Surprise! The Yankees made an interesting move today, sending Martin Prado and David Phelps to the Marlins for Nathan Eovaldi, Garrett Jones, and prospect Domingo German. It will probably take some time to process the move, as Prado was thought to be a near-lock for the 2015 team, but the players from the Marlins definitely offer some intrigue. So who are the newest Bronx Bombers?
The 24-year-old righthanded starter is probably the biggest factor in this trade. Selected in the 11th round of the 2008 MLB Draft by the Dodgers, Eovaldi was sent to the Marlins in the 2012 Hanley Ramirez trade. He's been in the majors for four years now, pitching to a 4.07 ERA (109 ERA-) and a 3.69 FIP (98 FIP-), certainly not bad marks for such a young starter. Last year, he hit career-highs in starts (33) and innings pitched (199 2/3), as it was his first full season as a major leaguer starter. The numbers were up and down, as he ended the year with a 4.37 ERA, 3.37 FIP, and a 1.9 BB/9, numbers that were good enough for 3.0 fWAR but only 0.2 rWAR. He's not a big strikeout guy yet, but the fact that he has good control is, of course, a plus.
FanGraphs and Baseball-Reference disagree on how successful Eovaldi's been to date, as his ERA isn't quite as shiny as his FIP. Perhaps the Marlins' defense is to blame, as they finished in the bottom half of the league last year in defense, so with Chase Headley and Didi Gregorius thrown into the mix, perhaps some improvement is on the horizon. He has struggled with lefty batters in the past (.288/.350/.421 compared to .244/309/.369 against righties), but his 0.62 HR/9 even away from pitcher-friendly Marlins Park gives me hope that we don't need to worry about lefties going yard at Yankee Stadium as much as some might think.
It should also be noted that Eovaldi had a more successful 2013 than 2014, as his ERA was almost a full run lower at 3.39 in 18 starts, though he missed a could months with right shoulder inflammation. There is undoubtedly more potential from Eovaldi than the departing David Phelps, so the Yankees took a step up there. Whether it was worth Prado or not can be debated, but as part of the whole package, it seems like it has a good chance of paying off, and people seem to like Eovaldi's repertoire:
If there’s anyone that could be Garret Richards, it’s Nate Eovaldi. Both have 96+ mph gas, good sliders, good curves, bad changes.— Eno Sarris (@enosarris) December 19, 2014
Eovaldi obviously the key guy in the deal for the Yankees: 4th-best average fastball velocity last season http://t.co/Et0d6KH9ie— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) December 19, 2014
A former fan favorite on the Pirates, Jones was originally drafted in 1999 by the Braves, but he's only 33 years old. He was a late bloomer, as it took him a little bit of time to catch on with a team; he actually made his MLB debut in 2007 with the Twins. At age 28 in 2009 though, he arrived in Pittsburgh and hit .293/.272/.567 with 21 homers in 82 games, entrenching himself as the Bucs' first baseman and earning down-ballot Rookie of the Year votes. Aside from a one-year stint as the starting right fielder when the Pirates decided they wanted to try the Lyle Overbay Experience in 2011, he held that position down decently for the Bucs, batting .256/.318/.462 with exactly 100 homers over his five seasons in Pittsburgh (including a career-high 27 in 2012), notching a 113 OPS+ along the way.
After slipping to a .233/.289/.419 triple slash and a 98 OPS+ in 2013 though, the Pirates decided to let him walk, and he signed a two-year, $7.75 million contract with the Marlins. This past year was almost a duplicate of his 2013 campaign, as he hit .246/.309/.411 with 33 doubles and 15 homers but a 98 OPS+. Jones has been pretty durable, never playing under 140 games in a season since his abbreviated rookie season in '09, a quality that I'm sure the Yankees appreciate given Mark Teixeira's recent injury struggles.
Jones's defense is nothing to write home about, but he will likely be Tex's backup at first base. Like Nick Swisher before him, he has the ability to spend some time faking it in right field should Carlos Beltran get hurt. (I imagine Jones and the righty-swinging Chris Young would probably create a platoon.) His lefty bat was probably the most attractive part of his game to the Yankees, as he has some pull power that could play well at Yankee Stadium:
Jones is a complementary piece to this trade, but one who could certainly play a pivotal role on the 2015 squad. We complained a lot last year when the Yankees fell short in acquiring a real backup first baseman for Teixeira. Well, through this trade, the Yankees took care of that for next year, so good on them.
Not to be confused with Gonzalez Germen, another pitcher the Yankees acquired today, the 22-year-old is more of a project. Signed by the Marlins for $40,000 out of the Dominican Republic as a 17-year-old in 2009, German played full-season ball for the first time in 2014, making 25 starts for the Low-A Greensboro Grasshoppers of the South Atlantic League (the same league of the Yankees' Low-A Charleston RiverDogs). It's a pitcher-friendly league, but German impressed regardless, putting up a 2.48 ERA, 3.26 FIP, 8.3 K/9, and 1.8 BB/9 in 123 1/3 innings.
Those numbers and the scouting reports impressed the prospect rankers enough to put German #6 on Baseball America's Top 10 Marlins Prospects, and #8 on MLB.com's Top 10 Marlins Prospects. MLB.com has since shifted him to #7 on the Yankees' Top 10 Prospects, between Rob Refsnyder and Jake Cave. That means that Jim Callis and company believe he is the third-best pitcher in the system behind only Luis Severino and Ian Clarkin--not bad. Here's what they had to say about him:
German's fastball is a power sinker that sits in the 91-94 mph zone. His best secondary offering is his above-average changeup, and he has an advanced feel for the offspeed pitch already. German's slider is a work in progress, thrown at 81-84 mph, but it's still a little too slurvy at the moment. He's generally been a strike-thrower throughout his brief Minor League career.
Over at FanGraphs, Nathaniel Stoltz also did a useful piece on German which is a must-read if you have any interest in him. Read that for more information on him, and be sure to check out the GIFs! He looks good. Brian Cashman called German a "lottery ticket," and that he would probably begin 2015 with High-A Tampa. German could be the real prize of this deal so keep his name on the mind.
Although I enjoyed Prado's versatility, I can understand bringing these players into the Bronx. They offer some serious potential and combined, seem to have a good chance to make even more of a difference than Prado and Phelps in the future. Welcome to New York!