Acquired LHP Jaime Garcia and C-R Anthony Recker from Atlanta Braves in exchange for RHP Huascar Ynoa. [7/24]
Friday night, several national and local reports had the Twins on the verge of acquiring Jaime Garcia from the Braves, but the deal stalled and Saturday the veteran lefty took his normal turn in the rotation. Garcia tossed seven innings of three-run ball against the Dodgers and hit a grand slam off opposing starter Alex Wood. It was a helluva sendoff, because two days later the two sides completed the Garcia trade, with a twist.
Initially the Braves were said to be getting 24-year-old right-hander Nick Burdi, a hard-throwing reliever and former second-round pick currently rehabbing from Tommy John surgery. Atlanta apparently had second thoughts about Burdi, who likely won’t be fully healthy until 2019, and instead agreed to take 19-year-old rookie-ball right-hander and former $800,000 international signing Huascar Ynoa. (For more on Ynoa, see Mark Anderson's write-up.)
No one, including the new front office duo of Derek Falvey and Thad Levine, expected the Twins to be within a few games of a playoff spot this late in the season, and this trade is a way for Minnesota to address a glaring weakness without sacrificing any prospects who're in their long-term plans. Wilson Karaman has an extensive write-up on what Garcia brings to the table from a scouting perspective at age 31, but from a performance, roster, and money standpoint the deal is pretty straightforward.
He’s been surprisingly durable, both this year and last year, logging 285 total innings with a 4.52 ERA and 4.85 DRA. Garcia’s strikeout rate is middling and his control can be spotty at times, but he generates tons of ground balls (seventh-most among MLB starters since last year) and is similarly effective against lefties and righties. Garcia was once a frontline starter for the Cardinals, in between disabled list stints, but now the impending free agent is merely a solid fourth starter.
And that has the potential to be a huge upgrade for the Twins, who’ve gotten a 6.50 ERA from their starters not named Ervin Santana, Jose Berrios, and Adalberto Mejia. Garcia basically just has to be better than a 44-year-old Bartolo Colon and/or Kyle Gibson, who has a 5.50 ERA since last year. Their record is too good to sell and not good enough to buy anything expensive, so the Twins taking on $4.6 million in salary to get Garcia for a mid-level prospect is a good compromise. Imagine you got a last-minute invite to a party and you're unsure how long you plan to stay. Garcia is the $5 bottle of wine you stop to buy on the way. —Aaron Gleeman
Signed 1B-R Chris Carter to a minor-league contract. [7/19]
Carter returning to Oakland got me thinking about W.V.O Quine’s Web of Beliefs. This belief system posits that any fact can hold many different beliefs or points of view whose actual certainty may vary depending on how much truth we attest to the initial fact. In other words, the more evidence there is to support a fact, the more it weighs on the rest of a person’s opinions or set of beliefs.
In this case, when Carter was drafted many scouts and front office personnel believed him to be a major league-caliber power hitter capable of making contact. Over several minor-league levels and stints with the A's, Astros, and Brewers, this statement held partially true. Carter could indeed hit for power, slugging .470 with 131 home runs in 2,261 big-league plate appearances. His ability to make contact, however, was another story, as he has one of the highest strikeout rates of all time. If we also take into account his time with the Yankees this season, we now know that Carter may no longer be an above-average slugger and still cannot make contact.
New York severed ties with him and now the prodigal son returns to the club that gave him his cup of coffee. Carter may yet provide the A's with some spark, his numbers say as much. But we can be more pressed into believing that this signing was done with other ideas in mind, namely that Yonder Alonso will be traded by the end of the month. Even if that happens, Carter is just a placeholder until either Matt Olson is able to adjust his swing and provide the As with a much-needed power first baseman or they're able to sign a better first baseman over the offseason. —Martin Alonso
Acquired RHP David Phelps from Miami Marlins in exchange for OF-R Brayan Hernandez, RHP Brandon Miller, RHP Pablo Lopez, and RHP Lukas Schiraldi. [7/20]
Phelps is a remote control car on Christmas morning. It’s not the sort of thing you ask for, or even think to ask for, but after all the presents are open and you’re in that late Christmas morning lull, it’s one of the first things you break out of the packaging. After the initial surprise, you find out that a remote comtrol car is a pretty neat thing to have, even if you didn’t really need it.
It’s just unfortunate, because what Mariners fans really wanted was a brand new shiny bike: one with 10 gears and a strobe headlight and can go seven innings and doesn’t have Yovani Gallardo’s face on it. All your friends have bikes; it seems like your friends Jeff and Dave have like seven of them. It’s hard to look at that little car and not think about the bike you didn’t get.
What the Mariners do get is a quality late-inning reliever at a time when they’ve held the pedal down pretty hard on the ones already on staff. Phelps isn’t having the season he had in 2016, when he was quietly one of the best relievers in baseball, but after a rough April he’s at least within sight of it again. He’s one of the rare four-pitch pitchers for whom quantity isn’t the only skill; his fastball has actually gained a tick since last year, and he has good movement on his 90 mph cutter, a slider, and a fading changeup. For those acquainted with him from his pinstriped days, he’s not even comparable to that guy.
