When Freddy Garcia signed a one-year, $4 million deal with the Yankees, he was arguably the third starter on the team’s depth chart. However, following the offseason acquisitions of Hiroki Kuroda and Michael Pineda, the re-emergence of Phil Hughes, and the comeback of Andy Pettitte, the veteran right hander now seems destined to be the odd man out.
Although the Yankees won’t have to make a decision regarding Pettitte for at least another six weeks, Phil Hughes’ strong spring performance has made it more likely that Garica will be nudged out of the rotation well before then. As a result, the veteran’s days in pinstripes could be numbered, and, judging by his recent comments, that possibility hasn’t been lost on Garcia.
I’ll be pitching here or wherever, but I know I’ll be pitching. At the end of the day, that’s all that matters. If it’s here, if it’s not here, I’ll be pitching.” – Freddy Garcia, quoted by the New York Daily News, March 17, 2012
Garcia’s frustration is understandable. Following a very successful campaign in which he posted an ERA+ of 122 in 146 innings, the 35-year old probably expected his spot in the rotation to be guaranteed, but instead, he is facing the real possibility of being cast in long relief. Needless to say, if he knew then what he does now, the right hander probably wouldn’t have signed a contract with the Yankees in the first place.
So, what should Brian Cashman do? The easiest, and perhaps wisest, solution would be to keep Garcia around as an insurance policy until Pettitte’s return is a reality. And, considering Ivan Nova’s 7.82 Spring Training ERA, it could be a policy the Yankees cash in sooner than later (the Yankees may not be overacting to Nova’s early struggles, but based on his recent comments following a poor outing, the young right hander may be getting a little anxious). However, assuming Nova doesn’t make the team’s decision easy by continuing to struggle, the next option to consider would be a trade.
In his 31 spring at bats, Raul Ibanez has a grand total of two hits. How is that relevant to Garcia? Well, if the 39-year old DH continues to struggle, the Yankees could decide that an upgrade is in order. Whether that decision is made in the spring, or after the season begins, Garcia could wind up being the bait the Yankees use to find a replacement.
Before the Yankees’ traded A.J. Burnett to the Pirates, they attempted to work a three-way deal involving the Los Angeles Angels that would have landed Bobby Abreu. When Burnett vetoed the trade, the Yankees turned their attention to Ibanez, so, if plan B doesn’t work out, it would make sense for Brian Cashman to return to his first choice.
Garrett Richards, Trevor Bell, Jerome Williams, Brad Mills and Eric Hurley are all candidates to be the Angels’ fifth starter, so it’s easy to see why GM Jerry DiPoto would have an interest in Garcia. Meanwhile, with Kendrys Morales getting closer to full health, and being a full-time DH, Abreu’s opportunity for at bats continues to dwindle. Considering the displeasure he voiced earlier in camp, which was only assuaged by a promise of playing time, keeping an unhappy Abreu on the team could be untenable.
Rarely do two teams’ needs and strengths match-up perfectly, but the Yankees and Angels seem to be a perfect fit for a trade. However, the two sides would have to settle the $5 million salary difference between Abreu’s $9 million price tag and Garcia’s $4 million contract. The simple solution would be to split the difference, but the Yankees probably won’t be willing to add any more payroll. So, if the Angels really are desperate to move Abreu, not to mention eager to add Garcia, asking them to eat $6 million of his contract might not be unreasonable, especially considering the relative value advantage. If DiPoto and Arte Moreno were amendable to that figure, the Yankees could use the $1 million net savings (Garcia’s salary coming off the books plus the cash versus Abreu’s contract) to cancel out the $1 million guaranteed to Ibanez, making it a win-win on and off the field.
The Yankees don’t have to rush into a Garcia trade, but the team’s rotation depth, and stable of talented young arms in the high minors, should at least allow it to explore that option. Even if a deal with the Angels doesn’t work out, either because they are unwilling to eat most of Abreu’s contract or Ibanez snaps out of his funk, there are other teams in need and other areas where the Yankees can improve. It’s always better to deal from a position of strength, so if Cashman plays his cards right, the Yankees could wind up entering the season with a deck stacked even more in their favor.