It took just $200,000 for the Yankees to sign Deivi Garcia in 2015.
Since then, the 5-foot-9 right-hander has exceeded expectations at just about every level and seemed poised to have an impact in the majors this season.
And he still could. If this season does actually get underway, Garcia may give them another valuable arm on an expanded roster.
That step would be just the next one for the native of the Dominican Republic, whose size has raised questions at every level he’s pitched, but has so far made the Yankees look smart for taking a chance on him.
He rose through the system so quickly last season, there was thought that Garcia might make his Bronx debut in 2019. But after going from Single-A Tampa to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in less than two months, he struggled at times out of the bullpen at SWB after showing flashes of brilliance, and the Yankees chose to keep him in the minors.
This spring, before baseball was shut down by COVID-19, Garcia appeared in three games in major league camp, allowing six earned runs in 7 ¹/₃ innings (7.36 ERA).
He remained a long shot to make the rotation, even without Luis Severino, James Paxton and Domingo German — and the delay to the season no doubt delays his development. But if MLB and the players association can come to an agreement on an abbreviated season, it could lead to an intriguing opportunity for Garcia as part of a larger roster or taxi squad.
“This was a year for him to really prove what he could do,” one AL scout said. “He was terrific most of last year, but it’s hard to know if what he did at the end of the season was because he got tired or because the higher level caught up to him.”
That’s among the questions that surround the diminutive Garcia, whose thin frame, delivery and repertoire have drawn comparisons to another undersized power pitcher, Pedro Martinez.
Garcia throws 97 mph and features an excellent curveball, with a developing changeup and slider — but he’s yet to be tested at the major league level.
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The Yankees have had other pitching prospects stall in recent years, like Chance Adams, who had arm injuries sidetrack his career shortly after a dominant 2017 minor league season. Following miserable seasons in 2018 and again last year, Adams is now with the Royals on a minor league deal.
Another prospect, Albert Abreu, remains with the Yankees, but he’s coming off a shaky 2019 in which he mostly struggled at Double-A Trenton, staying there all season.
Garcia didn’t pitch more than six innings in any of his outings last season — and only hit that mark four times.
He made just five starts at Double-A Trenton after being promoted from Class-A Tampa, so he’s still developing, which may have led to a downtick in his control. Garcia wasn’t as sharp as he’d been in previous years, with walks up at every level in 2019 — and his homer rate soared at SWB.
But Garcia remains one of the brightest spots in the Yankees’ organization, which hopes he’s not the only arm able to contribute by 2021 at the latest.
That’s when Paxton, Masahiro Tanaka and J.A. Happ can all be free agents — and Severino will almost certainly still be out following Tommy John surgery.
The likes of Garcia, Jordan Montgomery, Clarke Schmidt, Mike King and Jonathan Loaisiga are among those the Yankees will look to for help in the rotation or — in some cases — as potential trade candidates, as soon as this season.
Position: Right-handed starting pitcher
How acquired: Signed as international free agent in 2015 for $200,000