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Hartnett: Yankees Right To 'Play It Cool' With C.J. Wilson

'Hart of the Order'
By Sean Hartnett
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The New York Yankees must refuse to be bullied by the market when dealing with coveted free agent starter C.J. Wilson.  They have the upper hand in negotiations as contrary to some reports, it is Wilson and his representative Bob Garber who are pushing for a meeting and rather than Brian Cashman.

Of course, the Yankees' finances allow them to overpay when a 'must-have' free agent comes along but Wilson doesn't fit into that category.  He may be coming off a fine year where he went 16-7 with an ERA of 2.94 and WHIP of 1.187 but Wilson isn't worth elite starter money.

The figures Wilson and Garber are seeking are said to be near $120 million over six years.  Whether Wilson can actually command a $20 million per year deal remains to be seen but there is certainly no shortage of interested parties.  The Texas Rangers are keen to retain Wilson and a number of teams such as the Boston Red Sox, Los Angeles Angels, Washington Nationals and Yankees have expressed a desire to sign the lefty.

Judging by major league starters who earn over $20M annually, Wilson doesn't fit into that class.  He doesn't have the track record of Roy Halladay, CC Sabathia, Cliff Lee or Johan Santana when they penned their current deals.  Wilson has only pitched two full seasons as a starter under the eye of Rangers' pitching guru Mike Maddux.  I'm not entirely convinced that Wilson can match his 2010 and 2011 numbers elsewhere.

Cashman must set his max price and stick to it.  I know that isn't easy when the Steinbrenners are your bosses.  Hal Steinbrenner has been outspoken about his desire to add arms to the Yankees' rotation.

"We were concerned about pitching last year and it ended up working out pretty well.  I'm still a little concerned about our rotation.  There are some concerns, and we're going to address them," Steinbrenner recently told reporters.

We witnessed Cashman getting overruled last off-season when the Steinbrenners splurged on Rafael Soriano, a reliever the Yankees didn't need to pay closer money.  Especially when David Robertson was ready to step into the setup role.  Wilson shouldn't be signed by the Yankees just because he's the most talented pitcher available.

The Yankees don't need add another potential ace and if Wilson's demands are too high they should pass on him and move onto their next target.  What they do need are two proven starters.  Mark Buehrle and Roy Oswalt fit that mold.

Buehrle makes perfect sense for the Yankees as he's exactly the sort of steady starter needed to back up Sabathia.  He will require a three or four-year deal but Buehrle hasn't shown any sign of decline.  Oswalt's injury history makes him a one-year gamble worth taking.  Giving Oswalt two guaranteed years might be too risky considering his back troubles.  A one-year deal near $15 million with a matching club option for 2013 sounds fair for both sides.

Both could be better alternatives than Wilson who is likely to chase after the highest bidder who could turn out to be the Los Angeles Angels.  I don't know how to say this without being harsh on the Angles but they're always the suckers who get drawn in on overpriced free agents or take on ridiculous salary dumps via trade.

After all, this is the team that was willing to take on Vernon Wells' albatross contract that pays him $21 million annually through 2014 and gave up slugging catcher Mike Napoli in the process.  Angels' maverick owner Arte Moreno will be eager to make a splash especially if Los Angels isn't able to come away with Albert Pujols or Prince Fielder.

The Angels would be willing to meet Wilson's price if the Yankees, Rangers and other suitors deem him too expensive.

Yankee fans – is Wilson worth top free agent dollars?  Which starter(s) do you want to see Cashman pursue?  Share your thoughts and opinions below.  Sean Hartnett will be covering the Yankees' hot stove all winter long.  Send him your tweets @HartyLFC.

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