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.