The Orioles have acquired right-hander Gabriel Ynoa from the Mets in exchange for cash and designated catcher Francisco Pena for assignment to clear a spot on the 40-man roster, per a team announcement. The move opens a spot on the Mets’ 40-man roster, which the team still needed to do in order to make the re-signing of Fernando Salas official.
The 23-year-old Ynoa made his MLB debut with the Mets this past season, tossing 18 1/3 innings with a 6.38 ERA. His 17-to-7 K/BB ratio, 49.2 percent ground-ball rate and average fastball velocity of 93.5 mph were all more encouraging numbers than the unsightly ERA in that small sample. In 154 1/3 innings at the Triple-A level this past season, Ynoa posted a 3.97 ERA with 4.5 K/9, 2.3 BB/9 and a 48.8 percent grounder rate.
Ynoa ranked among the Mets’ top 20 prospects each year from 2012-15, with BA’s most recent report calling him a “control artist” and a potential fourth starter if he can make improvements to his secondary offerings. Also noted, though, was that while Ynoa has a knack for throwing strikes, he doesn’t hit his spot within the zone often enough, so honing his command could also be an area of focus moving forward.
“Our scouts feel he can develop into a Major League starting pitcher by developing a consistent breaking pitch,” said Orioles GM Dan Duquette of the newly acquired Ynoa. “We look forward to his contributions to the Orioles this season and beyond.”
Ynoa will give the Orioles some much-needed rotation depth beyond the quintet of Chris Tillman, Kevin Gausman, Dylan Bundy, Wade Miley and Ubaldo Jimenez. He has a minor league option remaining, which was likely a key factor for the Orioles, as there doesn’t look to be an immediate spot in the rotation for Ynoa, barring a spring injury to one of the previously listed rotation members. The 154 innings that Ynoa threw at Triple-A last season represent his only experience at that level, so it seems likely that he’ll head to Norfolk to open the season for further development. Should things pan out for Ynoa, he’ll be under club control through the 2022 season in Baltimore.
Pena, 27, appeared in 14 games and hit .200/.238/.275 across 43 plate appearances for the Orioles last season. He was expected to compete with Caleb Joseph for the backup catcher role this spring and may still do so if he clears waivers. The defensive-minded backstop was out of minor league options, which undoubtedly played a role in the Orioles’ decision to designate him. In parts of four Triple-A seasons (1188 plate appearances), Pena has displayed good power but struggled to get on base, as evidenced by his .248/.294/.453 batting line. He’s thrown out 32 percent base base thieves in his minor league career and routinely draws considerably above-average framing grades from Baseball Prospectus.