Here we go: the Rangers have made their first 40-man addition of the 2017-2018 offseason, trading left-handed pitcher Reiver Sanmartin to the New York Yankees for right-handed pitcher Ronald Herrera. It makes sense for the Yankees: they needed a 40-man roster spot in advance of the Rule 5 draft deadline. Texas, after a spate of removals and free agents, had just thirty players on their 40-man roster at the time of the trade.
But there’s certainly more to the trade than just doing the Yankees a favor. Both Sanmartin and Herrera have put up numbers in the minor leagues that bear investigating a little further. Sanmartin has a combined 2.62 ERA, 119 strikeouts, and just 24 walks in 137⅔ minor league innings since signing with Texas in July 2015 as part of their international signings that year (Leody Taveras also signed with Texas on the same day).
Sanmartin has mostly pitched as a starter after pitching only in relief in the 2015 Dominican Summer League. Pitcher Wins and Losses count even less in the low minors than they do in the big leagues, but 14-4 is still successful enough to be an interesting footnote. Sanmartin has not pitched at any level higher than A-ball Hickory.
Herrera, on the other hand, made his MLB debut last year, appearing in two games for the Yankees (and wearing two different uniform numbers—30 and 41—in the process). His big-league results weren’t much to speak of (2 runs, 3 strikeouts, 1 walk, 3 hits in 3 total innings), but his minor league record suggests that there is reason to be hopeful:
Herrera, still just 22, is now joining his fourth organization: he initially signed with the Athletics in 2012. They traded him to San Diego in May of 2014 (as part of the Kyle Blanks trade) where he worked his way up to AA San Antonio before they traded him to the Yankees for OF Jose Pirela.
Herrera not only has just three games of MLB experience, he also has just three games of AAA experience, allowing 12 runs (10 earned) on 13 hits in 13⅓ innings, striking out 14 and walking 6.
Rangers GM Jon Daniels acknowledged that playing in four organizations by age 22 was notable, but shrugged off concerns. “He’s an undersized right-handed pitcher,” Daniels said of the 5’11” Venezuelan. “When (…teams) have to make decisions whether to protect him or trade him, he always has that going against him, but pretty much every step along the way, he’s done the same thing: mix pitches and throw strikes.”
Herrera has a combine 138 walks in 627⅔ minor league innings, against 484 strikeouts. Injuries have never been a big concern with the right-hander, but he did miss some time in 2017 due to shoulder inflammation. His upside doesn’t appear to be quite as high as Sanmartin’s, but his AA numbers are enough to hope on (1.18 WHIP, 200 strikeouts, 61 walks, and a 3.26 ERA in 231⅔ innings).
“Sanmartin, we didn’t really want to part with,” Daniels said in a conference call, “but the timing to get a guy with multiple options (who) was knocking on the big league door was a good swap for us to make.”