Doc or Josh…
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To repeat as World Champions, the Yankees clearly have to upgrade the middle of their pitching staff. No offense to Andy Pettitte, but going into the play-offs with a three man rotation is not the recipe for continued success…especially if Bud Selig is successful in shortening the off-days during play-off series. At this point in his career, Andy is better served by bringing up the rear of the rotation. So, if the Yankees decide to pursue a frontline starter to go with CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett, should they go after Roy Halladay of the Toronto Blue Jays or Josh Johnson of the Florida Marlins?
Pitcher to pitcher, it’s easy to say that the choice should be Roy Halladay. He is arguably the best pitcher in the American League, and he knows how to win in Boston, New York, Baltimore, Tampa and Toronto. He is not intimidated by the Los Angeles Angels, and at 32, he is primed for a few more years of dominance.
But if it were my decision, I’d have to go with Josh Johnson. I know that he doesn’t have Doc’s resume, and there is the age old argument that National League pitchers struggle in the American League. However, it goes beyond just Johnson’s age (he will be 26 next season). After undergoing Tommy John surgery in mid-2008, he is 22-6 since his return and according to FanGraphs, he ranked third in average fastball velocity this past season with 95.1 mph (behind Ubaldo Jimenez and Justin Verlander). He enjoyed a very fine 2009 season, going 15-5, with 3.23 ERA. He struck out 191 batters in 2009 innings. He will continue to get better, and will soon be an elite ace if he’s not already there.
Probably the bigger reason I’d pursue Johnson is that either pitcher is going to require a hefty bounty in return. There is no doubt that the Yankees will lose the likes of Phil Hughes or Joba Chamberlain, and other high level talent to make a trade. Realistically, if we are going to lose those guys, I’d rather see them pitching in the National League instead of right here in the AL East. The counter-argument is that some team is going to pay the Blue Jays a very high price, so they’ll walk away with a much stronger team either way. But still, I am not prepared to see Joba Chamberlain pitching for the Jays. The AL East should be very competitive next year. Aside from the Yankees and Red Sox, you know that the Tampa Bay Rays will be a force to be reckoned with. The fine young talent in Baltimore is finally starting to gel and should result in a much improved Orioles squad. So, if the Jays are smart about the pieces they receive in a Halladay trade, there will be no pushovers in the division.
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The Yankees have A.J. Burnett locked up for four more years so I am not concerned about him. However, CC Sabathia still has the right to opt out of his contract after two more years so I think it would be wise for the Yankees to go with the younger option so that they can build a cornerstone for future years. I don’t think CC will opt out, however, as long as it exists as a possibility, it has to be considered. Much can happen in two years.
So, I say go with Josh Johnson and send the premium Yankee talent to the National League…even if that means Doc Halladay calling Fenway Park “home”. Yankees manager Joe Girardi is familiar with Johnson from his year as the Marlins manager in 2007, so it would aid Johnson’s transition to the Bronx.
There is a question of whether the Marlins organization will be willing to part with Johnson, but it should be interesting to see what develops in the coming weeks…
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But tonight, I choose to see Kelly Clarkson… 🙂