If the Yankees don’t use Freddy Garcia as the fifth starter, what exactly can they do with him? As Mike mentioned in his earlier post, he’s quite inflexible. He doesn’t have significant bullpen experience, which rules out the most obvious alternative. Since the Yankees signed Garcia after the free agency filing period ended, they cannot assign his contract — i.e., trade him — until June 15th without his written permission. That leaves the Yanks in a bit of a bind.
The strongest point in favor of Garcia manning the fifth spot is his lack of baggage. He’s under contract, he’s capable, and there’s nothing to prove. While both Hughes and Burnett are under contract, their capability is ripe for debate, and it’s undeniable that both have plenty to prove. Garcia, then, is the simplest, most straight forward option for the rotation. At the same time, that works against him.
The Yankees probably want to see if they can squeeze a little more value out of the $82.5 million they’ll pay Burnett. At the same time, they probably want to see if they can actually get prolonged productivity over a pitcher who was once the No. 4 prospect in the game. Brian Cashman’s words do make it appear as though they wish to trade either Burnett or Hughes, which could ease the situation a bit. But even if they do, that leaves Garcia in competition with the non-traded pitcher. The point about flexibility remains.
Whatever the case with the other two pitchers, the Yankees will likely stand pat with Garcia throughout spring training. Injuries happen, so Garcia acts as a bit of insurance for the Yanks. If they reach the end of spring training healthy and decided that they’d prefer Hughes or Burnett in the fifth spot, it is conceivable at that point that Garcia would consent to a trade. He might have enjoyed his experience with the Yankees, but he might also prefer a chance to start with another team, rather than play the role of long man in the Yankees’ bullpen.
The biggest problem with the above scenarios is that Garcia’s greatest value for the Yankees comes in the rotation. He clearly won’t be as valuable out of the bullpen, even if he pitches moderately well there. He probably won’t fetch much in a trade, unless a team suffers multiple injuries in their starting rotation and becomes hopelessly desperate for a living, breathing pitcher. If the Yankees don’t use him as the fifth starter, the $4 million they used to sign him will have basically become garbage. That’s not ideal for a team that has used the word “budget” frequently this off-season.
Since Garcia is not involved in trade talks, and since he’d provide quality innings pitching in the fifth rotation spot, it’s easy to envision him there to start the season. The Yankees don’t have many other realistic options. They could try to trade him, but probably wouldn’t get equal value. They could move him to the bullpen, but he’s never really pitched there. It will probably take them moving one of Hughes or Burnett to make it work, but it does appear that the best solution for Garcia is to have him pitch every five days.