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December 12, 2003

by Larry Mahnken

And Thursday offered more proof that I don't know what I'm talking about, as the Brown rumors apparently have become reality. And I'm happy to be wrong.
2003 DIPS ERAs*, 2003 Yankees rotation:
3.18 - Mike Mussina
3.50 - Andy Pettitte
3.71 - Roger Clemens
4.15 - David Wells
4.31 - Jeff Weaver
3.36 - Jose Contreras

2003 DIPS ERAs*, 2004 Yankees rotation:
3.18 - Mike Mussina
3.10 - Javier Vazquez
2.93 - Kevin Brown
3.36 - Jose Contreras
4.15 - David Wells

* DIPS calculations by Jay Jaffe. DIPS stats are park-adjusted. Adjusting them for RPF is overkill.
Now, here's my first question: If the Yankees were able to trade for Kevin Brown after Pettitte had already signed with Houston, when the Dodgers knew the Yankees were in a fix, why didn't they make the trade before Pettitte left? Had the Yankees done that, and been able to keep Andy Pettitte...

Well, any rotation where Andy Pettitte is concievably your fifth starter is pretty much the greatest rotation ever assembled.

Thursday opened as a dark day for Yankee fans, and ended with a ray of hope. Kevin Brown is obviously not a long-term solution to the Yankees' problems, and he probably won't repeat that DIPS, but the Yankees have clearly abandoned any pretense of looking long-term. For now, it's an excellent trade for the Yankees, assuming that neither of the minor leaguers involved in the trade is named "Dioneer Navarro", in which case it becomes a potentially horrible trade. It's not, I think, a terrible trade for the Dodgers, either, who move an older, expensive pitcher for a younger, much less pricey pitcher, and one who will almost certainly do better in the National Leaguer, in Dodger Stadium, with the Dodgers' defense behind him instead of Derek and the Gang. Rumors are also circulating that Weaver will be flipped to St. Louis for J.D. Drew, which makes the trade much better for them.

But to hell with the Dodgers, I wouldn't care that much if they got totally shafted here--indeed, I might prefer it. The Yankees flipped their worst starting pitcher for a pitcher who, when healthy, is clearly elite. They traded a pitcher who relies on his defense to create outs for a pitcher with very good K/9 IP rates, and a better than 3/1 Strikeout-Walk ratio.

There are, of course, very obvious health concerns with Kevin Brown. He's 39, which is a health concern in and of itself for any pitcher, but he also missed significant time in 2001 and 2002 with injuries. But he did pitch 211 innings last season--more than Andy Pettitte did--and indeed Pettitte's mechanics have created injury concerns, too. If Brown is hurt in the regular season, he helps the Yankees little, but being healthy and effective in October would make up for that. Essentially, the Yankees have added one of the best starting pitchers in baseball for $9.25 million a year over the next two years. That's not bad--and probably better than having a solid pitcher like Andy Pettitte for 4 years at $13.5 million a year.

Considering that the Yankees' rotation last season was not only the best in baseball when seperated from the defense, but one of the best ever, I think it's safe to say that, if healthy, the Yankees will have the best rotation in baseball again, though the defense will mask that. Indeed, much of the Yankees' hopes for next season rely on the phrase "if healthy".
If healthy, the Yankees have the best rotation in baseball.
If healthy, Jason Giambi is one of the very best hitters in all of baseball.
If healthy, Bernie Williams is still an excellent offensive player.
If healthy, Derek Jeter is the third-best shortstop in baseball.
If healthy, Jorge Posada is one of the best catchers in baseball.
If healthy, the Yankees' bullpen is one of the better ones in baseball.
If all of those ifs happen, the Yankees win 110 games next year. If all of those ifs fail, they fight it out for the Wild Card, and maybe third place. I think some of them will happen, and some of them won't, and the Yankees will be fighting it out with the Red Sox for the AL East once again, while the Red Sox deal with their own set of ifs.

Of course, that largely depends on whether the Yankees can pull in one of the big two outfielders, Vlad or Sheffield. Until one of them has signed, I'm anxious about it. If they Yankees do come up empty here, they've taken a step backwards with their lineup, and the division title becomes a tough proposition again.

This offseason has become an emotional rollercoaster:

Red Sox trade for Schilling-
Yankees sign Sheffield
Yankees trade for Vazquez-
But give up Nick Johnson (Gollum, gollum)-
Yankees apparently don't sign Sheffield-
Yankees lose Pettitte-
Yankees trade Weaver for Brown-
Yankees sign Miguel Cairo-.

I'm sure I'll be out on the ledge again tomorrow. See ya there.