On Saturday, Jon Heyman of the New York Post reported on owner Hal Steinbrenner’s willingness to add a “significant rotation piece” this winter. The team is most strongly linked with Jordan Montgomery, Blake Snell, or a trade for Dylan Cease, but Heyman divulged that the Yankees have also engaged the Marlins in trade talks for one of their quartet of young starting pitchers. Should the Bombers miss out on their three main targets, they may consider pivoting to Miami’s lefty starter Braxton Garrett.
2023 Statistics: 30 starts, 159.2 IP, 3.66 ERA (122 ERA+), 3.68 FIP, 3.42 xFIP, 23.7 percent K%, 4.4 percent BB%, 2.9 fWAR
2024 FanGraphs Depth Charts Projections: 29 starts, 164 IP, 3.96 ERA, 3.94 FIP, 21.9 percent K%, 6.6 percent BB%, 2.6 fWAR
Contract Status: Projected to earn near league minimum in second and final year of pre-arbitration eligibility (Super-Two status), free agent following 2028 season.
Taken by the Marlins with the seventh overall selection in the 2016 MLB Draft, Garrett toiled in the minors, punctuated by a pair of ineffectual MLB cups of coffee in 2020 and 2021. However, Garrett has quietly established himself as a reliable mid-rotation starter over the last two seasons. Among starting pitchers with at least 240 innings pitched from the start of 2022, Garrett is tied with Zack Wheeler for the eighth-lowest walk rate (5.2 percent). He’s also the owner of the eighth-highest called-strike-plus-whiff rate (30.4 percent), induces the 13th-highest groundball rate (48.9 percent), and is credited with the 19th-best xFIP (3.43) during that span.
Though he doesn’t throw particularly hard, his 90.5 mph fastball putting him in the eighth percentile league-wide in average fastball velocity, Garrett makes up for this with a six-pitch mix of sinker, slider, cutter, changeup, curveball, and four-seamer. In a way, he’s a throwback to the years of finesse pitchers like Greg Maddux, relying on movement and command to compensate for the lack of velocity. At various points over the last two seasons, Garretts’ sinker, slider, and changeup have placed in the 90th percentile in both vertical and horizontal movement vs. average.
Because of the wicked movement on his pitches and his pinpoint control, Garrrett is one of the best pitchers in MLB at commanding the edges of the strike zone and getting called strikes. The tilt and sweep on his three top pitches (sinker, slider, and changeup) allows him to start those offerings well off the plate, causing the hitter to give up on the pitch before it moves back to catch the black. Indeed, among the aforementioned list of starting pitchers since the beginning of the 2022 season, Garrett owns the sixth-highest called-strike rate (18.9 percent). In addition, the southpaw tied for the eighth-best run value on pitches taken in the shadow zone in 2023, reinforcing his standing as one of the best starters at getting called strikes on the strike zone edges.
The Yankees and Marlins are no strangers when it comes to trade speculation in recent years. The two sides constructed the beginnings of a framework that would have sent Gleyber Torres and Oswald Peraza to Miami for Pablo López before the starter was dealt to the Twins last January. Rumors this winter have linked the two ball clubs on multiple occasions, leading us to ponder on the likes of Jesús Luzardo, Edward Cabrera, and Trevor Rogers and their potential fits should they be dealt to the Yankees, however none of these preliminary talks have created any traction.
The cost to acquire any of the Marlins’ starting pitchers would likely be steep, all four coming with multiple years of team control. While Garrett is far from the frontline starter the Yankees are said to be seeking this winter, he would be a nice insurance option to hedge against the uncertainty surrounding Carlos Rodón, Nestor Cortes, and the rest of the in-house options for the 2024 Yankees rotation not named Gerrit Cole.