The Yankees' ace heading into the season Chien Ming Wang will be out 6 weeks with a severe foot injury. And when I say 6 weeks, I actually mean basically the whole season. On Sunday while sprinting toward home plate as the Yanks spanked the Astros 13-0, Wang came up limping as he crossed the plate and then had to be helped off the field by the manager and the trainer. Wang underwent an MRI today and it has come out that he has a partially torn tendon and has sprained his foot pretty badly.
Wang will now have to wear a boot for AT LEAST 6 weeks. So it could very well be longer because this isn't the kind of injury that heals quickly. These kind of injuries usually take a long while to fully heal. After those 6 or so weeks, he'll have to take another month or 2 to get all his strength back and work up his arm again so he can pitch a full game. If he's not out for the whole season, he could be back in the very end of September. Wang was the Yanks ace this season and was performing pretty well. Although he hit a cold stretch in May/June, he won 2 games on the recent road trip the Yanks had and is 8-2 with a 4.07 ERA in 15 starts. This injury is a huge blow to the Yankees; a team that finally seemed to start rolling. They went 5-1 on the road trip (outscored opponents 34-15) and most things started to click. A-Rod, Damon, Giambi, and Matsui have been red hot and Pettitte/Wang both showed gutsy performances.
But now, this set back has thrown the team and the front office into a loop. While the injury was sort of a freak occurrence, it can be explained. Pitchers in the AL never hit nor run the bases. Wang was running full speed toward home plate (he scored) and about half way there he felt something. The rest was what has just been explained. This is terrible but good timing at the same time. It's good timing because the Yanks have an incredibly easy stretch of games coming up.
-3 vs. San Diego
-3 vs. Cincinnati
-3 at Pittsburgh
-4 vs. Mets (1 game at home and 3 on road)
-3 vs. Texas
Those teams have a combined record of 166-185 (all teams are under .500). That's the good news for the short term. But after that, they go Boston for 4 games and the heat of summer starts to really come in. The Yankees are a season high 4 games over .500 right now but will need more than what they have now on the pitching front to keep up the pace and make the playoffs. Wang, Kennedy, and Hughes are all out on the DL. The rotation for the moment is Pettitte, Mussina, Rasner, and Joba. That's the bad timing. The Yanks were starting to get hot and this throws a wrench in their gears. The Yankees were already thinking about adding a pitcher before this injury. Now another pitcher is a must have and he must be a good pitcher. No Sidney Ponson's or Darrell May's. They need a tough, steady presence in the rotation that will work innings and give them wins. So that begs the question: Where do the Yanks go from here? How do they fix this? Who do they get?
The 2 in house options are Dan Giese and Ross Ohlendorf. When the Yanks got Ohlendorf in the Randy Johnson trade with Arizona, he was a starter with a pretty high upside. This season, he has had his moments coming in from the bullpen regardless of his ugly ERA (5.65) and Giese has had 2 great relief appearances in both of Joba's starts. But the gigantic problem here is both are incredibly inexperienced and unless the Yanks catch a miracle lightning in a bottle again (i.e. Shawn Chacon, Aaron Small, Al Leiter, Rasner), this team will need a lot more stability and insurance in the rotation. So now that brings up the possibility of trading for a big pitcher. Not a mediocre journeyman who's out of options; they need a big name. Or at least someone extremely dependable. What I would do is try out the young guys in the organization first (the 2 mentioned earlier or some others in the farm system) because once again the Yanks have an easy part of the schedule coming up. It that doesn't work out for long or at all, then look vigorously into the hot stove.
The period after the draft is when the rumor mill picks up to the max; like during the winter meetings during the off-season. So, who is out there that this team can get their hands on and will make an immediate impact? Here's a few:
C.C. Sabathia- This is the biggest name on the trade front right now and the Yanks have been listed as one of the teams heavily interested. C.C. got off to about as bad as a start as you can possibly have but has started to show his 2007 form lately. He's still 5-8 but his ever decreasing ERA is now at 4.26. This would cost the Yankees a lot of what could be their future and remember that Sabathia's contract is up after the season. And who knows if the Indians will even trade him. But if the Indians continue to underachieve, Sabathia could make sense for the Yanks. If he comes over and does super, they have the money to sign him to a deal and that gives them another ace. If he comes over and is not the overpowering arm he can be, just let him walk.
