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Yankees Potential Free Agent Target: Yimi Garcia

The right-handed reliever was recently non-tendered by the Dodgers, and he makes sense as a low-cost acquisition

MLB: San Diego Padres at Los Angeles Dodgers Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

In a mildly surprising move, the Los Angeles Dodgers decided to non-tender right-handed reliever Yimi Garcia, making him a free agent. He was projected to make $1.1 million in arbitration, so the most likely explanation for the decision to let him go is that they thought they could make better use of his roster spot.

Although he was dumped by the Dodgers, there is clear value in Garcia’s right arm. He could be a helpful addition to the New York Yankees’ bullpen corps, and his Statcast profile is fascinating.

Baseball Savant

He was among the league leaders in:

  • Fastball spin (2593, 98th percentile)
  • Curveball spin (2801, 89th percentile)
  • Hard-hit percentage (27.3, 98th percentile)
  • Expected wOBA, or xwOBA (.257, 95th percentile)
  • Expected wOBA on contact, or xwOBAcon (.313, 95th percentile)
  • Expected batting average (.183, 98th percentile)

He also had fantastic marks in fastball velocity (71st percentile), strikeout percentage (72nd percentile), and expected slugging percentage (80th percentile).

García, 29, made his big league debut in 2014, leaving a positive impression in just 10 innings of 1.80 ERA and 8.10 K/9. His first full season was 2015, when he excelled to the tune of a 3.34 ERA (3.20 FIP) in 56.2 innings. That year, he had a sterling 25.8 K-BB%.

However, he missed almost all of 2016 due to a series of injuries, most notably a biceps issue and then knee surgery. The big blow came in December 2016, when he got the news that he was getting the dreaded Tommy John surgery. He was lost for the entire 2017 season.

He struggled quite a bit in 2018, more than one year removed from the elbow surgery. He finished the year with a 5.64 ERA in 22.1 major league innings, struggling with forearm inflammation at some point and alternating between the Dodgers’s Triple-A affiliate and the big club.

In 2019, Garcia threw 62.1 mostly low-leverage frames, with 9.53 K/9, only 2.02 BB/9, and a 3.61 ERA. The low walk output contributed to a stellar 0.87 WHIP, but his ugly 2.17 HR/9 was the primary culprit of his elevated 5.19 FIP. It is safe to say that he struggled with the juiced ball, but even in his best statistical season, 2015, he had a 1.27 HR/9.

Despite being homer-prone, Garcia’s 26.7 K% and 5.7 BB% come to attention. After the All-Star break, he had a 2.96 ERA and 0.99 WHIP. According to FanGraphs, he had positive values with his three different pitches.

His extreme fly-ball ways (0.53 groundballs for every ball in the air) could be dangerous in Yankee Stadium, but he could still be a serviceable, cheap arm with a fascinating profile. He is very stingy when it comes to allowing baserunners, which somewhat minimizes the damage inflicted by the big flies.

Maybe the Dodgers preferred to look at his 5.19 FIP rather than his 3.61 ERA. Or at his -0.3 fWAR. There is no way to know, but the truth is that Garcia can be a helpful reliever if he manages to keep his home run rate in check.

Now that he proved in 2019 that he can be an effective major league reliever and with the Tommy John surgery well in the rearview mirror, the Yankees would be smart to consider him as a low-cost free agent option.