There is a growing chorus of Internet opinion that the free agent who would best meet the New York Yankees' need for a reliable front-line starting pitcher is veteran left-hander. Give me demerits for lacking originality if you must, but I am here to join the chorus.
It is clear that Yankee General Manager Brian Cashman is focused on improving the team's starting pitching beyond portly (more than portly) ace CC Sabathia. A wide array of reports have connected the Yankees to Buerhle and just about every other name brand free-agent arm on the market -- C.J. Wilson, Roy Oswalt, Edwin Jackson, Japanese phenom Yu Darvish, the Yankees' own Freddy Garcia.
All of those guys come with question marks. Wilson has won 31 games in two years, but can he maintain that success? And does he have the personality to succeed in New York? Oswalt is 34, has a back issue and the 139 innings he pitched in 2011 is his lowest total since 2003. Jackson? He is 28 and has a great arm, but has now been through six teams. Darvish? Nobody knows for sure what he would do in America? Garcia? The 2011 season was his best since 2005. At 35 and with an array of junk in his repertoire, can he repeat that success? Don't count on it.
All of which brings us back to Buerhle. What the Yankees really need behind Sabathia is a solid, dependable veteran to plug in as the No. 2 or No. 3 starter. Someone they can send to the mound every five days and feel confident that they are going to get a quality effort almost every time.
In other words, what the Yankees are still searching for is someone who can give them what Andy Pettitte -- and maybe even Mike Mussina if you want to go back a couple of years -- used to give them. Buerhle, who will be 33 when the 2012 season starts, is the safest bet on the market and the one most likely to fill that type of role.
Buerhle has won at least 10 games in 11 consecutive seasons, and has a losing record in just one of those. He has pitched more than 200 innings in all 11 of those seasons. In only three of those years has his ERA been above 4.00.
The Yankees have young Ivan Nova, who went a surprising 16-4 in 2011. Then they have the enigmatic A.J. Burnett and the hard to figure out Phil Hughes. There really is no way to know what you might get from any of those guys in 2012, or beyond.
With Buerhle, though, you know exactly what you are getting.
There is, of course, no guarantee that Buerhle would come to New York. Early reports have indicated that he will have plenty of suitors.
For Cashman and the Yankees, though, Buerhle is the safe, smart play. Whether the veteran lefty is interested in wearing Yankee pinstripes remains to be seen, but the Yankees would be foolish not to make finding out a priority this offseason.
#56 / Chicago White Sox
Mar 23, 1979