Mike Yastrzemski is having an excellent rookie year. In 257 plate appearances, he’s currently hitting .266/.320/.511, which is good for a 112 wRC+. He’s fourth on the team in homers, fourth in RBIs, he might set a Giants home run record, and he’s just been an all-around boost to a lineup that’s needed several boosts this season, especially when their Dick was too banged up to perform.
Yastrzemski, of course, was acquired near the end of Spring Training this year from the Orioles. In return, the Orioles got right-handed minor league starting pitcher Tyler Herb, because the Orioles have spent several years being desperate for pitching. The Orioles are apparently not as desperate for position players as one would assume from a cursory glance at the standings, but that’s worked out pretty well for the Giants, so who are we to judge?
Herb, by the way, started out this year in AA, got promoted to AAA, where he had an ERA over 7, and then got demoted back to AA. Those Orioles scouts sure know how to pick ‘em!
So how did Tyler Herb come to be a Giant? He was drafted by the Mariners in the 29th round in 2014, and after the 2016 season, Jerry Dipoto — good ol’ Trader Jerry! — swung a deal with the Giants: Chris Heston for a player to be named later or cash. And so what did the Giants eventually get in that trade? You guessed it: cash.
Okay, it ended up essentially being Herb, but when you have a chance to pull that switcheroo on your audience, you have to take it.
When they made the Heston trade in December, the Giants and Mariners agreed on a list of prospects who could go to San Francisco in return, and a date by which the Giants would choose. If you’ll allow me some weaselly passive voice here, that deadline went unmet, and so the deal was cash; the Giants and Mariners then got together and settled on Tyler Herb, who was having a very nice season at the time in AA, as the PTBNL, and so the Giants traded cash back to the Mariners for Herb.
All this is to say that in 2016 the Giants traded Chris Heston, the breakout rookie surprise of the first four months of 2015 with a 3.14 ERA and a no-hitter through the end of July, but who had had a 4.54 ERA in Sacramento and a 10.80 ERA in San Francisco in 2016, and the eventual return was Mike Yastrzemski. We can say without reservation that that sequence of trades worked out well. The Giants even briefly had Heston back in the organization last year, though due to injury he only appeared in 9 minor league games, and 5 of them were rehab appearances in Rookie ball.
Building a good baseball team takes a lot of skill and at least some luck. There was skill in flipping Heston for Herb (who was having a nice 2017 when the Giants acquired him) and Herb for Yastrzemski, and there was luck in the fact that so far, Yastrzemski has played very good baseball in the major leagues. That skill and luck combined, and, at least for the short term, the Giants have one less roster spot to worry about.
Thanks, Mike Yastrzemski. Thanks, Chris Heston.