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A blessing in disguise has crept upon the New York Yankees this 2011 season. The once thought of minor acquisitions, Bartolo Colon, 38, and Freddy Garcia, 34, have been lightning in a bottle for a team marred by weaknesses. The weaknesses are both short and long term, but the short term weaknesses have been erased by the performances of Colon and Garcia thus far.
The long-term weaknesses are of great concern for those Yankees fans that are apprehensive over how the next three to four years will pan out. The question is how smoothly the Yankees will be able to transition from players like Jeter, Rivera, A-rod and Posada to a younger talent pool. The question then becomes, does the acquisition of this talent pool happen through trades or through drafting unprepared college players who most likely need years of development in the minors. These are tough questions for Yankees fans and even tougher for Yankees management.
The Yankees do not have the luxury of trading Jeter, Rivera, A-rod and Posada because they are all at ages where athletic ability starts to decline. This decline results in them not being worth much in a trade. Hypothetically, the Yankees will keep Cano, Granderson and Teixeira for many years to come because they are in the prime of their careers. For Yankees management, to trade one of these three players for an unproven younger talent would be an excruciatingly tough call. To do this would undoubtedly be a gamble. In order to give up talents like Cano, Granderson or Teixeira, Yankees management will have to get talent in return.. If the Yankees were to trade one of these three players for a younger player, they would be running the risk that the younger talent might not develop in the way that they had anticipated. There is no question Yankees management will have to eventually form a younger nucleus of talent in order to compete with the Red Sox, but today is not that day.
Luckily for Yankee fans, the unfamiliar territory of a young pitching staff is not in the midst for 2011 due to the brilliance of Colon and Garcia on mound. Despite Garcia’s bleak record of 4-4, he has pitched as well as a non-roster spring training invitee could be pitching. The same goes for Colon, also a non-roster spring training invitee, who owns a winning record of 5-1. The past two days both have pitched and picked up wins, propelling the Yankees into the top spot in the American League East, one game ahead of the archrival Red Sox. Call it serendipity, but the upside to signing aging players is they know the game and therefore are experienced enough to know how to pitch. Pitching does not just involve throwing gas or a high heater by a batter; it’s about hitting the corners and changing speeds. Yankees management made a high-risk, high-reward decision giving roster spots to Colon and Garcia. If both got injured or didn’t pitch well, a youthful pitching staff would be the only direction to go in this season but lady luck has chosen the latter.
The question for the Yankees is whether these two veteran and aging pitchers have enough left in the tank to beat the Red Sox who have a fountain of youth compared to the Yankees. Next week the question of age vs. youth will be more clearly answered as Colon and Garcia will face the Red Sox when they come to town for a three game series against the Yankees. The series starts Tuesday night in the Bronx.