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The next Yankee closerThe big question regarding the Yanks and the trade deadline is whether they’ll be able to get Eric Gagne without giving up too much. The answer is that the only way he winds up in NY is if the Yanks can get him without giving up any of their three studs (Hughes, Chamberlain and Kennedy).

Here’s why I don’t think any of those guys are going anywhere. There’s a plan in place right now. Phil Hughes coming back to the rotation is step one. Joba Chamberlain moving to the pen is number two. Number three is Ian Kennedy’s ascension to the big club (probably in ‘08) and number four is a big free agent signing.

This is where I think the Yankees are going with their pitching staff. Two years down the road, the rotation will hopefully be Phil Hughes, Chien-Ming Wang, Ian Kennedy, Free Agent #1 and Free Agent #2. Who will the free agents be? There are going to be some big names available in the next two off seasons, namely Carlos Zambrano and Johan Santana. Front-of-the-rotation guys. Coming off the books the same year Santana hits the free market are Andy Pettitte and Mike Mussina. That’s $28 million per year the Yanks are free to spend.

The second free agent will probably be filler. Maybe Pettitte for one more year, hopefully not Mussina. The key thing to note here is that Joba is not in the rotation. There’s a reason for this. The Yanks are grooming Joba to be the next Mo. Moving him to the pen in AAA is the first step toward this goal.

Whether they trade for Gagne or not, I think Joba will be in the pen before the end of August. He’s going to have a couple of years to learn under the best, and we’ve seen the results of Mo’s tutelage in Vizcaino this year. With Joba and Mo games will again be 7 inning affairs, shades of Mo and Wetteland in 1996.

Chamberlain is the hardest thrower of the three studs, and while his physique may turn into a problem if he’s a starter, it shouldn’t be a concern when he’s only asked to throw 20–30 pitches max.

This was a much longer post than I intended to write, but to bring us back to the beginning, Gagne may become a Yank, but it isn’t life-or-death. If the asking price doesn’t come down, I expect him to go elsewhere and Joba will do his on-the-job training in the eighth inning role. If they get Gagne, he’s got more time to work his way to the deeper assignments.

Of course, this plan looks great on paper, whether or not Joe will be forced to pitch the kid is another thing. One way to do it would be to get rid of Farnsworth and Proctor. All we can do now is keep our fingers crossed for the next 23 hours or so.

by Brian on Jul 30 2007