The Jaime Garcia era in Minnesota is over after 6.2 innings, three earned runs, one win and zero home games. The 31-year-old lefty is headed to the Bronx, as both teams announced the Minnesota Twins were shipping the veteran to the New York Yankees for left-handed pitcher Dietrich Enns and right-handed pitcher Zack Littell.

Garcia’s tenure with the Twins lasted a total of six days, as he — along with catcher Anthony Recker — was acquired from the Atlanta Braves on July 24 for right-handed pitcher Huascar Ynoa.  

When the Twins woke up on July 24, they were 49-48 and about to start a three-game series with the sizzling Los Angeles Dodgers. The Twins were one game out of the second Wild Card spot and a mere 2.5 games out of first place. Now just six days later, the Twins are 50-52, six games out of first place and four games out of a Wild Card spot and also coming off a crushing walk-off loss to the Oakland A’s — the team with the worst record in the American League — on Saturday night. Worse yet is that they’d have two teams to leapfrog to get into that game, and another three teams — the Angels, Rangers and Orioles — are each within 1.5 games of catching or surpassing them in that respect.

In other words, it’s a crowded pool that’s about to get more dicey, and the tough part about staying in the Wild Card race is that with so many teams involved, at least a few of them are guaranteed to win every night. When a team is chasing a divisional foe, at least there are some head-to-head games that can cut into a deficit, and a clear path to the postseason if a team takes care of business inside the division. That’s less true when chasing teams on either coast, and the Twins wisely opted not to try do that.

At least that’s how it seems, as the Twins have signaled to other clubs that it’s open season on the veterans on their big-league roster, according to multiple reports on the national landscape. Garcia is just the first of what may be a number of dominoes to fall between now and 3:00 p.m. Central on Monday.

It might seem unfair to fans that the Twins decided to fold up shop after a tough series against the Dodgers, because after all, they’re the best team in the National League, if not all of baseball. But a closer look shows that the Twins haven’t really fared well against any playoff-caliber teams this year. They’re 5-8 against the Indians, who are going to run away with the division. They’ve been thoroughly outclassed by the Astros, losing five of six games while being outscored by more than a 2-to-1 margin. Most of the other teams the Twins have faced this season — and done well against — are non-entities as far as October baseball is concerned, outside of taking two of three games from the Yankees at home earlier this month.

So let’s get down to brass tacks: How’d the Twins do?

Well, even those with the shortest of memories can recall the Twins sent Ynoa, a Rookie-ball righty to the Braves for Garcia’s services. So how did the Twins turn one week of Garcia into a couple of interesting prospects from the Yankees?

The reason is simple and perhaps surprising: cash.

The Twins are on the hook for the rest of Garcia’s salary, less the prorated minimum, as they’re taking it on to facilitate a larger return from the Yankees. That’s right, the Twins are sending cash to the Yankees. Dogs living with cats, down is up, the sun rising in the west and setting in the east….you get the deal.

In short, the Twins turned one start of Garcia, a few million bucks and a low-level pitching prospect into a pair of guys who can help them relatively quickly.

Frankly, the deal makes a lot of sense for both sides. The Yankees are better positioned to reach the postseason, and are in need of starters with Michael Pineda laid up for the rest of the season. The Yankees lead the AL East coming into Sunday’s action, six games ahead of the pace the Twins have set with a record of 56-46. The Yankees are also just built a bit more sturdily for October success right now than the Twins, as they have a solid back-end of the bullpen, decent starting pitching and an offense built around Gary Sanchez and Aaron Judge.

So the Yankees get their mid-rotation piece, a guy who as a lefty can combat the short porch and as a groundball guy can keep the ball in the park. What is the uptake for the Twins?

Enns is a 26-year-old lefty who was already on the 40-man roster. He’s thrown 104.1 career innings at Triple-A Scranton-Wilkes Barre with some stellar results. He’s posted a 1.81 ERA, 7.5 strikeouts per nine innings and 3.1 walks per nine and a 1.08 WHIP. He’s made seven starts with them this year after missing time due to injury, and has posted a 2.29 ERA, 8.5 K/9, 2.3 BB/9 and a WHIP of 1.02.

