Pitchers and catchers report in less than two weeks, and while questions still surround the Yankees' rotation — those questions include "Who is the fifth starter?" and "Who is the fourth starter?" — Brian Cashman is at least giving the the team some options to evaluate during spring training. And so, the Yankees have signed 35-year-old Freddy Garcia to a Minor League contract that will pay him $1.5 million if he makes the team, and up to $3.6 million in incentives based on how many starts he makes.
In 157 innings last season, Garcia went 12–6 with a 4.64 ERA, a 1.38 WHIP, and 89 strikeouts, generally posting better numbers, at the very least, than Javier Vazquez, who spent much of last year in the Yankees' rotation. Garcia will compete with Bartolo Colon, Ivan Nova, Sergio Mitre, and some prospects for a spot in the 2011 rotation.
Garcia's not the same pitcher who made two All-Star teams as a member of the Mariners earlier in his career, but, via FanGraphs, he's at least adjusted to the decreased velocity of his fastball by relying on it less. And after making just 23 total starts from 2007 to 2009 — he had season-ending shoulder surgery in 2007 — he started 28 games for the White Sox last season. Garcia's been in this basic position before, though: Back in 2009, he had a chance to crack the Mets' rotation during spring training; by the end of April, the team had released him. Still, the risk to the Yankees, who might as well try anything at this point, is pretty low.
His signing also gives us this bit of trivia, via Tyler Kepner: The Yankees now have three of the four winning pitchers from the 2005 World Series in their organization. The fourth, though, is unavailable: Jose Contreras re-signed with the Phillies earlier in the offseason.