Wednesday, January 11, 2012
Cain is a 27-year-old right-hander, and Hamels is a 28-year-old left-hander. Otherwise, they are essentially the same pitcher. Cain has a 3.35 career earned run average, Hamels 3.39. They allow roughly the same number of base runners, and their advanced statistics (Wins Above Replacement, E.R.A.+) are close.
The Yankees played a version of this waiting game after the 2007 season, when they resisted a trade (and a subsequent long-term contract) for Johan Santana. They gambled that C. C. Sabathia would be available as a free agent the next winter, and they were right. The Yankees missed the playoffs in 2008 but signed Sabathia and won the World Series in 2009.
If we think about this winter’s relative inactivity in the way Kepner is thinking about it here, it doesn’t seem so bad. It is a gamble that either Matt Cain or Cole Hamels will even reach free agency, and yet another gamble that someone else won’t outbid the Yankees for their services, but I think after the A.J. Burnett signing went sour so quickly the Yankees will be gun shy about committing big money and years to anything less than top shelf talent. By the time Burnett’s contract is over, the Yankees will likely have paid $82.5M for maybe 4 WAR.
Not signing less than great players in free agency is a prudent approach provided they can fill out the rest of the roster with complementary players in cost-effective ways. For example, not signing middle relievers for $36M.