Monday, August 3, 2009

For starters, Sox and Yanks are looking pretty thin

Sure, history indicates the teams that execute blockbuster deals at the trading deadline aren’t the ones that win the World Series. But that doesn’t mean we can’t wonder why the Yankees didn’t land Roy Halladay last week.

Granted, if the likes of the Red Sox and Phillies couldn’t land Halladay because they wouldn’t part with the best of their farm system, then why would the Yankees? They’ve done a much better job of harvesting big leaguers than most of us give them credit for: Eleven players on the current 25-man roster were drafted and developed by the Yankees, and that total doesn’t count Alfredo Aceves and Brian Bruney, whom the Yankees picked up as minor league free agents.

But now that Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain are in the bigs, the Yankees’ system has reverted back to its familiarly empty state. Outfielder Austin Jackson and catcher Jesus Montero, the jewels of the chain, have star potential but are nowhere near finished products.

So the Yankees couldn’t provide anywhere near the package J.P. Ricciardi wanted for Halladay, but this still seemed like a perfect opportunity for the Yankees to flex their financial might and mimic the government by bailing out a desperate team. Never mind how badly the Yankees would seem to need Halladay to anchor a rotation that could be pretty thin by playoff time. As noted last week, there are no guarantees that a top three of Halladay, CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett would be able to handle the playoff pressure, but I imagine the Yankees would feel better about their chances if the fading Andy Pettitte didn’t have to start one of the first three games of a five-game series.

Then again, the Yankees aren’t the only potential playoff team with a vulnerable looking rotation. All that time spent wondering how the Red Sox would fit eight starters into five spots looks pretty foolish now that the Sox are down to two reliable guys, Josh Beckett and Jon Lester.

Clay Buchholz did his best to make the Indians look good yesterday, when he didn’t stick around long enough to earn the win despite being staked to leads of 7-0 and 14-6. Such stunning ineffectiveness has become the norm for the other four candidates to earn a spot in the postseason rotation. Buchholz, Brad Penny, John Smoltz and Tim Wakefield are 5-6 with a 6.32 ERA since July 1. (I’ll believe Daisuke Matsuzaka makes another appearance in a Red Sox uniform when I see it)

The Angels’ rotation drops off drastically after Jered Weaver and John Lackey, as well, and it remains to be seen how the Rangers’ pitchers hold up over the final two months. All of which means that the scariest team in the playoff field might well be the one overlooked by most: The AL Central champ. The Tigers (Justin Verlander, Edwin Jackson and newly acquired Jarrod Washburn) and the White Sox (Mark Buehrle, Gavin Floyd and John Danks, plus maybe injured newcomer Jake Peavy) each have deep rotations fronted by playoff veterans.

Better to be in their position, certainly, than that of the Yankees and Red Sox, who look as if they’ll need some kind of catchy slogan to summarize the thinness of their postseason rotations. How’s “CC and A.J. and a few days of delays” sound?

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