The Freddy Garcia conundrum

Sunday Night Open Thread
Fan Confidence Poll: March 21st, 2011
Freddy Garcia warms up prior to his start on Saturday. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

As Spring Training results go, Freddy Garcia’s haven’t been much. He had a few good starts early on when pitchers were still ahead of hitters, but as the Grapefruit League has progressed, his results have regressed. He had a fairly representative start on Saturday when he had trouble at the beginning and end of his outing but kept the Blue Jays off the board in the middle innings. It could mean that he winds up the odd man out.

On the spring, Garcia has now thrown 13.2 innings with mixed results. His ERA is 5.93, but he has issued just two free passes while striking out 12. He can get the ball past hitters at times, but when he misses his spots, he’s fooling no one. Such are the pitfalls of a 34-year-old who can’t muscle the ball past the 90 mile-an-hour mark any longer.

So what future awaits Garcia? The consensus emerging from the Yankee camp with but a week left of Spring Training — and another outing or two at most for the rotation candidates — is that the Chief is falling behind. Brian Costello wrote as much yesterday in The Post. Brian Cashman though had little to say. “We’re going to have to make a call here shortly because we’re going to have to keep stretching whoever we choose out and start settling people in defined roles,” Cashman said. “That’s going to come sooner than later.”

For his part, Garcia said in no uncertain terms that he will either be on the Major League roster or off the Yanks. “If I don’t make the team, what am I supposed to do in Triple-A?” Garcia said to The Post. “I’m 34 years old. I’ve been in the big leagues a long time. There’s nothing to go to Triple-A and prove. It’s either I make the team or not.”

So here, for Garcia, is the $1.5 million question: Can he make the team out of the bullpen if he’s out of the running for a rotation spot? Garcia has said he’s willing to pitch in long relief. Thus, he is fighting for a job with Sergio Mitre. In eight innings this spring, Mitre has given up just two runs while walking no one and strike out six. Despite many fans’ seeming dislike of Mitre, the sinker baller has done the job. He pitches low leverage innings without turning games into disasters, and the Yanks haven’t been willing to let him go.

As Spring Training hits the home stretch then, the position battles are shifting a bit. The rotation is still unsettled, but Garcia is now fighting with Sergio Mitre for the long man role. It might be a bit of predetermined contest though. The Yanks, for whatever reason, like Mitre, but will they go with potential rotation depth? I wouldn’t be surprised if Garcia breaks camp with the team even if he’s in the bullpen for now.

Sunday Night Open Thread
Fan Confidence Poll: March 21st, 2011
  • Plank

    I wish we could keep the one(s) we don’t keep in spring training longer. It’s really a case of none of the 4 guys pitching themselves into or out of the two rotation spots.

    • Barmy

      you don’t think Nova has pitched his way into one of those spots?

      • Ted Nelson

        Based on one good outing?

  • Gonzo

    If it’s Garcia vs. Colon, should perceived durability play a part in a decision?

    I mean, what if you thought Colon could give you a slight upgrade but increases your odds of injury? At what chance is it worth it or not?

    • Plank

      I would take Garcia over Colon. The Yankees are going to try to upgrayedd their rotation at the deadline anyway so Garcia can get you to that point without embarrassing himself. He is a notorious slow starter in spring training too, so having poor numbers isn’t out of the ordinary for him.

      Of course, I would take Mitre over either of them.

      • Gonzo

        You see, a pimp’s love is not like a square’s.

        Brought to you by Carl’s Jr.

        • Dale Mohorcic

          The two d’s are for a double dose of pimpin

      • DJ

        They all stink

  • Plank

    Trade proposal to solve our problems:

    Sign Millwood, trade Millwood, Mitre, Garcia, Colon, and Nova for King Felix. If the Mariners balk, offer to take “albatross” Suzuki off their hands to even out the deal.

    Mariners get 5 viable starters for peanuts and Yankees get two unproven kid who may or may not work out.


    (no i’m not serious)

    • Gonzo

      You didn’t even ask for Ackley, Pineda, or Franklin???? Dude, you could never be a GM!!!! LOL

      • Plank

        I had a rough draft involving bringing in the Cardinals and picking up Pujols and Rasmus while giving up the rights to Rafael DePaula, but I thought that would be unrealistic.

        • Gonzo

          A squeaky wheel get’s the oil!

        • ROBTEN

          I had a rough draft involving bringing in the Cardinals and picking up Pujols and Rasmus while giving up the rights to Rafael DePaula, but I thought that would be unrealistic.

          True. You’d probably have to throw in Wordekemper, but then it would just tip the scales totally in favor of the Cardinals.

          • Plank

            Well, no trade is perfect, sometimes you just have to swallow a bitter pill like losing the great Wordekemper. You could bring in the Phillies and have them throw in Halladay I suppose. The Cards can throw in something to even it out.

