2:34pm: The White Sox announced that they have indeed claimed Garcia off outright waivers. He’s been optioned to Triple-A Charlotte. Liam Hendriks moves from the 15-day IL to the 60-day IL to open a spot on the 40-man roster.
1:27pm: The White Sox have claimed right-hander Deivi Garcia off waivers from the Yankees, reports Erik Boland of Newsday. The Yankees had designated the former top prospect for assignment earlier in the week. The teams have not yet announced the move (or, in Chicago’s case, a corresponding 40-man transaction).
Garcia, 24, was considered one of the sport’s top pitching prospects not long ago, ranking on most top-100 lists prior to both the 2020 and 2021 seasons. The right-hander blitzed through the lower minors after signing as an amateur out of the Dominican Republic, reaching the Double-A level as a 19-year-old back in 2018. He had success both in High-A and Double-A the following year before being hit hard in Triple-A, but struggling at the minors’ top level as a 20-year-old facing vastly older competition hardly stood as any kind of red flag.
The canceled 2020 minor league season could well have impacted Garcia more than many other prospects. With no minor league games in which to play, he was rushed to the big leagues as a 21-year-old, turning in a 4.98 ERA in six starts (34 1/3 innings). His 22.6% strikeout rate and 4.1% walk rate were both encouraging, but Garcia was tagged for six home runs in that debut effort and struggled to strand runners once he’d allowed them to reach.
As with his 2019 struggles as one of the youngest players at the Triple-A level, however, Garcia’s lackluster 2020 results weren’t considered particularly damning. Jumping to the big leagues as a 21-year-old with only 40 innings of Triple-A experience is hardly an easy task, and at insofar as his ability to miss bats and limit walks, he more than held his own. The next two years, however, told another story.
From 2021-22, Garcia logged only 8 1/3 big league innings. In 2021, that was at least partially due to a lack of opportunity. The ’21 Yankees received 29 or more starts from each of Gerrit Cole, Jordan Montgomery and Jameson Taillon, with another 18 from Domingo German, 16 from Corey Kluber and 14 from Nestor Cortes. There weren’t many extra starts to go around, but Garcia’s performance didn’t necessarily merit much of a look anyway. He was torched for a 6.85 ERA in 90 2/3 innings at Triple-A that season, and his 2022 results weren’t any better; Garcia logged a combined 6.89 ERA in 64 innings between Double-A and Triple-A in ’22. He didn’t pitch in the Majors that season.
It’s been largely the same in 2023. A move to the bullpen in Triple-A hasn’t been much help, evidenced by a 5.67 ERA and sky-high 14.6% walk rate in 48 innings. Garcia allowed just one run in 5 2/3 big league frames earlier in the year, but he did so with more walks issued (four) than strikeouts (three). Command has emerged as a major problem for the right-hander, who’s doled out a free pass to 14.2% of his opponents en route to a 6.52 ERA in 214 career innings at Triple-A.
There were always some concerns about the manner in which Garcia would be able to handle a starter’s workload. Listed at 5’9″ and 165 pounds, he’s considerably slighter in frame than the overwhelming majority of big league starters. Garcia indeed has spent time on the injured list in each of the past three seasons, and his fastball velocity has fluctuated accordingly. He averaged 95.1 mph this year in a pair of relief outings — a notable bump from the 92.1 mph he averaged as a starter in the Majors from 2020-21.
Whether the White Sox plan to use Garcia as a starter or reliever isn’t clear at this point, but he’s spent the bulk of the ’23 season coming out of the Scranton bullpen. For a Chicago team that’s already waved the white flag on the 2023 season, there’s plenty of sense in scooping up a former top prospect and seeing if a change of scenery can do him any good. Garcia is in his final minor league option year, meaning he can be sent to Triple-A for the remainder of the current season without needing to go through waivers. However, he’ll be out of options next spring, so the Sox will need to either keep him on the Opening Day roster or designate him for assignment themselves — if he’s even able to stick on the 40-man roster that long.
The White Sox currently have baseball’s fourth-worst record, which gave them waiver priority over all but three teams. Each of the A’s, Royals and Rockies apparently passed on placing a claim on Garcia. The Rays were among the other teams to place a claim on Garcia today, tweets Boland, though Tampa Bay has the third-best record in MLB (and thus the third-lowest waiver priority).