Much has been made this winter about the Yankees' surplus of starting pitching, but only Jeff Weaver, Jose Contreras and Mike Mussina are signed passed this season. Tyler Kepner reports in today's New York Times that "the Yankees are close to adding another starter to the mix."
According to a baseball official, the Yankees are in serious discussions with Jon Lieber, a former 20-game winner who might not pitch this season but is expected to be ready for 2004.
Lieber, a right-hander who turns 33 in April, went 20-6 for the Chicago Cubs in 2001 but had Tommy John surgery on his elbow last August. The surgery typically requires 12 to 18 months of rest and rehabilitation.
The official said the sides were working on a two-year deal with an option. The deal would be heavily based on incentives similar to the one [David] Wells signed last winter, when he was a healthy risk because of back surgery...
Liebeer, who was 6-8 in 21 starts last season, made the National League All-Star team in 2001, his fifth season as a regular starter. Over five years with Pittsburgh and our with the Cubs, he has established himself as a control specialist, typically striking out at least 100 more hitters than he walks each season.
"You look at his stuff, and his stuff's O.K.," one National League advance scout said. "But then when you see him, you go, 'Wait, he keeps getting people out.' He's a very good competitor with the heart of a lion. When he's on, he'll give you a good, solid six or seven innings, at least. Getting him for '04 makes a lot of sense."
...If the Yankees complete their deal with Lieber, he will have a job, leaving them with only one slot to fill in the rotation. The start of the 2004 season is more than a year away, but in the Yankees' world, spots are going fast.
Maybe they can get Don Gullet to fill the fifth slot.
Speaking of ex-Yankee hurlers, Jim Beattie co-GM of the Balitmore Orioles is busy these days. There is a report on mlb.com which suggests that the Orioles may be close to signing former Blue Jays outfielder Jose Cruz, Jr. and free-agent catcher Ivan Rodriguez to one-year deals. That would keep things lively in what should be a much improved AL East this year. Stay tuned...