  • NJYankeeFan

    Essentially, Nova, Colon, Garcia and Mitre are competing for 3 spots. I can’t see the logic in sending Nova to AAA even though he’s the only one with an option because he’s probably the best of the 4 and definitely has the most upside.
    That leaves Colon, Mitre and Garcia. While Mitre is generally disliked by most fans, me included, he’s the youngest of the 3, has had success some in the bullpen and is the most likely to actually last the season in on piece. Colon probably has the best pure stuff of the bunch but he’s grossly out of shape and hasn’t pitched more than 100 innings in a season since 2005. Garcia had a little success last year and he’s a gamer but his stuff has diminished to the point that if he’s not perfect, he gets hammered.

    If it were up to me, I’d go with Nova as number 4, Colon as number 5, and keep Garcia in long relief and try to trade or just release Mitre with the mindset that when Colon flames out after 60-80 innings, Garcia will be a better option to move into the 5th spot over Mitre if the Yankees haven’t traded for someone better or coaxed Pettitte (please god!!) out of retirement yet.

    • Plank

      I can’t really argue with the logic you use, but I can’t see a strong reason to take Colon or Garcia over Mitre, and Mitre is the only one guaranteed money, so I would take him over one of the other two.

    • ROBTEN

      While Mitre is generally disliked by most fans, me included, he’s the youngest of the 3, has had success some in the bullpen and is the most likely to actually last the season in on piece.

      This actually seems more like an argument for keeping Mitre than trading him. If you try to trade him you’re going to run into two problems: a) as “long relief” he probably wouldn’t be worth very much and 2) you’re not going to get anything back that would be worth significantly more than him, especially in terms of pitching.

      While many might have a negative view of Mitre, if you’re going to get rid of one of Mitre/Colon/Garcia, it seems to me that Mitre might actually provide the most value over the entire season: younger, generally not any worse than other fifth starters, and can also pitch reasonably well out of the bullpen.

      If you’re essentially going to keep the Colon/Garcia try-outs going into the season, you might as well keep Nova in AAA to take over if either falters before deciding whether to also move or releasing Mitre. If you’re supremely confident in Nova, then I’d probably drop either Colon or Garcia, since I think Mitre could probably match the performance of either over the course of a season.

      • http://bleacherreport Joe Willie

        I find it ironic that we lose the “Cliff Lee sweepstakes” and Pettitte to retirement (and HOF) and know one says anything about the loss of Vazquez-2nd round; he wasn’t very good but he was an innings eater and he cost us Melky in the trade. Too bad NYY didn’t take Lowe at the time when Braves wanted to dump him. Now we are short a starter chasing the BoSox and Rays.
        Either let the young kids pitch (Brackman, BAnuelos, Batances, etc.—killer Bee’s) or go get someone that can win! I can’t believe the “kids” inconsistency can be any worse than 60-80 innings of watching Colon, Mitre or Garcia!
        P.S. Leave Millwood Home; the last thing we need is a 4-16 SP! If Baltimore can use them, the NYY surely doesn’t need him!

  • Kiersten

    I don’t really see the harm in starting the season with Garcia in the rotation and Nova in AAA. Give Garcia a few starts and if he blows it, bye bye and call up Nova. Yes, yes, I know wins in April count the same as wins in September but they really don’t and if we lose 2 or 3 games because we took a shot on Garcia over Nova, I don’t think it’s going to spell doom for the rest of the season. If Nova starts and blows up, then all we’ve got is Mitre.

    • Gonzo

      So you are conceding the 4th spot to Colon?

      I know it’s not a ton of money (to the Yanks), but 1.5mm could be used elsewhere.

      What if you could convince Colon to a minor league deal with a May/June opt out?

      • Plank

        Is it confirmed that Colon and Garcia can opt out if they don’t make the big league club? Is that in the CBA that veterans can opt out? The way it has been presented, it seems like Prior can’t opt out, or is that just an agreement that he is willing to pitch in AAA this year?

        • Gonzo

          No options, they can all opt out. Garcia said he isn’t playing in AAA. He would leave. I think there is a chance you might be able to convince Colon to accept a minor league assignment if you give him an opt-out for May/June.

          Prior is accepting a minor league deal. He understands he really doesn’t have suitors for a ML deal.

          • Chris

            No options, they can all opt out.

            Not necessarily. They signed minor league contracts so unless there is an opt out they don’t have a say. Also, in some cases the opt out date may be opening day, but in other cases it could be later in the season (like Moseley).

    • JU

      Here’s the problem with that: an organization that is supposedly only concerned with winning, makes a conscious decision to take two inferior pitchers over a guy who is head and shoulders better than the whole group. My question to people who keep advocating for this plan is, why do you care so much about losing Garcia/Colon/Mitre? Have you really been seduced that much by marginally effective ST innings? They have 5 kids in the minors that could give u what Freddy Garcia can, and at least they have potential to get better. Garcia has an 87 mph fastball and loopy curveball. These fans are so fixated on depth, but they’re ignoring the fact that they are deep with garbage. It would be criminal to send Nova down for one of these retreads.

