Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Yankees Rumors: Revisiting Max Scherzer; why not Jon Lester?

According to CBSSports.com’s Jon Heyman, the New York Yankees may be revisiting their plan to stay away from the top free-agent starters on the market, namely former Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer.

Heyman notes a slow to develop market on Scherzer and intimates that the Yankees have gradually begun to reshape their strategy on making a splash this offseason.

The Yankees have predominantly been linked to Brandon McCarthy and other midtier starters like Jason Hammel and back of the rotation arms such as Chris Capuano thus far. A move onto Scherzer might indicate that after some deeper thought, the Yankees front office is fearful that one or more of the returning starters will suffer from an injury recurrence and they’d need a top-shelf starter.

While Scherzer fits that bill, so too does Jon Lester and Heyman wisely makes note of the Yankees' respect for the long time Boston Red Sox hurler. Heyman also indicates that Scherzer could be more attractive than Lester or James Shields for that matter because of less wear on his arm. I went into detail on this recently. However, after giving it some thought, I think Lester might be the better option.

While both pitchers can dial it up, they are not simply power guys, so it is also likely that they’ll be able to adjust to diminished velocity and use of ancillary pitches as their contracts and arms age. I believe Lester is more apt to do this seamlessly.

While I like the notion that Scherzer has less mileage on his arm, I think that his mechanics look to be so much more work than Lester’s. Scherzer, whose dipping velocity is catching up with him (from 94.2 mph in 2012 to 92.8 mph in 2014 according to PITCHf/x data via FanGraphs), possesses the classic hard-working “power pitcher,” motion and he can still dial it up to 98 mph. Lester’s motion seems more in control, less demanding on the body, and his fastball has shown less of a drop-off in the same time frame (92.0 mph in 2012 and 91.5 mph in 2014, while topping out in the 95 mph range this past season) in my far from expert opinion.

There is something about Lester which makes me feel that he’ll end up being more effective as he nears his middle 30s. I don’t think that Scherzer is going to completely breakdown, but I sense that Lester will be able to acclimate to changes in his repertoire over time. I don’t have any empirical evidence here, call it a hunch.

I also like the idea that Lester is a lefty, and the Yankees could use a viable southpaw starter with the deterioration of CC Sabathia seemingly in full effect. I look at Lester very similarly to the way I felt about Andy Pettitte. Very steady. Incredibly reliable. Extremely competitive.

Heyman remarks that both Scherzer and Lester will have their share of suitors and no offers have been made to either pitcher that he knows of. So what is the Yankees play here?

Might the Yanks sense that the slow to develop market means that others are standoffish in reference to Scherzer because of the suspected costs and they'll be able to get him for less than they originally suspected?

It’s possible the Yanks feel they should establish the market for Scherzer and somehow wrest him from the Chicago Cubs, Red Sox, Detroit Tigers or whoever else decides to jump into the fray.

There is also the chance that the Yanks are simply stirring the pot, looking to get a glimpse at where other teams have set their value for Scherzer. Further, it could be a ploy to get Scherzer’s value established so that Lester’s can be better determined. Lester does have the benefit of no draft compensation attached to his signing. Isn't that something the Yankees should consider?

The long and short of it is this – the Yankees are re-thinking their offseason strategy now in regards to the rotation. They are said to be specifically looking at Scherzer, but they should give as much thought if not more to Lester. Either way the Yankees would have to open up their wallets and hope they pick the right guy for the long haul.

Christopher Carelli is a freelance sports writer and sports media strategist. His baseball commentary has also been published on Yahoo Sports, the FanSided network, Sportsideo and linked multiple times on MLB Trade Rumors’ Baseball Blogs Weigh In. He is a member of the Internet Baseball Writers Association of America, the Baseball Bloggers Alliance and the BYB Hub.



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