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Pettitte’s Retirement Helps Phillies?
Posted By Christopher Rowe On Feb 4 2011 @ 9:27 am In MLB,New York Yankees,Philadelphia,Philadelphia Phillies | 4 Comments
Andy Pettitte has announced his retirement after much deliberation. As of his Yankee Stadium news conference this morning, Pettite retires as a five-time World Series champion and the winningest postseason pitcher in MLB history. Pettitte had been telling the Yankees since the end of the season that it was likely he wouldn’t play in 2011. He became a free agent and has not attempted to negotiate a contract but there had been talk of bringing back the veteran southpaw by midseason, much as the Yankees once did with Roger Clemens. That speculation has been put to rest.
The 38-year-old left-hander is 240-138 with a 3.88 ERA in 16 MLB seasons. Pettitte excelled in the postseason, setting a major league record for wins by going 19-10 with a 3.83 ERA. Pettitte pitched 13 seasons with the Yankees, interrupting his career in New York to play for his hometown Houston Astros in 2004-06. He was a three-time All-Star, earning the honor in 1996, 2001 and 2010 and was a 20-game winner in 1996 and 2003 both times posting a 21-8 record. Pettitte was 11-3 with a 3.28 ERA in 21 starts last season, which was limited by a strained left groin that caused him to go on the disabled list from July 19 to Sept. 19. Age and injuries were contributing factors in Pettitte’s decision as was his desire to spend more time with his family.
Why is Andy Pettitte a story pertinent to the Philadelphia sports fan? Pettitte’s departure leaves a huge hole in the Yankees rotation, with no proven starters behind left-hander CC Sabathia, and right-handers Phil Hughes and A.J. Burnett. Freddy Garcia and Ivan Nova will vie with Sergio Mitre, Bartolo Colon and a cast of castoffs for the remaining starters spots. This group consists of (but is not limited to) names like Mark Prior, Brian Anderson, David Phelps, Kei Igawa and Andy Sisco. So it is possible that after failing to land free agents Cliff Lee (PHI), Carl Pavano, Erik Bedard (SEA), Rich Harden (TEX), Justin Duchscherer (BAL), Jeff Francis (KC) or Jon Garland (LAD) the Bronx Bombers may find themselves in the market for more starting pitching. There are veteran free agent options such as Kevin Milwood, Ben Sheets or Jeff Suppan while the team allowed Javier Vasquez (FLA) and Dustin Mosely (SD) to leave via free agency. An odd situation for the team that all but invented free agency!
The Phillies wrinkle in all of this would be the prospect of Brian Cashman and Steinbrenner, Inc. actively seeking Joe Blanton and if so, what sort of deal could be arranged. The Phillies have been shopping Blanton and his $8.5M per season price tag (through 2012) since December. That was when Philadelphia made their big free agent splash regarding Cliff Lee and his return to a rotation already boasting three aces. Lee turned down the Yankees and took less money to sign a 5-year deal with the Phillies in the wake of Jayson Werth’s departure. This deal relegated Blanton to #5 starter. Brief history lesson. The Phillies traded 13 prospects and spent more than $255 million to obtain and retain the services of “Phour Loco” plus Joe Blanton. Halladay, Lee, Hamels and Blanton are all under contract for at least two more seasons. The Phillies and Oswalt have mutual options for 2012.
Not many teams pay $8.5M to their 5th starter but Blanton’s baseball value may not match his salary. In 7 MLB seasons, Blanton (30 years of age) has tallied a 72-60 record with 4.30 ERA and averages 212 IP, 24 HR, 137/59 K/BB and average WHIP of 1.343. Blanton is a mediocre pitcher who generally offers 6 innings pitched, roughly 1.5 HR surrendered every 2 starts and 34 starts per season. Millwood, by comparison, is 36 years old with similar average pitching statistics but seeking $12M per season to Blanton’s $8.5. How much is too much to pay for a second-tier starter?
Should the Yankees find themselves interested in obtaining Blanton, the Phillies would likely be seeking either prospects or perhaps an outfielder. The Yankees do not have a surplus of either but could possibly consider a combination of C Jesus Montero, OF Andruw Jones, Joba Chaimberlain, Boone Logan and recently acquired OF Justin Maxwell. What’s in it for the Phillies? Certainly they are shopping Blanton in order to shed some salary constraints, but what would $17M buy the Phillies in the way of a potential #5 hitter or OF? Jose Guillen? Gary Matthews, Jr? Garrett Anderson? Kevin Mench? Not likely as it makes sense that the Phillies would wait to try and shake someone else’s tree toward the end of Spring Training. As it currently stands, the Phillies are looking at a potential double platoon situation at their corner OF spots.
Left Field should be patrolled by veteran lefty Raul Ibanez with career minor leaguer John Mayberry, Jr. spelling him against lefty pitchers. Right field belongs to Ben Francisco with help from veteran first baseman Ross Gload attempting to work into the mix. Brandon Moss and Matt Rizzotti could also vie for Gload’s roster spot. Ideally the Phillies would want to package Gload and Blanton together along with burnout Danys Baez but no team is foolish enough to take all three. Blue chip prospect Domonic Brown looms on the precipice of stardom but is still a very raw hitter with all the tools to be a superstar. The Phillies will allow Brown every chance to make the club during spring training but expect that Brown will need more seasoning at AAA. Kyle Kendrick and Vance Worley lead a group of bargain basement options for the 5th starter spot should Blanton not be in that role.
Historically speaking the Phillies and Yankees have not made a lot of deals. The last successful deal was July 30, 2006. This trading deadline deal involved Bobby Abreu and Cory Lidle heading to the Bronx in exchange for prospects SS C.J. Henry, P Matt Smith, P Carlos Monasterios, and C Jesus Sanchez. This deal was a salary dump as Abreu was owed $37M over the final two seasons of his contract.
None of those prospects made significant contributions to the Phillies as only Matt Smith ever made it to the Majors. Catcher Jesus Sanchez is the only remaining player from the trade. Smith and Henry are out of baseball. Smith had elbow problems. Henry is playing college basketball for Kansas. And the Mets selected Monasterios with the seventh pick in December’s Rule 5 Draft. Sanchez, 22, looked like a lost cause, too. He had hit just .220 in parts of three seasons, and was hitting just .186 in 35 games for Class A Lakewood in 2008 when former Minor League field coordinator Bill Dancy pulled him aside and told him the club wanted to make him a pitcher.
“I was struggling with the bat,” Sanchez said. “I couldn’t hit. I was like, ‘I’ve got to hit. I’ve got to hit. I’m not going to make the big leagues if I can’t hit.’ I was working every day, but it never showed up.” Sanchez left Lakewood for instructional league in Clearwater to learn how to pitch. He returned to Clearwater the following March for Spring Training and impressed.
Related Article: Phillies Starting Lineup Projections http://prosportsblogging.com/mlb-baseball/philadelphia-phillies/starting-lineup-projections-2/ 
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