      • jsbrendog (returns)

        it’s called depth.

        • Ted Nelson

          As well as one great ST start not meaning Nova is head and shoulders above Garcia and Colon over the course of a real MLB season.

          • RL

            AND, it’s a long season (going back to depth). They ALL may be needed, including one or 2 of the minor leaguer’s.

            • Ted Nelson

              I think there is something to the depth argument, but if the Yankees really do feel Nova is a clearly better option than the others then I think they go with him.

              • king of fruitless hypotheticals

                its not just ‘depth’ its development. how much better could Nova get with a slightly longer ST and a few starts against AAA batters? Going out there with a plan for pitching that night when it doesnt matter if you throw a no-hitter or give up six in five is great–he gets to throw a first pitch fb/curve/slider/w/e to everyone to build that pitch, or whatever else it is that the coaches want him to do.

                its why lots of us hope Montero gets another few weeks (or more) in AAA…

      • Ted Nelson

        So instead of fixating on depth we should just fixate on the velocity at which a pitcher throws his fastball?

        “They have 5 kids in the minors that could give u what Freddy Garcia can”

        They have only one starter in the majors who was considerably better than Freddy Garcia last season… but, yeah, all those minor leaguers will give the Yankees 18 quality starts in a season (as Garcia did last season)… because the success rate for prospects is so incredibly high. Any decent prospect can be an effective MLB pitcher. Good point. How silly of everyone. Let’s just cut Phil Hughes, too, because David Phelps can pitch as well as him too.

  • Urban

    Not sure we’re dealing with a proper comparision between Garcia and Colon. Bartolo’s last game was simulated, which is very different than what Garcia did over the weekend. Colon also pitched in Winter Ball, so he’s little further along than Garcia, who generally does not pitch well in Spring Training.

    I think there’s little chance that Garcia will not be on the Yankees Opening Day roster.

    I think Mitre is going to get cut.

  • mbonzo

    Results through 13IP are hardly fair to use. I’m not trying to say thats soley what Ben is relying on, but I see it in a few arguments. Garcia may have given up 5 runs in his last outing, but I remember that his first three innings were perfect, the fourth tainted by poor pitch control, and highlighted by his first wild pitch that gave Toronto their big inning. What I saw was a guy that was able to command his pitches early on, but fell apart after giving up a few hits. Stuff wise, he’s looked better than last year according to scouts. Thats not saying much, but when you look at the alternative for the SP job, Nova, I think tagging him at a 4.57 FIP, as Bill James has predicted for Garcia, would be generous.

    Its not only Ben, but a lot of other fans that have fallen for the “what have you done for me lately?” syndrome. Garcia has been simply… Burnettish in his last starts, have his good Garcia face on one IP and his bad face in another. The fact is that Garcia has the potential, no matter how little, to be an above average 4th or 5th starter. He’s shown that he could be either good or bad, and we’re not gonna know what he is until we unleash him in the AL East.

    Fans have also bought into the idea, like they did in 2010, that there is a competition for the rotation spot that will be won in spring training. There is more to these decisions than who ends up with the lowest ERA and most Ks after 20ip. If that was the case, Mark Prior might have a spot on the team before any of the four applicants. But putting Garcia in the 4th or 5th spot means that they are also keeping the door open for Nova. The Yankees won’t falter here from what they’ve done all offseason; they won’t rush Garcia out because of a few bad innings. Its that mantra that Mike keeps talking about, patience.

    They’ll be patient with this rotation, if Garcia or Colon get shelled in some real instances, if their stuff is just not up to what scouts thought it was, the Yankees will have Nova in AAA and Mitre in the bullpen and 5 years and millions of dollars worth of a renovated farm system. We keep on waiting for the results of this competition, but we’ve forgotten that the Yankees are now preaching patience. If you ask me, the decision was made in December when they lost Lee, start the team with veterans and let the kids prove that they’re ready to take over for the old men. The competition doesn’t start til March 31st, so be prepared to deal with Garcia and Colon in the rotation.

    • Rich

      Well said!

    • Ted Nelson

      Yeah, I agree that too much stock being put into small samples of meaningless innings, media rumors, and the what have you done for me lately thing. This is spring training.

      I also wouldn’t assume Nova isn’t making the rotation, though, or that the Yankees went into spring training already having decided Garcia and Colon had rotation spots.

  • Professor Longnose

    Today’s game is on MLB Network. Does anyone know if YES is going to allow the game to be shown in NY?

