You’d be forgiven if you missed it amidst all the other news going on, but Thursday night, the Yankees made a couple of roster moves, optioning Thairo Estrada, Ben Heller, and Michael King to Scranton and Deivi Garcia to Double-A Trenton.
While just a housekeeping move, considering the fact that there won’t be a professional baseball game played anytime soon, these decisions could give us a little bit of an insight into how the position battles had been shaping up; after all, most of these players had been fighting for spots at the bottom of the roster. Does it, however, mean something significant for Garcia, since his option to Trenton represents a demotion from where he ended last season?
According to Andy Martino of SNY, this was purely a housekeeping move: there had been only three spots open at Scranton, and due to a roster freeze resulting from the suspended season, they could not open up another. Because of this, Garcia, the only one of these four without Major League service time, was the one ticketed to Trenton for the time being. Once spring training resumes and the roster freeze ends, the source told Martino, Garcia would still have the opportunity to compete for a spot in either the Scranton or New York rotation.
Even if this initial demotion was the result of roster housekeeping, however, there’s still reason to suspect that Garcia might begin the season in Trenton, and not at Scranton. In fact, they’ve done this before with him, as Garcia reached Trenton at the end of 2018 (albeit only making one start there) before starting him back in Tampa at the beginning of 2019. Furthermore, Garcia struggled at Scranton, pitching to a 5.40 ERA, 2.25 K/BB, and 1.475 WHIP in 40 innings, before following that up with a rough spring training, in which he gave up 7 runs in 7.1 innings. Returning him to Trenton, at least for a couple of starts — perhaps four, the amount he had for Tampa at the beginning of 2019 — would get him back on track.
Just like a roster crunch at Scranton had the Yankees option him to Trenton this week, so too a roster crunch at Scranton might keep him there. At the moment, the Yankees starting rotation looks to include Gerrit Cole, James Paxton, Masahiro Tanaka, J.A. Happ, and Jordan Montgomery, which would leave Garcia, King, Jonathan Loaisiga, Chad Bettis, David Hale, Nick Nelson, and Nick Green as options for the Scranton rotation. As they’ve already made the Major Leagues, Loaisiga, King, Bettis, and Hale would probably have priority in the Scranton rotation, in case they’re needed in the Bronx.
This would leave Garcia battling with Nelson and Green for the final spot. While Green would likely be ticketed to Trenton (or the bullpen), given the fact that he posted an ERA upwards of 7 there last season, the fact that he is three years older than Garcia might give Nelson the edge. And it’s important to note that Clarke Schmidt also would need to fit somewhere, assuming he does not break camp with the Yankees. Of course, this all depends on a multitude of other roster moves — whether any of these pitchers end up in the big league bullpen, for example — but it is a scenario worth exploring.
Garcia will turn 21 this May, which would make him a full five years younger than the average player at Triple-A, and three years younger than the average player at Double-A. No matter where he begins the season, he’ll be way ahead of the curve.