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Trade Retrospective: Who Won the Jake Cave/Luis Gil Trade?


On Monday, Luis Gil took the mound against his former organization, and he has been impressive in his first taste of the big leagues. Does that mean the Yankees won the Jake Cave trade? It's a lot more complicated than that.

In March 2018, the Yankees had a surplus of big-league caliber players on their 40-man roster. This made Jake Cave expendable as the team designated him for assignment. At 25-years-old, Cave hadn’t made a big-league appearance, but he had compiled some strong numbers at Triple-A. In 72 games, he hit .324/.367/.554 with 15 homers. As Minnesota entered their winning window, Cave made sense as outfield depth on a team ready to contend. 

At the time of the trade, Luis Gil was a 19-year old that was coming off a season in the Dominican Summer League. He was older than the average age of the competition at that level and he posted a 2.59 ERA and 49 strikeouts in 41 2/3 innings. Minnesota had initially signed him in 2015 for a $90,000 signing bonus. He made his professional debut in 2015 but missed all of 2016 due to shoulder surgery. He was far from the big leagues, and the Twins didn’t think he would develop into a starter. 

During Monday’s TV broadcast, Justin Morneau brought up the point that the Twins saw Gil as only having two pitches, which usually results in being a reliever. So far in his big-league career, this evaluation was correct as he has used his fastball and slider over 92% of the time. He has thrown his changeup less than 30 times in five starts. 

Gil’s first four starts were impressive. He posted a 1.42 ERA with a 1.26 WHIP and 24 strikeouts across 19 innings. Minnesota’s line-up messed with those numbers on Monday as the club scored five earned runs on seven hits, including three long balls. His fastball is a plus pitch, and his slider is strong, but the 23-year-old has a long time to go before proving he can make it as a starter.  

Cave’s time in Minnesota can be challenging for fans to evaluate since he is nearing the end of an injury-plagued season. In 64 games, he has hit .193/.259/.310 with a 58 OPS+ a -0.5 WAR. These totals are a far cry from the player that posted a .795 OPS and a 112 OPS+ in his first 163 games with the Twins. He posted positive WAR totals from 2018-2020, which combined for 2.6 total WAR. He was more than filling the role of fourth outfielder. 

It’s easy to look at Gil and say it would be great for the Twins to have him back in the organization. However, hindsight is always 20/20, and there was no way to know he would develop this way. To add a little perspective, non of his teammates on the 2015 DSL roster have played in the big leagues. Maybe switching organizations changed his development path? Perhaps the Twins would have moved him to a relief role? Perhaps he still ends up as a reliever? 

Cave has provided some excellent big-league moments, and Gil was a wild-card that the Yankees have turned into one of their organization’s top pitching prospects. It's still going to take time to see how Gil develops, but young, controllable starting pitching is a valuable commodity. Ultimately, it is going to take more time before a true winner of this trade can be declared. 

Who do you think won the trade? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. 

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Cave has done himself no favors this year by trying to play hurt (if indeed that has been the issue--given the vast difference between his stats in 2019/2020 and this year, I am inclined to believe that).  When healthy, I think Jake Cave is a very good 4th outfielder.

That said, I don't think 4th outfielders are something a team should have to resort to trades in order to acquire, and they certainly shouldn't give up pitching prospects to do it.

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1 hour ago, Cap'n Piranha said:

Cave has done himself no favors this year by trying to play hurt (if indeed that has been the issue--given the vast difference between his stats in 2019/2020 and this year, I am inclined to believe that).  When healthy, I think Jake Cave is a very good 4th outfielder.

That said, I don't think 4th outfielders are something a team should have to resort to trades in order to acquire, and they certainly shouldn't give up pitching prospects to do it.

As far as I can tell he’s healthy now and he was healthy in 2020... I don’t see him suddenly turning back into what he was in 2018/19. He’s striking out about as much as Sano this year and has worse plate discipline... and that’s not to mention his frustrating fielding. There will be many superior 4th OF options out there, I see no reason to retain him.

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The Hicks and Cave trades are good examples of the differences between a top-tier and second-tier MLB club. In each case, the Yankees assessed areas of organizational strength and used surplus prospects to acquire high-upside players who were sold low. Pretty clear how both of these turned out for the Twins, despite different FO staff at the helm.

