The Marlins have traded right-hander Jordan Yamamoto to the Mets in exchange for minor league infielder Federico Polanco, the Mets announced Monday. In order to open a spot on the 40-man roster, the Mets have designated infielder Robel Garcia for assignment. Yamamoto was designated for assignment last week when Miami inked reliever Anthony Bass to a two-year contract.
The 24-year-old Yamamoto joined the Marlins as one of four players acquired in the lopsided deal that sent Christian Yelich to Milwaukee. Yamamoto showed promise in a 15-start debut in 2019, notching a 4.46 ERA through his first 78 2/3 MLB frames while striking out a quarter of the hitters he faced. While that strikeout rate sat above the league average, he also walked a greater-than-average 11 percent of the hitters he faced.
Despite that promising debut, Yamamoto’s 2020 season was an utter disaster. In 11 1/3 innings, he was clobbered for 23 earned runs on 27 hits — including an astonishing eight home runs — and seven walks. Clearly, giving up nearly a homer per inning isn’t conducive to success, but it’s worth noting that there may well have been some physical reasons for his struggles. Yamamoto’s 2019 season ended with an IL placement due to a forearm strain, and his 89.8 mph average fastball in 2020 was down nearly two full miles per hour.
Yamamoto may not factor into the Mets’ immediate rotation plans, but he’ll be a nice piece of optionable depth behind top starters Jacob deGrom, Carlos Carrasco, Marcus Stroman and David Peterson. At present, Yamamoto and fellow trade acquisition Joey Lucchesi might be the favorites for the fifth spot in the rotation now with Steven Matz now a Blue Jay, but the Mets could yet add another veteran starting pitcher to their Opening Day group.
In exchange for Yamamoto, the Marlins will get the 19-year-old Polanco — a versatile, left-handed-hitting infielder who has yet to advance beyond the Dominican Summer League. (He’d likely have done so in 2020 were it not for the absence of a minor league season.) Polanco signed as an amateur out of the Dominican Republic in 2017 and most recently appeared with the Mets’ DSL affiliate in 2019, hitting .299/.383/.418 in 231 plate appearances. FanGraphs’ Eric Longenhagen ranked him outside the Mets’ Top 30 prospects earlier this year, noting that he lacked power projection and has a contact-oriented offensive profile.
Garcia, 27, made his MLB debut with the Cubs in 2019 after after a highly unusual path to The Show. The former Indians farmhand was out of affiliated ball from 2014-18 before the Cubs caught a look at him playing for a professional team in Italy. They brought him in on a minor league pact, and Garcia showed off light-tower power at Triple-A in 2019 — 21 homers in 296 plate appearances — before being called up.
The Cubs gave Garcia 80 plate appearances in 2019, and he responded with a tepid .208 average and .275 on-base percentage, but he still slugged .500 thanks to five homers, two doubles and two triples in that short time. Garcia also punched out in 35 of those 80 plate appearances, so while the raw power he possesses is plain to see, there’s some obvious work to be done on his approach at the plate. He still has a minor league option remaining, so a team in need of some right-handed-hitting infield depth could roll the dice on his considerable raw power. The Mets have a week to trade him, attempt to pass him through outright waivers or release him.