One of the right-hander’s greatest virtues is his consistency. His mechanics are simple and repeatable, but he’ll never lead the league in walk rate because of his preference for living at the edge, and often outside, the zone. It’s worked for him so far—his 0.19 percent Called Strikes Above Average (CSAA) is as slightly above average as it looks—but there’s some cause for concern in his new partnership with catcher Mike Zunino, who has suddenly become one of the worst framers in the league. If Phelps has to move his pitches an inch or two closer to keep getting those calls, it could lead to inflated numbers through no fault of his own.
The temptation will be to give him a chance to start, given his experience with it in the past (64 starts as a swingman from 2012-2015) and the Gavigliosity of the M’s current rotation. But Phelps would appear to be one of those pitchers whose stuff is amplified by brevity. Barring disaster or desperation, he’ll likely join Nick Vincent in holding down the seventh and eighth innings, and unless Dad is really going into the kitchen to get the surprise bonus gift and not just more eggnog, M’s fans will have to be happy with a cheap, effective bullpen upgrade. —Patrick Dubuque
Acquired RHP Huascar Ynoa from Minnesota Twins in exchange for LHP Jaime Garcia and C-R Anthony Recker. [7/24]
It's safe to say that Ynoa has been more well known as the little brother—both in age and size—of former high-profile A's signee Michael Ynoa. The younger Ynoa was signed by the Twins as a 16-year-old for $800,000 in 2014, and while he has yet to make it out of rookie-ball he is not without talent and potential. Reports from scouts that have seen Ynoa this season note that he generates an easy 91-93 mph fastball that scrapes 95 mph from his sturdy frame.
His breaking ball, which resides between a slider and curveball, will flash average and some scouts will project it beyond that grade at times. Ynoa rounds out his arsenal with a changeup that he throws with good arm speed; a pitch that has the potential to complement his arsenal nicely. There’s limited projection remaining across Ynoa’s game, but as he refines his command and control profile his solid raw stuff should play a half-tick better. Optimistic scouts will suggest a mid-rotation future for Ynoa, while the more realistic throughout the industry believe he has some potential as an innings-eating back-end starter. —Mark Anderson
Signed 3B-S Pablo Sandoval to a minor-league contract. [7/22]
“You don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here,” the Red Sox said. And so, Pablo Sandoval went home.
It would be far too kind to say Sandoval has had a rough go of it over the last two-and-a-half years in Boston. He hit rock bottom in 2015, amassing -1.4 WARP and a .229 TAv. Sandoval then collected all of seven plate appearances in 2016 before going on the disabled list, and eventually undergoing shoulder surgery. The potential 2017 rebound never materialized, as Sandoval couldn’t even keep up with PECOTA’s 10th percentile projection (.232 TAv, -1.1 WARP) and registered a .219 TAv in 108 plate appearances. It was an unmitigated disaster, and quite possibly the worst transaction Ben Cherington ever made.
On the other side of the continent, the Giants are decidedly not contending in 2017. The team is going to sell whatever isn’t bolted to the floor, and one of their more appealing trade chips is Eduardo Nunez. With Nunez potentially gone, the infield depth becomes thin. Christian Arroyo is on the minor-league DL, and might be out for the season. Ryder Jones is being tried out at different positions. Jae-gyun Hwang has been optioned back to Triple-A after an unimpressive stint in the majors, and the organization doesn’t seem too keen on him. That’s where Sandoval comes in. At the very least, he’s depth at a position the Giants have very little to lose. At the very best, well, you get a facsimile of the Kung-Fu Panda of legend.
It’s hard not to indulge in the schadenfreude here. Sandoval wasn’t exactly vague on his intent to leave San Francisco after 2014. He signed a five-year, $95 million deal similar to the Giants’ offer to go play for the Red Sox, saying the decision to leave was “not hard at all” and departing on the lowest of notes. He barely got halfway through the contract before being released, and made no fans in New England. For what it’s worth, he did apologize for everything he said to fans and those within the Giants organization. Whether or not that was sincere is all up to you. The reactions from players themselves have been mixed, with Hunter Pence being the most outwardlty supportive of his return, but there are certainly people who are not fans of his, both on the team and in the organization.
Could it have been a mental thing that caused his collapse? Maybe, as Carl Crawford had similar issues with the pressure to perform in Boston, and it’s worth a shot seeing how he’d do back at his old stomping grounds. The worst Sandoval can do is flame out in Sacramento, and that certainly won’t affect the Giants’ plans at all. He’ll probably see the majors in short order—he’s expected to get roughly 50 at-bats before the Giants make a decision—and we’ll see if the Panda really has anything left. If not, then there was nothing wrong with seeing if something could work, especially if it came with some bittersweet nostalgia. There are far worse ideas. —Brett Cowett