Last night the Yankees acquired Jaime Garcia in a trade with the Twins for two minor league players. With no disrespect meant to Dietrich Enns who is the other player the Yankees sent to Minnesota in exchange for Garcia, I’d like to focus on Zach Littell. Enns is 26 and has bumped around different levels of the minor leagues – Littell is the player we need to discuss and to watch from afar ongoing.
Here’s what the Yankees lost:
Littell was one of the better pitchers in the Florida Atlantic League (high A ball) before being promoted to AA Trenton this season. Since the promotion to Trenton, he has a 6.5 strikeout to walk ratio and averages 10.6 K per 9 innings in 44 innings of work. He is only 21 years old, which makes him 3.4 years younger than the average player in the AA Eastern League.
In other words, this is a pretty good prospect. He misses bats, has good control, has impressed enough to be promoted recently, and is very young for his playing level. These are all signs of a future major leaguer.
Here’s what the Yankees gained with Garcia:
With Garcia, as a team, the Yankees will allow 3 fewer runs over the rest of the 2017 season total, than if they simply put Luis Cessa in the rotation.
Three. Fewer. Runs. Over the rest of the season.
Don’t believe me? Here’s the math:
Jaime Garcia is averaging 6 innings per start this season. With a 4.29 ERA*, that equals 23 runs he’ll allow over 48 innings (assuming 8 more starts).
The league average ERA is 4.34, so finding an average pitcher and putting him out there 8 times ends with 23 runs allowed as well. But let’s discuss Cessa, who’s already on your roster:
Cessa has a 4.83 ERA. That comes out to 26 runs over the course of 8 starts. So we can expect Garcia to prevent 3 fewer runs than Cessa would over the rest of the ‘17 season (26-23 = 3).
For more perspective, the Yankees currently allow 4.22 runs per game. With 59 games left we now can expect them to allow 249 runs. When you replace Cessa with Garcia, that becomes 246.
I may sound like a dead horse needs a beating, but we have a tendency to overrate the impact of some players quite often (see also; Frazier, Todd) and this trade is a good example.
Before I get to the big, and obviously already answered question, an additional factor needs to be considered: Remember as I wrote about Sonny Gray in my previous post, Garcia would be the Yankees 4th or 5th best starter and may not get a playoff start should the Yankees make the playoffs anyway.
So here’s the question:
Is sending a legitimate prospect away for a return of 3 net runs for the rest of the season and a player you may not use in the playoffs worth it?
“But Garcia has a longer track record than Cessa, or another similar replacement player, and may perform better down the stretch” you say? Fair point, so let’s say he improves his 2017 performance by 50% – now the Yankees are 4.5 runs better over the last two months of the season.
Still not worth it. Based on those numbers and Garcia’s 2017 WAR, you lost a good prospect to make your team .5 wins better over the course of two months (if you’re the optimistic type).
This move may look good at a cursory glance, but anything beyond that would lead a reasonable person to not like the deal from the Yankees side of matters.
*I know ERA isn’t the best barometer of pitcher’s performance, but for the purposes of this discussion, it keeps it simple as we’re talking runs and it makes the math easy.
Thanks again to Baseball Reference and Fangraphs for the statistics.