ANALYSIS: Freddy Garcia Or David Phelps As New York Yankees' Fifth Starter?

ST. PETERSBURG, FL - JULY 4: Pitcher David Phelps #41 of the New York Yankees starts against the Tampa Bay Rays July 4, 2012 at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)

The New York Yankees have scheduled Freddy Garcia to be their starting pitcher Tuesday night against the Seattle Mariners. Should Garcia, a 35-year-old 14-year veteran, be making that start, or should it be 25-year-old rookie right-hander David Phelps?

The fine Yankees blog River Avenue Blues waffled recently on the topic, never actually taking a stand. Jon Lane of YES Network wondered if Garcia should be looking over his shoulder at Phelps, but he didn't take a stand, either. Lou DiPietro of YES gave a qualified vote for Phelps.

Me? I don't know what all the waffling is about. The Yankees are not doing it, but of course they should be handing the ball to Phelps Tuesday night -- and every five days after that -- instead of Garcia.

DiPietro hit on the reason why this should be a simple -- and obvious -- decision. He wrote:

Let me ask one simple question: who has a better shot at being a Yankee next year – Garcia or Phelps?

Chances are, you answered Phelps, right? So then, at this point, given that thinking, might it not make more sense to give Phelps an extended look until Andy Pettitte returns?

You can slice and dice the starter/reliever numbers for both guys any way you want. The reality is Phelps vs. Garcia has nothing to do with 2012 and EVERYTHING to do with how Hal Steinbrenner and the Yankees want to do business going forward.

From all indications Steinbrenner is serious about getting the Yankees' payroll under the $189 million luxury tax threshold within a couple of years. To do that, the Yankees are going to need some young, low-cost arms in their starting rotation.

Right now they have $16.5 million million tied up in three veterans who could be considered rotation stop-gaps. Garcia ($4 million), Andy Pettitte ($2.5 million) and Hiroki Kuroda ($10 million).

Michael Pineda should return next season to join CC Sabathia, Ivan Nova and Phil Hughes. What the Yankees need to know is if Phelps can be the final piece of their rotation, or if they need to keep spending millions of dollars they really no longer want to spend on aging stop-gaps to fill out their rotation.

The only way to do that is to give Phelps eight or 10 starts before Pettitte returns to audition for a chance at a long-term gig in the rotation. Besides, why did they send him to the minors and stretch him out to start if he's not going to start?

I know, I know. You are saying, the Yankees are about winning NOW. Well, the Yankees are winning now. Despite being swept by Oakland the Yankees are almost certainly going to win the American League East. It would be stunning if they don't go to the playoffs (Cool Standings gives them a 91.1 percent chance).

Besides, whether Garcia starts and Phelps relieves or Phelps starts and Garcia relieves is not going to make-or-break the Yankees' playoff hopes. It probably isn't going to make much, if any, difference at all.

If Garcia starts, he will go out there and throw all of his junk, using guile and savvy to, on a good day, get through six innings and give up three or four runs. Phelps might do the same thing, to be honest. Only if he shows he can get through six innings and pitch adequately in his first season in the big leagues that offers a promise for the future.

At least if you start Phelps it helps you make a decision about what you need to do going forward into the new, budget-conscious era of Yankee baseball.

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