“You look at Freddy’s year last year and it was really good,” the manager said. “And for a guy that’s not supposed to be pitch well in spring training, he sure has pitched well.”
That said, I think King is likely being over generous with his interpretation here. As Chad Jennings notes, the most obvious difference between Garcia and the collective of Ivan Nova, Michael Pineda, and Phil Hughes is that the latter group figures to be an important part of the Yankees’ roster for multiple years going forward, while Garcia looks like a year-to-year back end of the rotation piece at best. All else being equal, that potential impact on the future should be the determining factor in a close decision. King calls Garcia the known commodity, but that seems like a euphemism for “he’s pretty old” more than anything else, really. After all, Garcia is still the guy who posted a 4.64 ERA in 2010, his peripherals last year don’t exactly reach out and scream “sustainable!” at you, and even granting the positive aspects of his 2011 production, he was only good for 146.2 innings, a number that doesn’t figure to grow with another year on the body.
That’s not to say I don’t see an argument for giving Garcia the final rotation spot, however. He has been pitching quite well this spring and, at this point, I would seriously consider consider Garcia over Nova, at least at the outset of the season. Not that Nova has been particularly horrible, per se, but he has struggled his fastball to this point, and given that he lacks overpowering stuff and depends on getting a lot of groundballs to avoid significant damage, that’s something Nova simply cannot afford to do on a consistent basis. Sending Nova to the minors could also help with the much documented austerity budget plan in 2014 as, with Andy Pettitte slated to bump the fifth guy in the rotation sometime in May anyway, there’s a fairly decent chance that Nova could spend enough time in the minors this season to delay his first year of arbitration eligibility to 2015.
I’m not saying that Nova definitely should be the sixth man when this is all said and done by any means, but I don’t think that possibility should be out of the question, either. Nova might have been the Yankees’ second best starter last April, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t their sixth, or even seventh, best option now.