Monday, November 28, 2011

Hot Stove Stance: Yankees Re-Sign Freddy Garcia

The New York Yankees took another step toward solidifying their 2012 rotation by signing Freddy Garcia to a one-year/$5 million contract. Garcia earns a nice raise from the one-year/$1.5 million contract in 2011. He acquired the new contract by having one of the more steady performances in the Yankees rotation throughout the 2011 season.

While this is not the exciting addition to the rotation fans are hoping for (Yu Darvish, C.J. Wilson, or Mark Buehrle for example) it is an essential signing by Yankees general manager Brian Cashman. Garcia has never been an electrifying starter, but he was more than competent last season. When your team scores 5.35 runs per game, competence is about all a pitcher needs to deliver. He more or less lulls batters to sleep with a mid-80s fastball, a recently ineffective slider and a steady diet of plus curves, change-ups and split-finger fastballs.

What Garcia is able to do best is limit damage. He pitches to the game situation and hardly ever seems rattled. He does not implode ala A.J. Burnett (only four very poor outings in 25 starts) but seems to keep the Yankees in the game and often provides a better than average start (16 quality starts).

He was primarily a fly ball pitcher in 2011. This is probably not the best situation in Yankee Stadium, especially for a righty, but Garcia was able to keep the ball in the park for the most part. In a way, the ground ball to fly ball ratio he produced in 2011 (.88) played better to the Yankee's fielding strength in the outfield as compared to the infield.

Garcia turned in a 3.62 ERA, but his FIP mark was 4.12 and his xFIP was even higher at 4.36. This suggests that there may be an ERA adjustment coming in 2012, but nothing that should concern the Yankees too much. Since he has begun to throw more fly ball outs, he must maintain the low 8.2% home run/fly ball percentage he had in 2011. His career mark including 2011 sits at 11.1%.

For the Yankees this deal makes absolute sense. Garcia is not a worry for them when he takes the mound. With CC Sabathia, Ivan Nova, Phil Hughes and A.J. Burnett back Garcia makes a solid 4th or 5th starter at a good price. FanGraphs shows Garcia with a 2.2 WAR in 2011 worth $9.9 million to the Yankees. Certainly a windfall for the $1.5 million in salary they paid to Garcia. Should he have the expected bump in ERA due to a correction and still maintain his other stats, Garcia can be looking at a 1.5 - 1.8 WAR season. Using a similar value for WAR of $4.5 per 1 WAR, the Yankees would still be on the positive side for the contract.

Some might suggest he loses his rotation spot if the Yankees are able to acquire a front line starter in the offseason, but bear in mind Phil Hughes was not the same last season after being injured and A.J. Burnett continues to be a complete enigma. Ivan Nova is going to have some growing pains as it will be his first full season in the majors. Beyond Sabathia no starting pitcher on the current roster is a sure thing. Expect Garcia to make 20-25 starts, regardless of a potential signing or trade which brings in a legitimate top flight starter, due to injury or ineffectiveness of another starter. The Yankees are hoping for a duplicate performance from Garcia and based on 2011 there is little to suggest this isn't a possibility.

All stats courtesy of