ESPNNewYork.com is reporting that the New York Yankees have agreed to a one-year contract with right-hander Freddy Garcia.
This was not a surprise to me because I posted a story on Nov. 21 headlined: “Yankees Could Retain Garcia If Deals Fall Through.”
Though some Yankee fans might be skeptical of the signing because Garcia does not throw 95-mile-per-hour bullets at opposing hitters and he is 35 years old on a team loaded with players who have crept way past their 30th birthdays, the signing still makes a lot of sense.
The first reason is the deal is just a one-year deal paying between $4 million and $5 million. This is about what the Yankees signed free-agent catcher Russell Martin for last winter. The Yankees also have to be cognizant of the fact the starting staff they have behind CC Sabathia is a pretty shaky group consisting of rookie Ivan Nova, Phil Hughes coming off right shoulder trouble and the command and control challenged A.J. Burnett.
Garcia gives the Yankees a fifth starter who was 12-8 with a 3.82 ERA in 26 games in his first season in which he was paid $1.5 million. Garcia is an insurance policy for the starting staff and it gives general manager Brian Cashman the ability to either “go big” after free agents like left-hander C.J. Wilson and Japanese right-hander Yu Darvish or “go small” to sign left-hander Mark Buerhle and right-hander Edwin Jackson.
The signing of Garcia also takes the pressure off the Yankees from having to promote a collection of six young starting pitchers they have advancing through the minor leagues: lefty Manny Banuelos and right-handers Dellin Betances, David Phelps, Hector Noesi, Adam Warren and D.J. Michell. If Cashman was unable to sign any free-agent starters this winter, the Yankees would likely have to choose from among these young pitchers to fill out the staff. They now can be patient with them.
Garcia may not be sexiest name the Yankees could have signed but it is a practical one. There are decidely worse free-agent pitching options out there and Garcia did manage to throw a lot of quality starts keeping the Yankees in most all of all his appearances.
But, make no mistake about it, the pressure is on for Cashman to sign at least one quality free-agent pitcher. The reason is obvious: In order to compete in the American League East and advance in the playoffs the Yankees need to have a solid core of at least three quality starters. The Yankees appear to have just one in Sabathia. Nova or Hughes could be another but Burnett has been a disaster the past two seasons.
I find it rather troubling that the Yankees seem to be committed to Burnett simply because he has two years remaining on his contract paying him $16.5 million per season. Cashman said there is no reason to put Burnett in the bullpen and he cited Burnett’s ability to pitch 200 innings. Cashman trotted out this stat as if it was a virtue or badge of honor.
However, a number of other major-league pitchers threw 200 innings last season including: Jeremy Guthrie of the Orioles (7-14, 4.33 ERA), Brett Myers of the Astros (7-14, 4.46 ERA), Ricky Nolasco of the Marlins (10-12, 4.67 ERA) and Ryan Dempster of the Cubs (10-14, 4.80 ERA). It does not mean the Yankees would be better off with Burnett than any one of these others. In fact, Burnett’s ERA was 5.15 over 190 1/3 innings.
The real reason the Yankees seem to be sticking with “Bad A.J.” is that they know that any trade the make to ship him out would mean the Yankees would still be on the hook for most, if not all, of Burnett’s salary and they likely would not receive much in return from the other team.
I know if I was a general manger of another team I would not exactly be beating my fists on Cashman’s door to acquire a pitcher who is just as likely to walk seven batters, hit three, give up four home runs and toss a pitch into the dugout as he is to throw a no-hitter while walking nine batters as Burnett did earlier in his career.
So the Yankees might be facing the fact that they can’t rid themselves of Burnett or obtain a top-dollar free agent because of how much they are paying him. But Cashman must realize that Burnett is like a albatross tied around the Yankees necks right now. If the team is committed to winning they need to rid themselves of anyone standing in the way of that.
That means Cashman must have the permission of Hal and Hank Steinbrenner to “dump” Burnett and as much of his salary as they can to whatever team is willing to try to take on Burnett. Then they need to have the guts to “go big” and spare no dollars in trying to sign Wilson or Darvish.
Burnett is a huge anchor that is about to sink the Yankees’ hopes for the next two years as long as he is around. So bite the bullet and rid yourselves of him before he takes the ship deeper into the murky waters.
I was stunned to read Yankees MLB correspondent Bryan Hoch’s mailbag on Nov. 22 stating the Yankees had just “lukewarm” interest in Wilson and Darvish. This is a travesty.
If the team requires a starting staff worthy of going deep into the playoffs and possibly winning a World Series, they better not have “lukewarm” interest in the two pitchers that could help them the most in reaching that goal. If Burnett and his bloated contract and his substandard pitching are standing in the way, you got to cut him out like a cancer NOW!
Get rid of Burnett and sign Wilson or Darvish or the team will surely have sealed its fate before the first pitch of spring training is even thrown.
That would be very sad.