All is quiet on the Yankee front these days, and it isn’t one of Brian Cashman’s stealth-quiet periods that turns into a surprise signing of Mark Teixeira. Rather, the Yankees are waiting to see what comes to them. They’re rightly cool on C.J. Wilson but have to fill some starting pitching holes. What’s a $200 million team to do?
Last year, when the Yanks found themselves in a similar situation following Cliff Lee’s departure to Philadelphia and Andy Pettitte’s retirement, Brian Cashman turned to the scrap heap. For a few million dollars, his coaching staff coaxed 51 starts and over 300 innings from Freddy Garcia and Bartolo Colon. It was the biggest surprise of the Yankee season, and now, early yet in the Hot Stove League, the Yanks’ GM is, at least publicly, wondering if he can capture lightning in bottle again.
In comments yesterday to ESPN New York, both Cashman and his boss Hal Steinbrenner talked about bringing back Big Bart and Sweaty Freddy. “I have an interest in both Freddy and Bartolo,” Cashman said. “Those guys all did a good job for us, a really good job.” Echoed Steinbrenner, “Absolutely, that’s something we’d consider. It worked out pretty well last year.”
That it sure did, Hal. That it sure did.
In its coverage of these statements, ESPN New York turns this into some sort of money issue. The pair made around $2.6 million combined before incentives and both would like a raise. That’s not a problem. The Yanks have rotation holes to fill and money to spend. Garcia may be itching for a multi-year deal, and that is a potential hurdle. Yet there’s a larger question at play: Should the Yanks even be considering these two?
If we play the not-so-arbitrary endpoint game, it’s very easy to make a case against Bartolo Colon. Through his first 78.1 innings, he had a 3.10 ERA and a K rate topping 8 per 9 IP. He wasn’t walking many guys and was thriving mainly on a fastball. After suffering a hamstring injury and returning in early July, he had a 4.81 ERA over 86 innings and saw his walk rate climb while his strike outs dipped by over 1.5 per 9 innings.
As expected, his velocity fell off by year’s end, and he wasn’t nearly as efficient with his pitches. Colon will turn 39 in May, and no one is sure how much more his surgically repaired shoulder can take. At a low cost and with little riding on it, the Yanks could bring him back to camp, but if they’re counting on him for another 164 innings, I hope they have a good back-up plan.
Meanwhile, Garcia, who didn’t reach the 150-inning mark due to some mysterious cut on his finger, also struggled post-injury. In his first 20 games, he sported a 3.22 ERA and decent peripherals over 117.1 innings. Thanks to one disastrous outing vs. the Orioles and a bad start against the Angels, his post-injury numbers were ugly. He walked 11 while striking out 16 and giving up seven home runs in 29.1 innings. It’s tough though to put much stock in 29.1 innings.
For Garcia, the questions concern durability. He has thrown over 300 innings since the start of 2009 but he threw just 129 over the three prior years. He did a good job keeping the ball in the park this year, and that’s what fueled his success as his walk rate was higher in 2011 than in 2010. He turned 35 during the ALDS and giving him more than a season might be inviting trouble.
To me, Colon and Garcia represent the Yanks’ last resorts. What they did in 2011 made from some great stories and fun games. They defied age and expectations to help lead the Yanks to a championship title. To expect them to do it again may be putting blind faith into pitchers who don’t deserve, and the Yanks would be better served looking elsewhere for some upgrades.