I'm happy to be filling in for Andrew Marchand and Wallace Matthews this week. A bit about me: I am the founder and lead writer of the ESPN-affiliated SweetSpot Network site, It's About The Money. You can follow me and my writers on Twitter.
It's December 27th and the New York Yankees are still waiting to hear from Andy Pettitte. The final two rotation spots will, as of right now, be filled by the likes of Ivan Nova and Sergio Mitre. Like most of you, these options don't fill me with confidence, though we're not hitting the panic button just yet.
The free agent options for the Yanks are dwindling fast, with Brandon Webb signing with the Rangers yesterday. Webb, once a Cy Young winner, is now just another pitcher recovering from a serious shoulder injury. And shoulder injuries, unlike elbows, are much more difficult to return from.
So who could be a possible target for the Yanks to fill in the back end of the rotation? The choices aren't inspiring.
Garcia has spent most of his career in the AL and up until 2006, he was an absolute horse. Garcia rang up over 200 IP every year of his career to that point (1999-2006) except for one. And following his 2006 season, Garcia fell off drastically due to shoulder injuries. He pitched only 129 innings over the course of the next three season. Garcia rebounded in 2010, pitching 157 innings and making 28 starts. His ERA was high (4.64; 4.77 FIP; 94 ERA+) and his K/BB ratio (1.98) was his lowest since 2000. He was also victimized by a high HR rate (1.32/9 IP) that wouldn't be helped by Yankee Stadium. Garcia's 2010 fastball averaged 87.8 MPH (per Fangraphs.com), his lowest ever. Garcia also threw his fastball the fewest % of the time, just 30.2%. Instead, Garcia has relied on his change-up, which appeared to be quite good, as measured by a +7.6 wCH.
Does Garcia have another 150-175 innings left in his shoulder? For what would seem to be a minimal investment financially, Garcia is the sort of risk the Yanks appear to be able to make right now.
In one of the more random injuries of the year, Penny reportedly tore a muscle while hitting a grand slam. Before he got hurt, he was off to a decent start with the Cardinals, posting a 3.23 ERA (122 ERA+,3.40 FIP) in just 55.2 innings. Never the innings-eater that Garcia once was, Penny has eclipsed 200 IP just twice in his career. Penny has pitched a combined 97.2 IP in 2009-10. Encouraging for Penny is that his fastball still has plenty of life, at 94.1 MPH (per Fangraphs.com). However, Penny threw his fastball just 47.2% of the time last year, well off his 70% rate over his career. In its place, a splitter that graded very well with +5.7 wSF.
Both Penny and Garcia carry a ton of injury risk but as a result, would probably cost very little in terms of guaranteed money. Neither are particularly exciting or will fill the void like an ace would have. But given the fact that the Yanks have plenty of free cash lying around that was once earmarked for Cliff Lee, these bottom-of-the-barrel starters might be worth the risk.
What's your call? Roll with whatever the Yanks currently have in-house or take a flier on one or both of these guys and hope to catch lightning in a bottle?