Atlanta's front office returned to its reliableveteran-for-prospect blueprint but not before thefireworks.
Following a dramatic saga featuring a shutdown performance against baseball's best team and the first grand slam by an Atlanta Braves pitcher since 1966, the organizationtraded veteran starter Jaime Garcia to the Twinsalong with catcher Anthony Recker on Monday in exchange for pitching prospectHuascar Ynoa.
Garcia addresses a pitching need for Minnesota, which finds itself battlingthe Cleveland Indians and Kansas City Royals for a division title,while the Braves extract marginal future value as the team begins to fadefrom playoff relevance. On the other hand, the deal opens up some financial flexibility for Atlanta's front office to explore trade options for young, controllable rotation pieces perhaps starting withOakland ace Sonny Gray
The 19-year-old Ynoa, who is in his third professional season after signing for $800,000 at age 16 out of the Dominican Republic, is ranked as the Twins' No. 22 prospect per MLB.com. He is the brother of Michael Ynoa, who over the past two seasons has made 45 appearances out of the bullpen for the Chicago White Sox.
The younger Ynoa totaled six starts at rookie-level Elizabethton for the Twins this season, claiming a 5.26 ERA over 25 2/3 innings.In 133 1/3 innings in pro ball, Ynoa has allowed just three home runs and racked up 121 strikeouts, but walks have been an issue. He had 30 in 2015, and while he cut that figure in half last season, he's back up to 14 in those aforementioned six starts in '17.
His arsenal includes a fastball that sits in the mid-90s, a cut fastball (low 90s) as well as a changeup, curveball and splitter.
Garcia is set to become a free agent after the season, which madehim one of the top rentals on the trade market. The Twins were searching for a starting pitcher offeringmore club control and, with approximately $4.5 million remaining on Garcia's 2017 contract, the teams reportedly deliberated on cash considerations, prospects and medicals after news of the discussions first broke on Thursday evening. Initially, Atlanta was said to be closing in on high-ceiling relief prospect Nick Burdi, who underwent Tommy John surgery in May.
The Twins pickedup the remainder of Garcia's contract and $200,000 of the $300,000 left on Recker's deal, likely leading to the relatively light prospect return. Along with Ynoa's signing bonus, Atlanta saved (or bypassed) $5.55 million in the deal, which could prove useful in their pursuit of a front-end starting pitcher.
The consummated deal opens up a rotation spot for the Braves, which could be filled by a number of minor-league options.
Triple-A Gwinnett starter Aaron Blair was scratched from his Thursday start once presumedto replace Garcia for this latestturn in the rotation but took the mound on Sunday against Indianapolis, throwingjust one inning. Meanwhileformer first-round pick Lucas Sims has struck out at least eight batters in four of his past five starts, including two11-strikeout performances, lowering his season's ERA to 3.75. Gwinnett starters Matt Wisler, Andrew Albers and Kris Medlen are additional options in the short term.
The Braves traded for Garcia, the 31-year-old former St. Louis Cardinals standout,in early December for mid-level pitching prospects Chris Ellis and John Gant and minor-league infielder Luke Dykstra. Hearrived alongside free-agent acquisitions Bartolo Colon and R.A. Dickey to provide a veteran bridge to Atlantas upcoming minor-league arms.
In the middle of an up-and-down contract year, Garcia reestablished himself after the All-Star break with a seven-inning, one-run effort against the Arizona Diamondbacks. He followed that outing with another resume-padding performance, allowing three runs over seven innings against the Los Angeles Dodgers, owners of MLB's best record, while also slugging a shocking grand slam against All-Star and former Braves starter Alex Wood.
The southpawowns a 4.30 ERA and 4.14 fielding-independent pitching through 113 innings and, perhaps most importantly, he has remained healthy. Among left-handed starters with at least 100 innings this season, Garcia ranks 10thin FIP directly behind Robbie Ray, Ty Blach and Jason Vargas.
Garcia could be the first of many selling trades for the Braves prior to the July 31 trade deadline. Productive and affordable second baseman Brandon Phillips is another pending free agent who could help a contenders playoff push (though his limited no-trade clause is an obstacle when navigating the trade market), not to mention veteran pieces signed through the 2018 season: Dickey, Matt Adams and Jim Johnson, among others.
Recker, 33, appeared in just six gamesat the MLB level. He had been added to the 40-man on July 21 with fellow catcher Kurt Suzuki on thebereavement list, but his last appearance for the Braves came on April 19. Hitting .223/.301/.381 at Triple-A,he's appeared in 206 major-league games over seven seasons with a 70 home runs and a career .199 average.