Late-night reading: Levine messes with Texas

If you’re done arguing about the relative merits of Freddy Garcia on a minor league deal and guaranteed money for Justin Duchscherer, take a read through this gem from Jon Heyman. Shortly after Rangers owner Chuck Greenberg took credit for keeping Cliff Lee away from the Yanks, New York’s own club president Randy Levine fired back. “Chuck’s delusional. He’s been in the game for a few minutes and yet he thinks he knows what everyone’s thinking,” Levine said. “I think he should let Cliff Lee speak for himself. He could really impress us when he keeps the Rangers off of welfare and keeps them from receiving revenue sharing the next three years.”

As Heyman notes, Levine is picking up on the fact that the Rangers, playing in the large Dallas/Fort Worth market, collected revenue sharing checks in each of the past three years. While I know some sports talk radio voices have been critical of Levine for engaging with Greenberg, I love these ownership spats. Levine is sticking up for his club and showing that the Yankee brass still isn’t thrilled with Greenberg’s attempts to cast the Yanks as his spunky club’s villain. Let Levine and Greenberg battle it out off the field. On the field, I think the Rangers needed Cliff Lee even more than the Yanks did, and they were left empty-handed on the mound this winter.

Garcia, Yanks agree to minor league deal

(AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

Update (10:32 p.m.): Freddy Garcia may get his wish after all. According to ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick, the right-hander has agreed to a Minor League deal with the Yankees. The 35-year-old will get an invite to Spring Training and a chance to win a job in the starting rotation, though he’ll have to compete with Bartolo Colon.

If he makes the team, Garcia will earn a $1.5M base salary plus another $3.6M in possible incentives. He’ll have to make 30 starts to max out the bonuses, something he hasn’t done since Jaret Wright made 27 starts for the Yanks. If he doesn’t make the team out of Spring Training, Garcia can opt out of his deal by March 29th.

Garcia, now three years removed from shoulder surgery, managed to throw 157 innings for the White Sox last year after three seasons of no more than 58 IP. He wasn’t all that good though, pitching to a 4.64 ERA (4.77 FIP, 4.59 xFIP) with 5.10 K/9 and 40.7% ground balls in 2010. Although he walked just 2.29 batters per nine innings unintentionally, Garcia managed to surrender one homer for just under every seven innings pitched. It’s been a long time since he was a 200 innings a year horse for the Mariners, but all the Yankees are asking him to do is be better than Sergio Mitre. That doesn’t seem hard, but you never know.

Always a sinker-slider-changeup guy, Garcia threw the pitches in almost equal parts last year, though his fastball averaged just 87.6 mph. He’ll also mix in the occasionally curveball and cutter, but they’re just show-me pitches. At this point of his career, Garcia can’t survive by trusting his stuff, he’s got to mix his pitches well and locate. His margin for error is small, and the Yankees know this.

I’ve been pretty critical of a potential Garcia signing this winter, though that’s because I expected a Major League contract. A minor league deal is no risk, but I wouldn’t exactly call it high reward.

Additional reporting and commentary by Mike Axisa.

Open Thread: Morgan Ensberg

(AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

Long before the days of the Mark Teixeira, the Yankees used a number of stopgap first baseman during the end of the Jason Giambi era. There was Doug Mientkiewicz, Josh Phelps, Andy Phillips, and even Morgan Ensberg. Ensberg had some huge years in Houston (.391 wOBA in 2003, .395 wOBA and a fourth place finish in the MVP voting in 2005), but he signed with the Yanks three years ago today after an ugly 2007 season (.318 wOBA) with the ‘Stros and Padres. He was supposed to be a righty hitting option of the bench that could fill-in at the infield corners, but that never materialized. Ensberg had just a .228 wOBA in 80 plate appearances for New York before being designated for assignment on June 1st. He finished out the year in Cleveland’s minor league system, and was out of baseball for good by Spring Training of the following season. Ensberg is now on Twitter and runs a fantastic blog, but like many before him and what will surely be many after him, his Yankees career was completely forgettable.

Anywho, here is the night’s open thread. The Nets are the only local team in action tonight, so you’re on your own when it comes to entertainment. You all know what to do, so go bananas.

Freddy Garcia wants to pitch in New York

Via MLBTR, free agent right-hander Freddy Garcia recently told a Venezuelan newspaper that he wants to pitch for the Yankees in 2011. “My preference is to be with the New York Yankees, and it’s not unreasonable to have that in mind, because I’ve demonstrated that I can be useful,” said Fred. “A team like New York would be ideal for my age, [as would] playing in a successful, media-heavy, demanding division. Without doubt it would be an inspiration.”

I’m glad he’s inspired by playing in New York, because his 5.10 K/9 and 1.32 HR/9 from a year ago doesn’t inspire any confidence in me. I have a feeling Bartolo Colon might be the only free agent pitching signing for the time being, but once Spring Training starts and the season gets away, it’ll be open season on the trade market.

The last of a dying breed

Chances are it didn’t register as anything more than a blip on your radar, but 42-year-old reliever Russ Springer announced his retirement over the weekend. Why should you care? Because as Cliff Corcoran explains, Springer was the last active player to have suited up for a losing Yankees team. He appeared in 14 games as a rookie for the 1992 Yankees, a team that went 76-86 and finished fourth in what was then a seven-team AL East. Springer’s career in pinstripes lasted only those 14 games (6.19 ERA in 16 IP); he was traded to the Angels after the season as part of the package for Jim Abbott.

The Yankees have finished over .500 every year since then, and they own the major’s longest streak of consecutive winning seasons. The Red Sox and Phillies are the only other clubs to have not had at least one losing season since 2006 2007. That blows my mind.