I think we've established the Yankees' number one need at this point is an arm for the rotation. Ideally, it would be a front-of-the-rotation, stopper who will give you 200 innings. There are plenty of guys rumored to be available who fit the bill: Johan Santana, Jake Peavy, Erik Bedard, Scott Kazmir and a couple of borderline guys who could turn into an ace like Ben Sheets, A.J. Burnett, Matt Cain or even Tim Lincecum.
With that many names floating out there, you'd think it would be a buyers' market. You'd think wrong. All of the pitchers mentioned above have one thing in common, their teams do not have to move them. Yes, Santana is a free agent after this season, but that doesn't mean the Twins are in a terrible hurry to part with him, nor should they be. All of the other guys are under contract beyond 2008, meaning each one of those teams can and will demand an enormous price, probably a price the Yanks shouldn't be willing to pay at this point.
What's the answer? Well, simply put, the Yanks need Andy Pettitte to come back. Short of that, the options don't look great. The free agent class of pitchers is pitiful. Carlos Silva is the belle of the ball, and he's a year removed from a 5.94 ERA and giving up 38 home runs. No thanks. Kyle Lohse of the 63-74 career record and 1.43 career WHIP is also available, and should probably remain so. If Pettitte doesn't come back, the Yanks are going to have to be creative.
Right now, Mike Mussina is in the rotation. Unless the emotionless wonder found the fountain of youth over the Summer, that is not a viable option. You can rely on Moose for some starts, in a pinch, but you can't give him the ball every fifth day and look at yourself in the mirror the following morning. As I said above, the pickings are slim, but I think there is one potential solution out there that I haven't heard mentioned yet, and that's Randy Wolf.
Wolf is coming off shoulder surgery, which followed about a year after his Tommy John surgery, so yes, he's an injury risk. He'd also only cost the Yanks probably $4-5M and if he's healthy, he's a very, very productive pitcher. Before his TJ surgery, Wolf was an All Star in Philadelphia, from 2001 to 2004 he posts WHIPS of 1.23, 1.12, 1.27 and 1.32, respectively. His k/9 numbers have always been strong (8.24 last year). Not to mention the fact that he's a lefty. Sidenote: do you realize that Sean Henn and Kei Igawa are the the only lefties the Yankees have on their 40-man roster at the moment?
Wolf is a risk, that's why his price tag will be so far below the inferior talent in the free agent market, but the upside of signing him could be tremendous.
It seems like the Yankees are being priced out of the Johan Santana conversation, prospect-wise, at the moment. The other, younger, studs who are rumored to be on the market are probably going to demand just as high of a price tag (if they're really on the market). I think the prudent move for the Bombers to make is to go out and get Wolf, get on the phone with Pettitte, get him back into the fold and then go into the season with what they have. If Santana hasn't been moved by the trading deadline, his asking price will come down, and who knows, by then you might have one or two stoppers on your staff already in Joba and Hughes.
Wolf is the epitome of low risk/high reward, and he's such a good fit for the Yankees' needs I'm actually surprised I haven't heard the rumor yet.Disclaimer:
I've chosen to ignore my enormous bias against National League pitchers coming to the American League because I think there would be little to no added pressure on Wolf's shoulders. If he was signed to a relatively cheap contract, the expectation would be that he fill in at the end of the rotation, not save the team. Plus, I don't like shooting down my ideas with my own closed-minded biases.