Enns has never been a top-30 prospect of the Yankees via Baseball America and is not on their MLB Pipeline list, either. According to Wayne Cavadi of SB Nation, Enns has a four-pitch mix with a high-80s/low-90s fastball. He’s also a slider, change and curve guy, with the changeup being a good out pitch and the curveball being, as Cavadi terms it, adequate. For what it’s worth, Enns does not appear to project as a groundball pitcher. At the stops where he posted the most innings in the minors, he’s frequently been in the 35-40 percent range for worm burners. In other words, he hasn’t had any home run issues in the minors — just 12 allowed in nearly 400 MiLB innings — but that might not be true in the majors.   

MinorLeagueBall.com — another SB Nation site — had Enns as the No. 20 prospect in the Yankees system entering the season. John Sickels noted that while the Yankees certainly have guys with higher ceilings, he’d get more attention in weaker systems with a fastball (88-90 mph range) that might play up more in the bullpen. He also said Enns has a “very and workable curve and slider, throws strikes.”

Littell is by far the more big-ticket item, and his numbers also jump off the screen. Littell is a sturdy righty at 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds, and will spend the entire season at just 21 years old. He’s already reached Double-A Trenton, and has a 2.05 ERA, 10.6 K/9, 1.6 BB/9 and a WHIP of 1.02 in a league where he’s 3.4 years younger than his average contemporary, according to Baseball Reference.

The Mariners drafted Littell out of a North Carolina high school in 2013, then traded him to the Yankees for reliever James Pazos last offseason. Littell was slated to start for Double-A Trenton on Saturday, but was scratched, prompting rumors that he was possibly on the move in a potential deal for Oakland starter Sonny Gray. Instead, he’ll head to Double-A Chattanooga, and try to tackle the Southern League with similar results to his previous work this season.

Littell works in the low- to mid-90s with his fastball, and has a tremendous curveball that goes 11-to-5 and can be a real swing-and-miss pitch. Since moving to Double-A for good in late June, Littell has posted a 10 percent swinging strike rate and 46 percent groundball rate — both which are encouraging based on his age and level. His swinging strike rate up until early June in High-A was also 10 percent, but he also induced grounders at a 55 percent rate. In today’s homer-happy MLB, that’s a positive thing. Littell has never posted a groundball rate under 47 percent at any level — MLB average is about 45 percent — and he’s been over 50 percent at three levels overall.

Littell is No. 22 on MLB Pipeline’s top-30 Yankees prospects, where they noted that he’s worked on his conditioning and stuff, working at 91-93 mph with the fastball that “plays up thanks to its rising life and command.” The curve is termed as a plus pitch, with the changeup holding left-handed hitters in check.

The last part checks out. Littell has held righties to just a .242/.277/.321 line this year, but lefties have also hit just .239/.295/.353. In other words, at this age, level and based on his progression, the Twins got at least a high-floor pitching prospect who can help them relatively quickly. He’ll have to be added to the 40-man roster this winter.    

In short, the Twins turned one start of Garcia, a few million bucks and a low-level pitching prospect into a pair of guys who can help them relatively quickly.

The Twins also announced on Sunday that they’d released left-hander Craig Breslow, who was designated for assignment on July 24.


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Brandon Warne covers the Twins for Cold Omaha, and has had his work featured in numerous places across the United States. Locally, Warne's work has appeared at the Minneapolis Star Tribune, St. Paul Pioneer Press, 1500 ESPN and Go96.3 for writing and audio, and he's also had written work appear on Baseball Prospectus, Fangraphs and cited in the Los Angeles Times. Warne lives in the outer Twin Cities suburbs with his wife, Amanda. Listen to his Cold Omaha podcast Midwest Swing. Follow Brandon on Twitter @Brandon_Warne.

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