  • Jorge

    You bring the players which give you a best shot at winning with you. I understand the logic of keeping Nova in AAA for depth, but he’s clearly looked better than the rest and, I feel, would benefit most from continuing to start versus major league hitting. Nova should be the team’s #4.

    Performance aside, I would probably cite durability as the reason I’d want the team to open the season with Garcia at #5. I won’t be losing sleep if the team goes with Colon instead.

    I’d keep Mitre in the bullpen. I somehow don’t think the Yankees will “regret” giving up on either Garcia or Colon prematurely.

    • RL

      You bring the players which give you a best shot at winning with you.

      You need to win the war, not necessarily today’s battle.

  • mike

    Depth for this team SP’s is critical as there are really no options for the Yanks to trade for until June, so i believe every chance should be given to Colon and Garcia before the ties are cut.

    Not sure of the Yanks schedule, but most times in April the back of the roatation doesn’t get much work anyway, and having another guy around protects both the ML and AAA staffs from an injury issue, where every injury at AAA has a cascade effect on the ML staff as well as AA etc.

    At this point i think the plan is working, and why i was happy to bring in Colon – try to catch lightening in the bottle, knowing every 50-60 IP you get from these guys is a victory in itself

  • Cross777

    Let Freddy walk. Put Colon and Nova in rotation with Mitre the long bull pen man. I dislike the I’m a Yankee or off the team comment. I understand it, but I don’t like it. Sounds like a guy threatening the team to me. (Ego problem.)

    • Ted Nelson

      I’m not sure how you get from opting out to pitch elsewhere in the major leagues rather than taking a minor league assignment to an ego problem… Garcia doesn’t owe anything to the Yankees, just like they don’t owe anything to him. If he’d rather pitch in the majors or retire than pitch in AAA, I hardly see that as an ego problem. I think 99% of people would feel the same way in his shoes. He’s 36, he’s made close to $50 mill in MLB salary and won 133 big league games… why does he want to be riding around on a bus with a bunch of kids?

  • Ted Nelson

    I would be careful believing every bit of “insider” info you read in the NY Post… especially those that don’t even have a source attached.

    It’s hard to overlook how reactionary these rumors are. Every time one of the candidates has a good or bad outing he’s the 4th starter or out of the race.

  • Mike HC

    I actually like the way Garcia has looked this spring. I think if the Yanks are set on Nova in the rotation, the last slot should go to Garcia. And then have Mitre and Colon fight it out for the long man/6th starter role. I really don’t have much of a preference with any of the Colon, Mitre, Garcia three though, so whatever the Yanks decide will be fine with me.

  • Mike Nagle

    The roster has to get younger. Nice that Garcia and Colon are determined to come back but the Yankees have to invest in younger pitching at this point. Fact is that while Sabathia is a work horse that doesn’t bode well for him outlasting his contract. Burnett is already over staying his which makes his a far less desirable version of Andy Pettitte. We need to gauge whether there is any pitching coming from the farm system or if you have to pull the trigger on a trade before your chips lose value (namely Cano and Gardner and I wouldn’t rule out Granderson either).

    Give Nova a shot in the rotation and Mitre gets the pen. If Garcia can make the team out of the pen also that would be some insurance but we need someone who is still likely to have his arm attached at the shoulder come August (insert Colon, Garcia or Prior’s name here as possible weaknesses in that department).

  • George Clint

    Other than CC, I’d say our starting pitching is highly suspect. Will Hughes be as good as last year? Yeah we hope so, but who the hell knows? The Verducci rules are betting on a drop off based on all his innings pitched last year. You can pretty much flip a coin about which AJ will show up. Nova looks pretty good…in ‘a’ spring game, so we still don’t have any real proof he can go past 5 without getting slammed, although I have to admit he looked stellar in the early innings last year. Colon looks good now, but his 2009 and 2010 history against left handed hitters is pretty bad…are you listening Red Sox nation? Crawford, Gonzalez, Ortiz, Drew and Ellsbury. With Martin as our starting catcher and no other guys stepping up in the spring, his durability and whether he can bounce back at the plate is a really big question mark. Montero and Romine still apparently not ready for the big dance. Will Andruw Jones be as good a backup as Thames? No way from the plate, but definitely a major improvement in the field. On the plus side, the pen is stacked and they’ll need to be with this rotation. Having Joba for the 6th or 7th is a great luxury. Chavez will probably backup ARod and I’m pulling for Nunez to out rank Pena since Ramiro, God Bless him, is just not a major league hitter. Will Jorge be a great DH? I hope he’s good enough to erase all the probable DP’s he will be killing rallies with. On the plus side, if they stay healthy and that’s a big if, ARod, Cano, Swish and the Captain should have good years and I look for Granderson to have a much better year, especially against lefties. I just wish there was a place for Vasquez. Remember Shane Spencer? This guy could end up being this year’s Spencer, but Shane at least had somewhere to play.