The Yankees started spadework on the deals for Brown and Vazquez last month when it became clear that their soft-sell approach was turning Pettitte toward his home in Houston. New York, for instance, offered Pettitte a two-year contract with an option for a third year that would have brought the value to $39 million. He took a guaranteed three-year deal worth $31-5 million from the Astros. Steinbrenner and Torre never called him.
Clemens, irked by how the Yankees treated Pettitte, indicated that he would decide next month whether to follow his friend to the Astros. "It's up in the air," Alan Hendricks, an agent for Clemens, said on Sunday, "and it's still in the 'unlikely' category."
Brown, who turns 39 in March, and Vazquez, 28 in July, are younger than Clemens and Pettitte, respectively, and they combined for more innings last year and received much worse run support than the former Yankees did. (Among 91 major league starters, Brown ranked 81st in run support, and Vazquez was 83rd. Pettitte ranked second.) Says one NL manager, "If I had my pick of any pitcher [available] this winter, I'd pick Vazquez first."
But an AL G.M. adds, "[The Yankees'] rotation may look better on paper than last year's, but everybody's an unknown when they get to New York. Vazquez pitched in Montreal. What does that prove?"
The AL East now is home to six of the 10 toughest pitchers to reach base against in the majors last year: Schilling (2) and Pedro Martinez (3) of Boston, Halladay (4) of Toronto and Mussina (5), Vazquez (6) and Brown (10) of New York. One former MVP ( Tejada) has already been imported, and two more (Pudge and A-Rod) may be on the way. No need to wait for April. The race is on.