One wonders why Falvey and Levine can't do the same with Rooker, Jeffers or Larnach, or couldn't have done so with Wade or Baddoo. But it's these kinds of moves that separate the best from the also-rans.

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The Yankees won the trade but that doesn't necessarily mean it was a "bad" trade for us. Unless the prospect flames out, usually you lose a trade where you send a guy with more years of control for a vet. But were there better internal options or low value free agents? Cave was cheap, was this a cost based move?

But the number of defensible but didn't work out as envisioned moves by this FO is certainly growing.

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52 minutes ago, Danchat said:

As far as I can tell he’s healthy now and he was healthy in 2020... I don’t see him suddenly turning back into what he was in 2018/19. He’s striking out about as much as Sano this year and has worse plate discipline... and that’s not to mention his frustrating fielding. There will be many superior 4th OF options out there, I see no reason to retain him.

I think he is healthy now (after he missed two months), but he is also not getting consistent playing time (66 PA's since his return on July 25 in 45 games).  It's hard to get a rhythm when you're essentially a pinch hitter, or you only play once every 3 days.

Before this is construed as a defense of Cave, I agree that he should not be on this team next year.  Kiriloff, Larnach, and Celestino should all be ahead of him in the pecking order, to say nothing of Buxton, Arraez moonlighting in left, or Lewis (if he has to get moved to the outfield).  My initial post simply was musing about a potential reason that an above average player in 2018/2019 would all of the sudden become a useless one.

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The Twins got 3 years of plus WAR, while winning two Division titles. The Yanks have gotten 25 MLB innings. As of today it isn't even close the Twins have won the first 3 years, this year is a draw unless Gill continues to pitch well. Going forward is more than likely the Yanks, but it is the kind of trade you do when you are trying to win.

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I honestly did not even think this was debatable at this point.  We got the use of a 4th outfielder (which are a dime a dozen) for a lottery ticket that looks like cashed big and would certainly look good in our rotation going into 2022.

I don't need to be Nostradamus to know the Yankees will have won this trade in the same way they have been dominating our Twins over the last decade - in decisive fashion 😖

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1 hour ago, LastOnePicked said:

What role did Cave play in those titles that a replacement-level free agent, or LaMonte Wade even as a rookie, couldn't have provided? It's just so unwise to trade a promising pitching prospect for a 4th outfielder.

How do you know that ?

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it seems Gil's floor is solid reliever.  6 years of that from what we got from Cave is a victory for the Yankees.  But not by as much as you would think.  If Gil remains in the rotation as a 3rd, 4th or 5th starter.  Then its a huge win for the Yankees.  but not earth ending for us.  we have lots of pitching prospects who are getting close.  Ryan, Ober, Gant and Dobnak give us an uninspiring floor for next year.  so having Gil be someone in the back of the rotation after the league gets a chance to know him...... is that really what we need or a number 1 or 2 starter?

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1 hour ago, RpR said:

I know Pie-in-the-Sky dreamings of rookies is SOOO much more relaxing than reality.

Celestino was bad this year.  He was also a 22 year old with 24 total games above High A being told to play center field in the majors.  Look at what he's done in AAA since he's been there (where he should be at this point in his career)--.909 OPS, 144 wRC+.  For what it's worth, that's not too far off of Jose Miranda, who is the no-doubt MiLB player of the year for the Twins.

Larnach, despite all his struggles, still put up an 89 wRC+ in the bigs as a 24 year old who hadn't played ball in 18 months.  His wRC+ has been above 139 at every stop in the minors before this year, which is better than Nelson Cruz' career wRC+.  His slump is concerning, but to write off either of these guys, much less both, as career bad 4th outfielders before they turn 25, and after a combined 360 MLB PAs is just ridiculous.

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1 hour ago, Cap'n Piranha said:

Celestino was bad this year.  He was also a 22 year old with 24 total games above High A being told to play center field in the majors.  Look at what he's done in AAA since he's been there (where he should be at this point in his career)--.909 OPS, 144 wRC+.  For what it's worth, that's not too far off of Jose Miranda, who is the no-doubt MiLB player of the year for the Twins.

