I'm sure there are many Yankee fans who really want Andy Pettitte back with the Yankees in 2009.
Maybe it's about nostalgia: the sight of seeing Pettitte pitching in the new Yankee Stadium excites many Yankee fans who remember Pettitte as the pitcher who always came up big when the Yankees needed him.
Or maybe it's about the rotation: fans salivate at the sight of seeing Pettitte, the Yankees former ace, as their fifth starter. There is no doubt that Pettitte no longer has the stuff he once did, but he is still a very serviceable pitcher, who can give the Yankees quality innings and get big league hitters out, right?
Of course he can. Last season was one Pettitte's worst seasons statistically as he finished with an ERA of 4.54, a 1.421 WHIP, and a pedestrian 14-14 record. Even though this was far from Pettitte's best season, it is still a lot better than many pitchers out there. And the Yankees know that they can rely on Pettitte to pitch well in a big game despite his declining numbers in the regular season.
So it makes sense for the Yankees to re-sign him as their fifth starter right?
No, it doesn't. While Pettitte should still be able to give the Yankees quality innings, giving Pettitte $10-$15 million dollars in 2009 coming off an average season would be crazy. Pettitte's numbers have been on the decline since 2006 and there is no sign that Pettitte will be able to bounce back with a quality season in 2009.
The best move for the Yankees would be to keep the money they would have given to Pettitte and let Phil Hughes, Ian Kennedy, Alfredo Aceves, and whatever other youngsters they have compete for the spot. There is no doubt that these guys have talent (especially Hughes) and with the rotation the Yankees have in place already, they could afford to have a fifth starter develop on the fly.
The upside of an open fifth spot is tremendous. Instead of over paying for mediocre performance, the Yankees should let the young guys compete for the job because in the end, it could make the team stronger in long term and short term. These guys have potential to improve and develop into better pitchers, which is more than I can say about Andy Pettitte right now.
And I know there will be Yankee fans who will clamor towards Pettitte no matter what the financial implications are. I understand that; the Yankees have more money than God and there is no doubt that they can pay Pettitte $15 million bucks and not lose any sleep about it. But make no mistake about it: Pettitte does not deserve $10-$15 mil in 2009. Why should the Yanks pay for millions for a guy on the decline when they already have younger and cheaper pitchers who should be able to perform at the same level or better? That's the important point here.
The Yankees have enough stability in their rotation to move on without Andy Pettitte. Between Wang and Sabathia, they have two pitchers who should be able to give the Yankees tons of quality innings and many quality starts. And with AJ Burnett and Joba Chamberlain, the Yankees have two guys who should be dominate pitchers even with their much talked about injury history. And if you think that past injury history should force the Yanks to sign a declining pitcher to a $10 million dollar contract, then your crazy. If the Yankees wanted to sign a security blanket fifth starter, they could certainly do a lot better than Andy Pettitte especially given their current financial situation.
This is a fantastic rotation that can afford to give guys a guy like Hughes or Kennedy a chance to take control of a rotation spot. No matter who the Yankees decide should have the fifth spot, it should not be Andy Pettitte.