AN OLD ENGLISH expression: “Don’t spoil the ship for a ha’p’orth of tar.” What it means is don’t risk failure of a large project by trying to economize on trivial things.
Having already invested $423 million in new players this winter, it’s hard to believe the New York Yankees are willing to go into the 2009 MLB season without a proven fifth starting pitcher.
The Yanks are already gambling in a number of positions. They’re banking on Jorge Posada and Mariano Rivera returning fully fit from shoulder surgery; a combination of Melky Cabrera and Brett Gardner being good enough to patrol center field; and Brian Bruney and Dámaso Marte building a strong enough bridge to the closer.
CC Sabathia, AJ Burnett, Chien-Ming Wang and Joba Chamberlain (providing he stays healthy) give them an awesome-looking front four.
But they don’t have the strength in depth of the Boston Red Sox, who added John Smoltz and Brad Penny to a staff already boasting Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Tim Wakefield, Justin Masterson and Clay Buchholz.
That’s why it’s a little puzzling to hear Yankees general manager Brian Cashman talk about a competition for the fifth starting role between Phil Hughes, Ian Kennedy and Alfredo Aceves.
Hughes and Kennedy failed to win a game between them last season and although Hughes somewhat redeemed himself in the Arizona League this winter, the jury is still out on whether he is going to make it at the highest level.
Why Yankees must sign fifth starter
As the saying goes, you can never have enough starting pitching, and the Yankees still look a little light in this department.
It’s all gone quiet on the Andy Pettitte front. Pettitte, it appears, won’t sign for $10 million, and the Yankees seem unwilling to increase their offer.
If Cashman and Pettitte can’t reach agreement, then surely the Yanks need to make a move now for the talented Ben Sheets, who went 13-9 for the Milwaukee Brewers last season with an ERA of 3.09.
Sheets is the best free agent pitcher on the market and although he has spent long periods of his career on the disabled list, he would probably come cheaper than Pettitte.
Cashman and the Yankees have been criticized by all and sundry for their level of spending at a time when the country is in recession.
But as they start a new era in a new stadium, it’s worth remembering that’s it’s now nine years since they were world champions and they have to overtake both the Red Sox and the Tampa Bay Rays in the American League East next season.
So having spent big money on ordering the meatiest entrée, there's no point in Cashman trying to save on his starter.