Larnach, despite all his struggles, still put up an 89 wRC+ in the bigs as a 24 year old who hadn't played ball in 18 months.  His wRC+ has been above 139 at every stop in the minors before this year, which is better than Nelson Cruz' career wRC+.  His slump is concerning, but to write off either of these guys, much less both, as career bad 4th outfielders before they turn 25, and after a combined 360 MLB PAs is just ridiculous.

There is no guarantee either will get better, all that is either wishful thinking, or blind faith.

With rare exceptions, AAA is not Major League pitching no matter how good one may seem; unless they are facing a major league pitcher sent down for rehab.

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1 hour ago, a-wan said:

19 year olds coming off surgery are exactly what you trade. Cave was a useful player for 2 years.

Keeping Cave while dumping Wade is what sucks.

Exactly. On one hand, you trade Gil, who turns out to be a pretty good pitching prospect, for a 4th OF. On the other hand, you trade Wade, who was at least going to be a serviceable 4th OF, for Shaun Anderson, who you end up releasing in a few months. So if you are comfortable giving up a decent pitching prospect for Cave, you at least have to get something similar in return for Wade, not a Shaun Anderson.

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12 hours ago, LastOnePicked said:

What role did Cave play in those titles that a replacement-level free agent, or LaMonte Wade even as a rookie, couldn't have provided? It's just so unwise to trade a promising pitching prospect for a 4th outfielder.

The Cave that had a WAR of 1.5 in 2018 in 91 games, the Cave that had a .9 WAR in 72 games, even last year had a .3 in 42 games. That is better than replacement level. Wade played some in 19 and 20 in was negative in the WAR  or 0. I am not a really a fan of Cave, but he played a role in two divisions champions that was statistically better than replacement.

 

16 hours ago, In My La Z boy said:

Gil has quite an arm. This kind of arm should not be traded at 19 years old, especially for a 4th outfielder. Not sure any of us needs hindsight to make this claim. Live young arm for a 25 yr old 4th outfielder. Wasn't wise then, and looks worse now.

From what I can tell I can't find a prospect list that had him even in the top 50 for the Twins prior to being traded. He has walked 165 guys in 284 minor league innings, he has walked 15 in his first 25 major league innings. This year e pitched in AA started 7 games for 30 innings with 13 walks, lots of K's and a decent 3.23 ERA. He started in AAA 10 times and pitched in 11 games, 46.1, 28 walks with a 4.66 ERA.

If these aren't the type of pitchers you trade, who the heck can you trade and expect to get anything back for.

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9 hours ago, RpR said:

There is no guarantee either will get better, all that is either wishful thinking, or blind faith.

With rare exceptions, AAA is not Major League pitching no matter how good one may seem; unless they are facing a major league pitcher sent down for rehab.

And yet you are willing to write them both off as nothing more than 4th OF's after 360 total PA when neither of them played for 18 months. so you are literally doing the same thing only in reverse. 

blind faith is bad, correct. but so is blindly cynical about everything this team does and every player on it. 

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55 minutes ago, TwinsDr2021 said:

The Cave that had a WAR of 1.5 in 2018 in 91 games, the Cave that had a .9 WAR in 72 games, even last year had a .3 in 42 games. That is better than replacement level. Wade played some in 19 and 20 in was negative in the WAR  or 0. I am not a really a fan of Cave, but he played a role in two divisions champions that was statistically better than replacement.

 

From what I can tell I can't find a prospect list that had him even in the top 50 for the Twins prior to being traded. He has walked 165 guys in 284 minor league innings, he has walked 15 in his first 25 major league innings. This year e pitched in AA started 7 games for 30 innings with 13 walks, lots of K's and a decent 3.23 ERA. He started in AAA 10 times and pitched in 11 games, 46.1, 28 walks with a 4.66 ERA.

If these aren't the type of pitchers you trade, who the heck can you trade and expect to get anything back for.

Gil is still 2 years younger than Ryan - 3 years younger than Barnes and Ober - is there an "eye" test anymore? How about trading Ynoa? Same mistake.
No, these are not the type of pitchers you trade for bench players. Strotman we just got in the Cruz trade is 2 years older than Gil right now. He is the type of pitcher you trade. Not electric, not 19, not for a bench player. 

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