New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman hasn't pulled the trigger on any major transactions this offseason. "We'll just wait. We'll be patient," Cashman said recently in a MLB.com report. "We've got a lot of stuff here, we've got a good team. I want to make it better, it could get better, but it's not like a basketball game where a [shot] clock is going to go off."
After C.J. Wilson signed with the Los Angeles Angels and Mark Buehrle joined the upstart Miami Marlins, the Yankees were surprisingly left without any of the top big-name free agent starting pitchers that were available this offseason. Pitchers and catchers don't report to Tampa, Florida for spring training until the middle of February, so there's still plenty of time to add some arms to the roster.
Here's a look at five ways the Yankees can upgrade their starting rotation before the start of Spring Training:
Sign Hiroki Kuroda
C.C. Sabathia, Ivan Nova and Phil Hughes are locks to be the top three gunslingers in the Yankees' starting rotation, but Hiroki Kuroda would be an instant upgrade over A.J. Burnett and Freddy Garcia for one of the final two spots.
Age is a slight concern- Kuroda will be 37 years old by opening day- but he would probably sign for a one or two-year deal, so it wouldn't be a long-term commitment. Kuroda earned 13 wins for a mediocre Los Angeles Dodgers team last year and his career ERA is just 3.45 through four seasons of play in Major League Baseball.
Sign Roy Oswalt
Oswalt, who pitched for the Philadelphia Phillies over the past two seasons, is another veteran free agent that can be a one-year option for the Yankees. On a positive note, he would be a good placeholder in the Yankees rotation for the short-term, allowing pitching prospects such as Dellin Betances and Manny Banuelos more time to develop at the minor-league level. On the other hand, Oswalt is an aging 34-year-old on the downside of his career. He has a degenerative disc in his back which continues to get worse and will probably cause him to miss significant playing time for the rest of his career.
Re-sign Bartolo Colon
Bartolo Colon stumbled down the stretch in 2011, with a 4.85 ERA in August and 5.96 ERA in September, but these past few months off should be enough to put some new life into his 38-year-old arm. There's not many better options available, and he would likely sign on the cheap.
The Yankees caught lightning in a bottle last year by getting eight wins from Colon by the end of July and they would love nothing more than to have him replicate that early-season performance. If he could put together a few good months in 2012 just to give Betances and Banuelos some extra time to develop, it would make signing him well worth it.
Call on the Youngsters
Yankees fans know A.J. Burnett is good for 10 to 12 wins and a five-something earned run average. What we don't know is what right-handed pitching prospect David Phelps can do in the pros. Besides Phelps, Banuelos, and Betances, the Yankees also have Adam Warren developing nicely in Triple-A. Any one of those four youngsters would be more than deserving of a shot at a starting role in the rotation at some point of 2012. Each of the four should get a fair shake at impressing Yankees' brass during Spring Training.
Sign Edwin Jackson
Edwin Jackson is just 28 years old, but he has already pitched for six different teams in Major League Baseball. Something tells me he'll be settling down with one team for the long-term during this offseason, as it's probably going to take a four or five year commitment to lock him up. I don't see Jackson settling for a one or two-year deal, so signing him would be fairly risky.
However, he would absolutely be an upgrade over Freddy Garcia for the No. 5 spot in the rotation, as he's coming off a nice 12-9 season with a 3.79 ERA. Besides 2010, Jackson has shown significant improvement each of the past four years and he has perhaps the biggest upside of any of the available starters on the free agent market.
Eric Holden is a lifelong New York resident and New York baseball fan. Follow him on Twitter @ericholden.
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http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2011/writers/cliff_corcoran/12/20/beset.pitchers.available/?xid=cnnbin, Sports Illustrated Inside Baseball, Cliff Corcoran