Position Battles: Mets’ 5th Starter, Pt. 1: Freddy Garcia

Entering the offseason, the Mets figured to address their wretched bullpen (25th in Win Probability Added in 2008). The team from Queens did just that, acquiring J.J. Putz from the Mariners in a 12-player bonanza and inking free-agent Francisco Rodriguez. However, there were also rumors of the club fortifying the starting rotation by courting free-agent sinkerballer Derek Lowe (now a Brave) as well as Ben Sheets (no longer feasible, given his torn flexor tendon injury that required surgery) . Instead, the Mets resigned Oliver Perez, whose occasional brilliance is supplemented with a boatload lot of walks and homers (Perez’s three-year Win Value totals: 0.0 in 2006, 2.2 in ’07 and 1.3 in ’08).

The Mets enter 2009 with an improved ‘pen, but there are a plethora of questions about the men asked to give six or seven strong innings prior to those high-profile relievers entering the ballgame. Changeup artist Johan Santana may no longer be the unstoppable force of his Minnesota days, but 85-90% of peak Santana is still one heck of a pitcher. Beyond that, each member of the rotation has a question to answer. How healthy is John Maine, who was bothered by a bone spur in his shoulder last season? Can Mike Pelfrey (4.93 K/9 in ’08) supplement his two-seamer with something that bends? Will the aforementioned Perez (retained for 3 years and $36M) be anything more than a well-compensated league-average starter?

New York also enters spring training with an open competition for the fifth-starter’s role, featuring a former rotation horse (Freddy Garcia), a Washington retread (Tim Redding), the most hittable starter in the game (Livan Hernandez), a southpaw prospect (Jonathon Niese) and another farm product whose stats have never matched his generous scouting reports (Robert Parnell). For now, let’s take a look at Freddy Garcia

Garcia, now 33, was once as durable as any starter in the game. The right-hander topped the 200-inning mark each season between 2001 and 2006, generally providing Fielding Independent ERA’s in the low four’s. Chief Garcia’s combination of quantity and quality made him one of the more underappreciated hurlers in the AL, as he provided an average of 3.6 Value wins over the 2002-2006 period. The Phillies acquired Garcia from the White Sox in December of 2006 (for package of Gavin Floydl and Gio Gonzalez), figuring that they acquired a guy who would give them 200+ innings of quality pitching.

Unfortunately, Garcia’s career has taken a sharp downward turn since that point. The Venezuelan tossed just 58 frames for the Phillies in 2007, suffering from biceps tendinitis in spring training before succumbing to labrum surgery in late August.

Garcia missed the majority of the 2008 season while rehabbing, latching on to the pitching-thin Tigers toward the end of the summer. He made three late-season starts, including one against his former employer, the White Sox. Freddy had to bow out of that game with shoulder soreness, then had a similar issue while pitching in the Venezuelan Winter League.

The 6-4, 260 pounder once sat in the low-90’s and supplemented the heat with a hard slider, but he sat in the upper-80’s with his fastball in ’08, with a softer, less-utilized slide-piece. Garcia has always possessed a wide array of offerings (fastball, slider, curve, change, splitter), and he relied upon the changeup/splitter heavily in his short stint last year. Garcia’s health will ultimately determine how much he can contribute, but there’s little harm in seeing if he can reclaim his career with little money guaranteed: according to Cot’s Baseball Contracts, Freddy will make $1.5M if he’s added to the 40-man roster, with $6.5M in incentives possible. An MRI taken on Garcia’s shoulder in December showed no structural damage, which is certainly a positive.

The chances of Garcia becoming a 200+ inning starter again are very slim. However, he could provide some value to the Mets and fantasy owners if his shoulder allows him to continue his career.

We hoped you liked reading Position Battles: Mets’ 5th Starter, Pt. 1: Freddy Garcia by David Golebiewski!

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A recent graduate of Duquesne University, David Golebiewski is a contributing writer for Fangraphs, The Pittsburgh Sports Report and Baseball Analytics. His work for Inside Edge Scouting Services has appeared on ESPN.com and Yahoo.com, and he was a fantasy baseball columnist for Rotoworld from 2009-2010. He recently contributed an article on Mike Stanton's slugging to The Hardball Times Annual 2012. Contact David at david.golebiewski@gmail.com and check out his work at Journalist For Hire.

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