The Yankees are destined to miss the playoffs for the first time since 1993, but one veteran baseball man said this week that the Yankees' problems won't be that tough to solve this winter.
|Potential FA pitcher A.J. Burnett has the goods, but some think he's too risky to invest in. (Getty Images)|
Here's the bad news: After CC Sabathia, the unquestioned star of the class, there's a significant dropoff, either in terms of raw ability, risk or both.
Here's more bad news for the Yanks: Almost everyone believes that Sabathia's strong preference is to head home to the West Coast, and that his second preference would be to stay in the National League. The Dodgers make the most sense if they have money to spend, but it could be that the Angels are the team to beat.
On the other hand, as a National League executive said this week, free-agent signings almost always come down to which team offers the most money.
"He might like California," the executive said. "But if the Yankees are offering $25 million a year, he's going to say, 'I love New York.'"
You can make a pretty good argument as to whether the injury-prone Sheets actually should be second on the list. There's no debate about Sabathia, who won the American League Cy Young Award last year and has followed it up by going 15-8 with a 2.82 ERA (and is an even more impressive 9-0, 1.43 in 11 starts with Milwaukee).
So here's a quick user's guide to the rest of the market:
The flawed runners-up
• Sheets: The right-hander started the All-Star Game along with 27 regular-season starts as well. But anyone who needed a reminder of his injury history received one Monday when Sheets left a start against the Mets because of tightness in his left groin. The Brewers said it wasn't serious and that he won't miss a start, but for a guy who has missed time because of bulging disks, sore hamstrings, shoulder tendinitis and dizziness caused by an inner-ear infection, this setback had to be a bad sign. "He bothers me," one scout said Tuesday.
• A.J. Burnett: The righty is certain to opt out of the final two years of his Toronto contract, so he'll aim to top the $24 million remaining on that deal. He'll do it, too, and his no-hit stuff will undoubtedly get him four or five years at $13-14 million per, even though people question his ability to win consistently. "His stuff is obviously dynamic, but I think he's a guy who breaks your heart," a scout said. One concern about Burnett is how he would pitch with long-term security. So far, he has pitched the best when free agency was looming.