Inbox: What are the latest options for pitching?

Inbox: What are the latest options for pitching?

Inbox: What are the latest options for pitching?
I just read a story saying general manager Brian Cashman is not going to go after any Type A free agents. Why not make a push for Rafael Soriano? Mariano Rivera could potentially groom him in the closer role.
-- Alex C., Old Bridge, N.J.

Things could change, but as of right now, it doesn't seem like that's going to happen. The cost for Soriano may be too high for the Yankees, both in terms of salary dollars and the talent they'd have to surrender as compensation to the Rays.

Even though it sounds like Soriano would consider coming to New York to set up for Rivera at the right price, Cashman has told his scouting department to prepare for a first-round selection, as he will not give up the Yankees' pick (31st overall).

That would also take them out of the running for Grant Balfour and Carl Pavano -- not that they were going to bring Pavano back.

But if they revisit the idea later, Soriano figures to offer the promise of a shutdown bullpen to help offset a weakened rotation.

We all know the Yankees don't have a championship rotation. The only reliable pitcher is CC Sabathia, because we cannot assume Phil Hughes will win 18 games again. What will Cashman do to make the Yankees' starting pitching look like a contender?
-- Cesar E., Santo Domingo, D.R.

To be perfectly honest, there aren't a whole lot of doors to open. It's been said a lot, but this is the price of putting all the eggs into the Cliff Lee basket, as this has played out to be a poor free-agent market. Where would you go from here?

The Yankees have looked at the medicals on Freddy Garcia and he does have some appeal for the back end of their rotation -- a double-digit winner for the White Sox last year who may have been that team's most consistent starter.

Still, Garcia turns 36 in June and there are injury concerns with him, as with most of the remaining market. Kevin Millwood seems like he's been around forever and he'd eat innings, assuming you can look past his 4-16 record for the Orioles last year.

Maybe they can hope for the best with a guy like Jeremy Bonderman or Jeff Francis, but obviously the Yanks aren't thrilled with the options out there. Cashman said that if the prices come down he'll be able to get more serious. It makes you realize that their best choice is probably still Andy Pettitte.

What has Brett Gardner done to "earn" the leadoff spot? His career on-base percentage isn't much higher than his career batting average, although if he could bunt consistently, I'd say 'Go for it.'
-- John P., Ridgefield, Conn.

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Putting aside the fact that Gardner led the Yankees in OBP last year ... personally, I think there's too much emphasis put on Gardner's bunting, just because he's a fast guy and people think he should be able to do it well. He's working to improve that part of his game before getting to camp this spring, but let's pretend that Gardner sees absolutely no improvement as a bunter from 2010 into '11, and I could still see the Yankees seeing his value as a leadoff man.

It would have been very interesting to see how Gardner's season might have gone if he'd avoided Clayton Kershaw's fastball in Los Angeles on June 27, because he was a very different player in the first half (.396 OBP).

But even in the second half, with his average dipping to .232, he was still able to get on base at a .364 clip and continued to see a ton of pitches per plate appearance (a Major League-leading 4.61 by year's end). Getting on base is the key. Gardner makes contact, puts the ball on the ground and gets chances to use his legs, bunting or no bunting. They'll definitely consider a leadoff role this spring.

I see the Yankees have interest in Andruw Jones as a fourth outfielder. Any word on a new utility infielder? Ramiro Pena has a great glove, but his hitting is not impressive.
-- Ron C., West Belmar, N.J.

I don't really see a utility infielder as a priority, though if they run into an upgrade they'd probably consider it. Jeff Keppinger's name came up earlier in the winter, but that fizzled out, and he's now going to miss the beginning of the season after surgery.

New York should be fine with Pena. In the role that he's in now, the Yankees aren't really asking Pena to hit much, so whatever he provides should suffice. They'll get much more value out of their chase for a right-handed outfield bat, and Jones seems to make sense.

The Yankees are looking for someone who can play the outfield, not just hit, and Jones is a former Gold Glover who can play all three outfield positions while providing some power. Marcus Thames was a decent fit for that role, but Joe Girardi wasn't always comfortable putting him in the field.

With Derek Jeter's range diminishing, do you think there is any possibility of Robinson Cano and Jeter swapping positions?
-- Dave, Phillipsburg, N.J.

I can't see the Yankees messing with it; they've already said that Jeter is their best choice to play shortstop in 2011, and they're set with Cano at second base. Plus, Jeter knows he has to prove some people wrong, and that motivation seemed to work pretty well for him in '09. I'd look for him to have a better year.

We are always talking about how many dollars are out there for the Yankees to sign someone. In regards to Pettitte, if he doesn't sign, isn't there another $12 or $13 million out there?
-- Mike T., Mineville, N.Y.

Technically, yes, but just because that money is set aside in case Pettitte decides to pitch doesn't necessarily mean that the Yankees must spend it right now. As Cashman said last week, "I don't see much in the marketplace that would have me take that type of money and throw it at somebody else."

Do you think Russell Martin was Plan B to free up Austin Romine and/or Jesus Montero so they can be used as trade bait for Felix Hernandez? He seems to be the only option to keep up with all the Red Sox moves.
-- Rich B., Rockland County, N.Y.

Nope. I think Martin is here because the Yankees don't want Jorge Posada behind the plate and weren't convinced Montero is ready to inherit the everyday catching duties. Would they consider trading either of those guys for Hernandez? Sure, but the Mariners have no reason to trade King Felix -- he's an ace under an affordable contract, and Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik has already said he has no intention of moving him.

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.