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Mailbag: Sheets or Pettitte as Plan B?

Mailbag: Sheets or Pettitte as Plan B?

What if the Yankees can't land CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett or Derek Lowe? It seems that they all have some reason they don't want to pitch in New York. What other options do we have?
-- Jon H., Sussex, N.J.

Imagine that? Listening to a little talk radio this week, it seems like a lot of voices have been inclined to wonder if the sky is falling, just because Sabathia didn't immediately leap at the Yankees' offer of six years and approximately $140 million. Or worse, some have decided to take the non-response as a sign that Sabathia has no interest in playing in New York.

If you consider it from Sabathia's viewpoint, what's the rush in signing on the dotted line? As far as we know, he's only heard offers from two clubs, the Yankees and Brewers. Maybe there's a mystery team out there that will offer more than the Yankees; maybe a California team will step up and put something on the table. Hey, maybe not. But if it was you, wouldn't you find out?

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It's no secret the Yankees want Sabathia, and if they can't get him, they'll probably go hard after both Burnett and Lowe. The checkbook will do the talking and, if for some reason, the Yankees can't woo any of the three, they'll have to fall back on other options. Andy Pettitte would need to move from the backburner to the forefront, and you'd hear a lot about considering guys like Phil Hughes and Alfredo Aceves for the back end of the big league rotation.

The Yankees could even go after a free agent like Ben Sheets or Oliver Perez as one of their second-tier alternatives. Needless to say, it's a scenario the Yankees would prefer to avoid, so at some point they'll look to lock up at least one of their top three choices. No one said the rotation needed to be set by the time the Thanksgiving turkey is carved.

I've heard a lot of talk about Lowe and Burnett, but why aren't the Yankees thinking about Sheets, who had a great year and has good stuff?
-- Adam G., Enosburg, Vt.

Sheets picked a bad time to have a right elbow injury pop up, which takes a lot of the sparkle off his free agency. Unable to pitch in the playoffs, Sheets threw only 4 1/3 innings after Sept. 11. Though his flexor muscle tear is expected to heal during the offseason, it clearly pushes him behind the top free-agent pitchers everyone is talking about. Even the Brewers have made retaining Sabathia a priority over keeping their home-grown Sheets. Once those guys begin to drop off the map, the dominoes begin to fall into place.

Now that Mike Mussina has decided to retire, what are his chances of making the Hall of Fame?
-- Eddie R., Becket, Mass.

This is something we looked at in some detail on MLB.com last week, and Mussina's candidacy is going to present a compelling argument for many voters. He's not a clear-cut cinch, and might not even be a first-ballot guy if he does get in -- but I think he eventually will.

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Knocking off one of his "never-did" items with the 20-win season boosts his case, as does pitching his entire career in a potent American League East in an era dominated by sluggers. A career ERA of 3.68 during a time when the league average was 4.51 bodes well for him, and he's 19th all-time in strikeouts.

The stats of Ferguson Jenkins, Juan Marichal, Catfish Hunter and Bob Gibson all compare well to Mussina -- that's select company. Wins are really not the best way to judge a pitcher; in fact, they can probably be one of the worst. But here's the point of the 270 wins. Mussina is 117 games over .500 for his career. If Mussina doesn't get into Cooperstown, he'd be the only pitcher with that much success to be excluded.

With Mussina retiring, what are the chances the Yankees sign Pettitte, and what would they pay him if they did?
-- Paul E., Binghamton, N.Y.

Mussina's retirement seems to step up the urgency a little bit. Even though the Yankees expected Mussina to walk away, they didn't know for sure. This frees them to open up discussions with Pettitte, and there's a match to be made, as both sides want each other. Since Pettitte said he doesn't want to pitch anywhere else, they'll just need to find common ground on a contract.

Pettitte won't get the $16 million he made in '07 and '08, but the Yankees usually take care of their own. There's not a whole lot of hand-wringing about that.

With Coco Crisp traded to the Royals, any chance the Yankees make a trade offer for David DeJesus? He's a Brooklyn kid and can play all three outfield positions well. I also like his solid on-base percentage and low strikeout rates.
-- Joe B., Greenwich, Conn.

There's a chance, but it seems more likely that the Royals will be inclined to move Mark Teahen if they shop an outfielder. Royals GM Dayton Moore is known to be quite fond of DeJesus, and the club is thought to be reluctant to move him. The remaining $8.8 million on his deal is considered affordable.

If the Yankees need pitching, will they perhaps go get Pedro Martinez?
-- Matthew J., Spring Hill, Fla.

Does Jorge Posada get a vote? In all seriousness, Martinez no longer qualifies as the type of impact pitcher the Yankees want and need. He was ineffective in the second half of last season for the Mets, and, on the downside of a great career, is not the type of reliable contributor the Yankees are looking to build with.

Have the Yankees courted free agents like Sabathia and Burnett by showing them around the new stadium and talking to them about tradition -- just like how they did years back with other players?
-- Scott J., Orange, N.J.

Not yet. Joe Girardi said last week that he is willing to help chaperone potential free agents around New York, but he also noted that negotiations need to move a little further along before the Yankees get to the stage of showing the new stadium and talking about places to live or city schools.

In the case of Sabathia, they'd at least like to begin hearing a response, and no offer has officially been presented to Burnett. If there's reciprocal interest, the Yankees will be more than happy to show off the new stadium. The size alone of the clubhouse in the state-of-the-art facility, to say nothing of the city itself, will be a major selling point.

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

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