If the Yankees are planning a big surprise move this offseason, they're doing a good job of lulling everyone into the catatonic state that allows them to pull it off.
They continued to eschew free agents and the trade market on Thursday when they agreed to a one-year deal to bring Freddy Garcia back to the Bronx next season. Garcia had somewhere between four and five million more reasons to be thankful when he dug into his turkey as a result of the deal.
Joe Girardi probably said a few words of thanks as well, because Garcia was the kind of reliable, if unspectacular, starter that the team needed at the back end of the rotation last season. With Phil Hughes imploding early, Bartolo Colon imploding late and A.J. Burnett doing his thing all year long, Garcia wound up being the steadiest starter (remember, Ivan Nova really came on in the second half) after CC Sabathia over the course of the entire season.
Steady Freddie wound up going 12-10 with a 3.62 ERA, his best season since 2006 and a testament to what a pitcher can achieve with guile in the place of overwhelming stuff. His peripheral and advanced stats weren't quite as good, but there's no reason to think Garcia can't be a solid part of the back end of the rotation again in 2012.
The question of who the Yankees will plug into the front of the rotation remains wide open, however. The team may now have five starters under contract for next season, but it seems impossible that they are going to stand pat with those five the rest of the way.
Garcia's return gives the team cover it likely sought to avoid being forced into paying too much for a C.J. Wilson or Mark Buehrle on the free agent market and it came at a reasonable enough price that it allows them to make a bigger move should one come down the pike. They'd be open to that, but you also get the sense that they'd be just as open to signing another veteran with a modest salary -- another version of Garcia, basically -- as they would be to making a splashy move.
Thrilling? Hardly, but it worked out this year and it could well work out again. It would be nice to see the Yankees land a better arm, but after years of overpaying for mediocrity it would be just as well to see them continue to find successes under rocks discarded by others.