Pitching depth is a good thing to have, a great thing to have in fact. But is there such a thing as too much depth? Maybe.
As of this moment, the Yanks are looking at an 8-man bullpen for most of the season(once Octavio Dotel returns from Tommy John surgery around May, maybe sooner), meaning they'll have a 13-man pitching staff. So doing the math: 25 roster spots - 13 pitchers = 12 position players. Given that 8 position players and 1 DH are written into the starting lineup most days of the season (not counting away interleague games of course), the Yanks are left with a 3 player bench. Three! One has to be a catcher (Kelly Stinnett), so that leaves 2 players that have to be capable of playing the other 7 positions. Miguel Cairo can handle all the infield duties as well as the corner outfield spots to some degree, so his versatility (and $1M price tag) are all but guaranteed a spot. That leaves 1 roster spot left, who's going to get it?
With the way Brian Cashman and Joe Torre have been talking this winter, it would seem as if Andy Phillips is the front-runner for the spot. He's relatively versatile, and in an emergency situation he could play just about any position except pitcher, catcher and centerfield. He's a good hitter, sporting a career minor league BA and SLG of .296 and .516 respectively, although he hasn't yet translated it into big league production (.559 OPS in 48 career ML ABs). Then again, giving the spot to Phillips leaves Torre with no viable pinch running options (Cairo has 17 career SBs in 10 ML seasons, Phillips has 21 in 7 minor league seasons).
There's always cult hero Bubba Crosby, who started in centerfield for the $200M Yankees in the playoffs. The former first round pick can play any outfield position in a cinch, he's got some speed, and he's well liked by teammates. His bat isn't very lethal (.221 BA in ML career, .281 in the minors), but he's capable of hitting his pitch a long way, evidenced by the walkoff bomb he hit against the Orioles last September 19th.
And of course, there's always a Felix Escalona or Melky Cabrera or Kevin Reese available at a moments whim.
Situations like this have a way of working themselves out, either by injury, someone performing poorly, etc. But what happens if it doesn't? What if Kyle Farnsworth and Tanyon Sturtze are lights out in front of Mo, Aaron Small starts the season 5-0 out of the pen, and Carl Pavano, Jaret Wright and Chien-Ming Wang are all healthy and throwing well. Who gets the axe when Dotel becomes available? Mike Mussina, who's showing serious signs of decline
? I doubt it, as Moose is still pretty consistent from start to start.
The best bet may be a trade, particularly one involving Carl Pavano. He's relatively young (just turned 30), still only 1 year removed from an 18 win 220+ IP campaign, and the most marketable name on the staff (besides Wang). Perhaps a deal could be worked out with the pitching starved Phillies (who are so pitching handicapped that they signed Ryan Frankin to be their number 4
starter), who could give up pitching prospects like Gio Gonzalez and Dan Haigwood (both came over in the Jim Thome deal) in return. A team like the Devil Rays could be interesting too; if they're in the thick of the wildcard race come July, would they give up one of their young outfielders for Pavano? Would Cashman deal Pavano within the division? Who knows. All I know is that this situation could lead to some serious spring training competition, making things in the Bronx even more interesting.