COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. — You’ll recall that the Atlanta Braves tried to trade Jaime Garcia to Minnesota, got cold feet and, after further review, traded him to Minnesota anyway. He started one game for the Twins and was the winning pitcher. He’s now an ex-Twin.
Minnesota just flipped Garcia to the Yankees for two pitching prospects, which numerically trumps the one pitching prospect the Twins sent to the Braves, who wound up with Huascar Ynoa, ranked No. 22 in the Minnesota farm system by MLB Pipeline at the beginning of this season. Zack Littell goes to the Twins, and his minor-league numbers are great — he’s 14-1 this season in Single-A and Double-A with a 1.87 ERA. He ranked No. 22 in the Yankees’ chain at midseason.
He’s also, as ESPN Insider’s David Schoenfield notes, a finesse guy, which surely is why he’s 21 and on his third organization in a year. Writes Schoenfield: “His fastball sits 88-89 mph and clearly front offices aren’t buying into him as a future rotation guy, as the Yankees acquired him in the offseason from the Mariners for reliever James Pazos.”
The Twins needed no more of Garcia because they’ve lost five of six — his start was the exception — to fall seven games behind in the American League Central and four games back of the second wild card. (Minnesota is 50-52, which tells us much about the AL.) The Twins have given up not a full week after gearing up. According to Steve Adams of MLB Trade Rumors, they’re absorbing all but the league-minimum part of Garcia’s remaining salary. The Braves, we note, didn’t pay any of his remaining $4.7 million to make him go away.
Bottom line: The Braves saved a little money and banked a prospect who at least throws hard in exchange for a guy who has already been traded again. This is no knock on Garcia, who’s essentially a garden-variety big-league lefty. It’s more an illustration of the goofiness inherent in the trade deadline, which forces a general manager to decide if his team has a chance (meaning buy) or not (meaning sell), and that assessment can turn on a dime.
In the grand scheme, the Braves got lucky. The Braves were 45-45 two weeks again, six games back of the second wild card. They’ve lost nine of 12 and are 10 games behind now, with five teams ahead of them for the right to be the visiting team in the play-in game. They could have bought, but they waited. Now they know what they are — not that they didn’t suspect already — and they’re behaving accordingly.
Should they have waited a week and landed the Yankees’ No. 22 guy, as opposed to the Twins’? This administration has shown no affinity for finesse pitchers — few organizations do; Minnesota’s was long an exception — and offloading $4.7 million was a real consideration. Still, all this fuss over one so-so left-hander is probably much ado about not much. The Braves wanted to get something for him while there was a demand. Apparently there still is.
Dispatches from the Empire State (not the building):