The Yankees don't get anyone they want in terms of pitching via free agency? What if CC Sabathia, AJ Burnett, Derek Lowe, and Ben Sheets all sign somewhere else that isn't the Bronx? What do the Yankees do then?
I think the knee-jerk reaction of everyone will be that they should trade for Jake Peavy. This may sound reasonable considering Peavy's elite status and his relatively reasonable contract. However, there are a few things that I don't like about this (aside from Peavy's no trade clause):
1. He could very well be traded by that time.
2. I don't want to have to give up Phil Hughes and more (read: Austin Jackson) to get him. I know the Padres have said a deal could get done without Hughes, but that's only because the market for Peavy is almost non-existent at this point. If the Yankees were in panic mode, I'm sure the Padres would ask for Hughes in return.
3. If the Yankees didn't trade for the superior Johan Santana last year, why trade for Peavy this year?
Bottom line, I hope the Yankees would stay away from Jake Peavy.
BEEF UP THE LINEUP
The next step would be to bolster the offense, which would make sense and I think should be done regardless of acquiring one of the aforementioned free agent pitchers.
I'm still very much in favor of adding Mark Teixiera, which could allow for some roster flexibility; that move could allow the Yankees to trade either Xavier Nady or Hideki Matsui.
If the former is moved, then Hideki Matsui could stay at DH and Nick Swisher could slide into right, with Tex playing first. I believe this scenario could be plausible because Nady probably has more upside than Matsui right now. He's younger and is coming off a year in which he posted career highs in every offensive category. He slowed down a little bit with the Yankees, but I think he could still be a semi-valuable trade commodity. Maybe I'm just dreaming, but I think Nady and perhaps a B-level prospect or two could fetch Mike Cameron from the Brewers to be a one year stop-gap in center field. That could require some great work via Cashman, though, like in the Swisher deal.
If the latter, Matsui, is moved, I think a few things could happen.
a) Bobby Abreu could be brought back for a 1-2 year deal and would DH to keep his harmful defense on the bench.
b) Adam Dunn could be brought in to DH. His defense isn't as awful as people like to think it is, but I'd still prefer Nady out there.
c) Nady could move back to left and Swisher could play right, with Johnny Damon DH-ing.
d) Bring in Manny Ramirez to DH, Nady would stay in right, and Swisher would be the CF.
Of all these options, C is probably the most likely to happen if Matsui is traded. Option B is what I would want most, though. Inserting a 100 walk/40 HR guy (lefty, by the way) into the Yankees' offense would be a great shot in the arm. The market on Mr. Dunn also seems to be relatively quiet and I think the Yankees could ink him to a very reasonable deal.
I'd like option A, but as much as I love Big Bobby, I feel like he's in a decline. If that were to happen, it would have to be a short term deal, with no more than two guaranteed years.
Option D would be nice, too, since Manny is one of the best right-handed hitters ever. However, I don't think it's very likely. As good as Manny may be, and as much as I'd love to see him in pinstripes, I don't think the Yankees would give him the length in a contract he wanted.
BUT WHAT ABOUT THE ROTATION?
Here, my friends, is the crux of the problem. If all of these guys fall through, who will be the pitchers for the Yankees come opening day? The prospect of this is made harder to swallow, given Mike Mussina's retirement (more on him at a later date). While I don't think he would've touched what he did in 2008, he'd probably still be serviceable in the rotation.
If those guys aren't going to be in Yankee unis come spring, then Andy Pettitte will surely be.
I think the innings restriction on Joba will still be in effect regardless of free agent moves, but I think w/o those guys, the Yankees will toss Phil Hughes back into the Major League fire. Chien Ming Wang will be around, too, so that's four guys. The Yankees could use Alfredo Aceves as a starter as well, which I would like, along with Phil Coke getting a spot start every so often and probably Ian Kennedy being tried out again (for probably the last time). So what would a "nightmare" rotation for the Yankees look like? Probably something like this:
Aceves/Coke/Kennedy/lots of guys.
Of course, there's always the possibility of signing another free-agent pitcher who isn't among the "Big Four." Who are some of those possibilities?
Oliver Perez is a possibility. He's young and has shown incredible flashes of brilliance (one of which was on my birthday in 2007. I was there, great game by Ollie) but has also shown more flashes of mediocrity. The Yankees would probably stay away from someone as wild and inconsistent and Ollie.
Brad Penny is another one the Yankees could go for. He's a good pitcher who the market has been essentially silent on. He's 31 like Burnett but also carries the "injury" tag like AJ. He's a long shot that could work out, but I think he would be avoided.
The Yankees could take a flier on Mark Prior but that is also unlikely.
It doesn't seem like there are any FA pitchers out there the Yankees would sign if they missed out on the "Big Four." If that happens, I see the Yankees devoting their money to offense and attempting to slug their way to a playoff berth.