- Andrew Marchand, ESPN Senior Writer
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NEW YORK -- David Price turned 29 Tuesday. Wednesday, he pitches for the Tigers against the Yankees. By this time next year, he may be on the verge of free agency.
At that point -- if, of course, he doesn't re-sign with the Tigers -- he most assuredly will be linked to the Bronx, regardless of his past stances on facial hair.
But the Yankees could be faced with an old familiar question: Should they pay a lot for a 30-something ace?
The Yankees see potential in their rotation, but there are question marks. The Yankees could book on a guy like Shane Greene, who goes up against the Tigers Wednesday night. From the get-go, Greene has shown the stuff to be a major league starter. Still, there is a lot more needed -- mental makeup, consistency -- to do it for the long haul.
Greene could join a rotation next season that includes: CC Sabathia, who'll be coming off knee surgery; Masahiro Tanaka, with an elbow issue looming; Michael Pineda, who has been unable so far to successfully pitch a full year; Ivan Nova, who'll be coming back from Tommy John surgery during the season; David Phelps, who has an elbow issue; Adam Warren, possibly converted from a reliever to a starter; Brandon McCarthy, who will suddenly cost a pretty penny; and Manny Banuelos, Luis Severino and Bryan Mitchell, who are waiting on the farm.
There is potential there, but adding Scherzer or Lester would make the Yankees better in 2015.
So this offseason -- with Sabathia as the backdrop -- another decision looms. The Yankees are considering a six-man rotation for the future. This could make an investment in Lester or Scherzer more feasible, offering some protection against injury, or it could make them bypass the big names completely.
The Yankees could switch gears and choose youth and depth over stars. The Yankees know the Orioles, Brewers and Royals are all winning without true aces.
Sabathia is the perfect example of the good and the bad of the ace deal. Sabathia earned his keep during the first three years of his $161 million deal, leading the Yankees to a World Series win in 2009. Over his initial three seasons, he averaged nearly 20 wins with a 3.18 ERA.
He then threatened to use his opt-out, causing the Yankees to capitulate and add an extra season and $30 million to his deal. Truth be told, if Sabathia had opted out -- something he said he wouldn't do -- he probably could've picked up even more cash.
Even at the time, there was some logic to letting Sabathia walk. He was great, no doubt, but he had just turned 30 and the odometer on his left arm was spinning. To predict that Sabathia would eventually regress was not hard, though it perhaps has occurred more rapidly than expected.
After posting a 15-6, 3.38 ERA campaign in 2012, Sabathia is 17-17 with a 4.87 ERA and no fastball the past two years. He has a knee situation that will likely prevent him from ever being close to an ace again and could even rob him of the rest of his career.
New York Yankees
But here is the rub: How could the Yankees have done anything differently in Sabathia's case? They are the Yankees, with expensive seats to sell and a brand that is built on winning and stars. Could they really just let Sabathia walk in the winter of 2011? There would be no guarantees that a new ace would walk through the door.
It is not that the Yankees don't develop pitching -- heck, their bullpen is the best part of their team, led by home-grown David Robertson and Dellin Betances -- it is just that they haven't created aces.
Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain were actually good, just not great, as Yankees. Nova has had his years. Phelps and Warren are serviceable. Greene has potential. Mitchell, Banuelos and Severino do, too.
But these are the Yankees. They have to win now. A month from now, they may have completed their second consecutive non-playoff season. They can't just sit by idly to recalibrate on the mound, can they? We'll have to see it to believe it.
So Price is on the mound Wednesday night against the Yankees. He offers an interesting question about their future. Do they want to break the mold and rely on younger depth instead of their pocketbooks?
Question: What is your opinion? Would you sign Lester or Scherzer or Price or would you go for depth?
2dDanny Knobler, Special to ESPN.com