While the Yankees are basically done with their offseason moves, there will be some questions about the team when they head down to Tampa for Pitchers and Catchers in a few weeks. The main question on Yankees’ fans minds is who is going to be the number five starter in the rotation. It comes down to three choices: Phil Hughes, A.J Burnett, and Freddy Garcia. These three players all have their pros and cons and it will likely turn out that one will win the job, one will become the long man, and one will maybe go on the trading block to give the Bombers another added piece to the depth of the team.
I have seen a lot of people say that Phil Hughes should be the frontrunner going into camp. I do not think he should and I have a couple of reason why. For one, how do people know that this guy is going to remain a starter? I fear that general manager Brian Cashman and Yankee management have messed with Hughes the way that they did with Joba Chamberlain and Ian Kennedy. If you are going to keep him as a starter, then do not move him in and out of the bullpen. Last year, he spent most of the first half of the season on the disabled list with a dead arm. He lost all of the velocity on his fastball, which took away from him being the eighteen game pitcher he was in 2010. How is he going to gain that velocity back or he is going to learn how to pitch with more of his offspeed stuff? Plus, New York, if Hughes wins the job, would have three pitchers in the rotation in their early-middle 20’s. If Phil wins the job, all I ask of Cashman is to keep him in the rotation.
This leads me to option two which is Freddy Garcia. I was a huge fan of Garcia last season because of the level of his consistency. From the middle of June-late August, Freddy was putting up a quality start in practically every outing. He has figured out how to pitch without the velocity on the fastball and earned himself a new deal from the Yankees. Freddy is 35 years old and it puzzles me that he could break down towards the end of the year. He was 1-1 with a 7.36 ERA in the month of September and lost his only playoff start against the Tigers in Game 2. If he can keep up the consistency from last year, Garcia can also be a nice mentor to the young kids in the staff because of his experience. I do not see him winning the job because he has more of an option to be moved and he would be a good long man to save his innings.
This leads me to everyone’s least favorite candidate. A.J Burnett is a player that practically every Yankee fan wants out, but management will not eat enough money at this present time. I think Burnett is the frontrunner for the job by default. On Twitter, people have not been so kind to that statement. But, I take a look at how he finished his year on a positive note. Burnett won three of his last six starts and started to figure out his control issues. He still can be a mental head case, but he showed up in the biggest Yankee game of the year to keep the Bombers in the playoffs. Plus, management is fully behind him as we saw after his blowup with Joe Girardi back in August during his loss to the Minnesota Twins.
All three candidates have issues, but in my mind, I am going with Burnett out of camp to give him a shot with the money he is making to prove he can build off that positive momentum. That being said, Hughes and Garcia could impress in Spring games so this discussion and this article will probably be brought up again by the end of Spring Training.