Faced with an expensive market for premium starting pitching, but in possession of one of the least effective rotations in the majors, the Twins are reportedly close to finalizing a deal for left-handed Braves pitcher Jaime Garcia.
A proportional response from MIN: About to upgrade their rotation by adding Jaime Garcia for a minor-leaguer, at relatively low cost.
— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) July 20, 2017
Mike Berardino of the Pioneer Press has more information:
The Braves would pick up less than half of Garcia’s remaining obligation, the person with direct knowledge said, but that figure was still being discussed along with which player or players the Twins would surrender. Medical reports were still being evaluated as well, but the deal was said to be “very close to final.”
Entering Friday, the Twins (48-46) are surprisingly just a half-game behind the Indians, the reigning AL champs and and heavy division favorites. The Twins are also just a game behind the Yankees for the second Wild Card spot in what is expected to be a bit of a log jam. So there’s some cause for optimism.
At the same time, however, Minnesota ranks 25th in the majors in BaseRuns win percentage (.438), suggesting they’ve benefited considerably from sequencing. Entering Friday, FanGraphs expects the Twins to finish with 78 wins and 84 losses. Overall, the club possesses a 10.6% probability of reaching the postseason according to FanGraphs’ playoff odds — and a 2.6% chance of capturing the division. The projections, in other words, don’t have much belief in the current roster.
So with 68 games to play, the Twins find themselves in a somewhat delicate position, in close proximity to a postseason berth but quite possibly lacking the roster to really go for it.
As for where to begin their upgrade, there’s little question of that. The Twins’ rotation ranks 27th in the majors in the FIP-based version of WAR (2.5). They also rank 27th in strikeout- and walk-rate differential (8.4 points). And in an era marked by historically high homer rates, the Twins rank 21st in ground-ball percentage (41.9%).
This is a team that turned to the 44-year-old Bartolo Colon to fill a rotation void. The ageless Colon has looked less so this season (8.18 ERA) and is reportedly considering retirement.
So, the Twins need a starting pitcher, and Garcia represents an upgrade. His 4.33/4.24/4.23 ERA/FIP/xFIP marks and 101 ERA- suggest a league-average pitcher who has performed up to his ability this season.
And while having recorded just middling strikeout (18.2%) and walk (9.0%) rates, Garcia remains an effective ground-ball pitcher, posting a 54.7% ground-ball rate this season and a 56.3% mark for his career. That might be key for a team that has embraced defensive shifting in recent seasons.
His fastball velocity (90.7 mph) is at a career best. And according to FanGraphs linear weights, his sinker is playing at career-best levels at 6.5 runs, compared to his career best mark of 6.3 set in 2012.
According to the Baseball Prospectus leaderboards, Garica’s sinker ranks fourth in swing-and-miss rate (21.9%) this seasons and ranks 12th in GB/FB ratio (6.42).
After having contended with injury for much of his career, Garcia made 32 starts a season ago and has recorded 106 innings over 17 starts this year. While he isn’t quite what he was at his 2010-12 peak, Garcia is a viable major-league starting pitcher and is apparently close to joining a staff that lacks five of them.
He’s also in the final year of his deal and his acquisition cost is reportedly low. He isn’t going to cost the Twins their top-prospect treasure. It’s a modest upgrade. But it is perhaps the type of upgrade the Twins should make, to confirm their status as soft buyers.
Of course, Garcia isn’t the solution to all Minnesota’s problems. the Twins also rank 28th in bullpen WAR (0.2), with a 4.69/4.79/4.60 ERA/FIP/xFIP slash line at a time when some of the AL contenders are trying to create super pens.
Garcia is a start. He’s help of some sort. His acquisition seems appropriate. But the Twins will need more than Garcia — whether from within or externally again — to sustain their success to date.