Coming back from the gym yesterday, I was in my car listening to The Michael Kay Show (on ESPN Radio in NYC) right around the five o’clock hour. And, I heard Kay share that, according to all his ‘inside sources’ and ‘Yankees connections,’ etc., the potential free agent starting pitcher (this off-season) who the Yankees lust after the most is Ben Sheets.
Sheets is an interesting case. He just turned 30-years old this season. So, he’s not on the backside of his career.
From 2001 through 2004, the Brewers worked Sheets hard – probably too hard – and that led to some problems. Since then, Sheets has suffered from bulging discs in his back, dizziness and balance issues via an inner ear infection, shoulder tendinitis, and a strained hamstring. And, he’s missed good chunks of time during the 2005, 2006 and 2007 seasons.
However, this season, Ben Sheets has made 29 starts (to date) and thrown 194 innings. And, that’s solid. Further, and this is most important, Sheets is an excellent pitcher. Since 2004, among starting pitchers, only Johan Santana has been better at limiting base-runners. However, in addition to Sheets’ injury history, there’s always the question around bringing a pitcher into the American League East when he’s been in the National League prior to that (and that’s where he ran up his great numbers).
If the Yankees go after Sheets, and get him, I don’t think anyone can say, now, how it will work out. It could be the same as when the Braves signed Greg Maddux after the 1992 season. Or, it could be the same as when the Braves signed Andy Messersmith after the 1975 season. The risk/reward ratio on inking Sheets to a huge, mega-year, deal is…well…it’s a very tough call.
However, if it comes down to being able to sign just one pitcher from the group of A.J. Burnett, CC Sabathia and Ben Sheets, I’d probably go with Sheets (and just make sure that you really check out his back and shoulder before you sign the deal).