Just 6 days after acquiring Jaime Garcia and the $4.7 million remaining on his contract from the Atlanta Braves for pitching prospect Huascar Ynoa, the Minnesota Twins have traded Garcia to the New York Yankees for pitching prospect Zack Littell and 26-year-old minor league reliever Dietrich Enns. The Twins will pay about $4 million of Garcia's remaining salary.
As someone who was critical of the team's decision to trade for Garcia in the first place, this kind of a move is so brilliant it seems to get overlooked. The Twins essentially spent about $4 million to upgrade from Ynoa to Littell, which seems like an easy decision but teams almost never do this. And while Ynoa has some upside and remains an intriguing prospect, there's little doubt that Littell is a tier or two above him.
Over the last two seasons, Littell has been dominant. In 2016 he went 13-6 with a 2.66 ERA between two levels, striking out 156 batters and walking just 34 in 165 innings pitched. He did this as a 20-year-old in a league where the average player was nearly 3 years older.
This season, the 21-year-old has been even better. He went 9-1 with a 1.77 ERA in 11 starts at the high A level, was promoted to AA and has gone 5-0 with a 2.05 ERA there. Between both levels he's thrown 115 innings with 109 strikeouts and just 23 walks, and a tiny 1.87 ERA.
His dominance this season means he's nearing his major league debut, and his performance this year alone suggests he has a higher upside than previously thought. Adding a young starting pitcher who should be pitching for the major league team as soon as next season for basically cash and a lower tier prospect is exactly the kind of deal teams should make more often, and it's refreshing to see the new regime prove their value so quickly.
Enns is a left-handed reliever with dominant minor league numbers over the last several seasons, and seems likely to get a shot at the big league level in the near future with the Twins bullpen struggles.
I criticized the front office for the Garcia move, mainly because it felt like something Terry Ryan would've done. This kind of a deal is the opposite of a Terry Ryan move, and I apologize for not being patient enough to see how everything played out before the deadline. Even if Ynoa develops into a better pitcher some day than Littell, it doesn't matter. Today, there's no doubt Littell is a more established prospect, with a higher upside and a much sooner ETA to the bigs, and the Twins also landed an intriguing left handed reliever.
I've never felt better about this team's front office than I do after this deal, because it shows two very important things: They can pivot their strategy almost immediately if necessary, and they are constantly working to squeeze as much value as possible out of every transaction. It's genius at work.
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