A.J. Burnett- I wouldn't touch Burnett even if the Blue Jays lose their collective minds and were comfortable with trading him to a division rival. Because Burnett will bolt for free agency after the season (out clause in his contract), I expected A.J. to post the numbers of his life this season. But he's done the same thing he's been doing for most of his career: disappointing (6-6, 4.90 ERA). For some reason he can never fully harness his power and play great baseball for an extended period of time. He's the J.D. Drew of pitchers. For that reason and the fact he's out way too much, he's not worth going out of your way to get. Someone will get him, but the Yankees know they're better options out there.
Rich Harden- Harden (4-0, 2.53 ERA) is kind of like Burnett in the sense that he's injured more often than not. But he's different in that when he pitches he's normally in top form. He's a great hurler but his injury past is discomforting and Billy Beane will be asking a ludicrous amount for him. If the Yanks do get him and he does great, it would look like the deal of the century. They'd look like the smartest people in the galaxy. But it's a very fair possibility that the complete opposite of that could take place. I wouldn't take the risk because the risk itself outweighs the reward. It's an incredibly tricky move to make when you want to make the playoffs in the worst way and contend in the future. Another name from Oakland is Joe Blanton but he'd cost the same as Rich even if he's not as good.
Randy Wolf- I'd be surprised if Wolf isn't traded before the July 31st trade deadline. The Padres signed him to a contract this season but since they're already out of the playoff picture pretty much, are trying very hard to dump him. And many teams would like to have him right now. He's a solid, lefty veteran (5-4, 3.83 ERA) who won't cost much. Another player from the Padres is the future HOFer Greg Maddux. His stats are very solid but he's very up there in the age category and in the AL he'll only be a 5 inning pitcher at the most. Both these guys are pretty good options because they won't deplete the farm system and you know what you're getting with them. But neither is close to being a shut down punch.
Kevin Millwood- I mentioned him as a possibility for the Yankees in my blog of potential trades. Kevin is an interesting guy to watch. While he hasn't been great this season, he has been solid enough to like. And getting away from that hitter's heaven in Texas would be sure to help him. This matter depends on what the Rangers would be asking. No matter how idiotic the Rangers' front office has acted during the past few years, even they must realize they need dynamite pitching for the future. They could ask a ton for Millwood. I know that's what I would ask. But if they aren't asking for much, this is a pretty good road to take.
Vicente Padilla and Paul Byrd- These 2 would not be good roads to take. Getting Vicente Padilla would be like driving off a cliff and picking up Paul Byrd would be the equivalent of driving head-on into a train. Byrd has been pounded pretty well this season and I'd say it's about time. He's never had much in the first place and got put under the microscope last year after the steroid business with him. Padilla is pitching shockingly well thus far but I don't except that to last. I think he knows he's going somewhere soon so he's putting his best effort out there now. I would hate to seem him on the mound facing the Red Sox or Rays in a Yankee uniform. That's throwing a lit match in a gasoline tank.
Some others include Derek Lowe, Erik Bedard, and Freddy Garcia. I wouldn't touch Garcia or Bedard. The Mariners would be asking many things for Bedard and he's had such a hard time pitching a full season (it looks like he really can't do it) and Garcia could end up just as bad as Padilla. Derek Lowe would make sense to me. He's in his final year of his deal, he's a pretty solid big game pitcher (as shown in 2004), he knows the Red Sox, and it wouldn't cost a lot. The Dodgers would have to be out of the playoff hunt though. Or how bout Roger Clemens?! Yeah, that's a good idea! Just ask Suzyn Waldman.
To make a long story short (even though I just laid out the whole story), Wang is out for most if not all the season and the Yanks now fully need a good pitcher. A great one wouldn't hurt either.