SCOTTSDALE — Tyler Herb sat down in the visiting bullpen at Camelback Ranch last weekend and saw a familiar face two seats away. He hadn’t met the other right-hander yet, but it was a man he will always be linked to. Steven Okert was sitting between the two, and Herb tapped him on the shoulder.
“Is that Chris Heston?” he asked.
Okert quickly made an introduction.
“Hey,” Heston said. “I’m the guy you got traded for.”
It took Heston and Herb about a month of being in the same organization to actually meet. It took significantly longer for them to be traded for one another.
The Giants dealt Heston to the Mariners on Dec. 7, 2016 to clear a 40-man roster spot for Mark Melancon. It wasn’t until July 3 that Herb found out he was actually the Player to be Named Later in the Chris Heston trade. Unbeknownst to Herb, he had spent much of that time on the trade block.
Teams usually designate between two and five players to watch when there is a Player to be Named Later in a deal, and then they get to scout them a bit more before making a selection. The Giants gave the Mariners a small watch list and kept an eye on the players. On July 3, the deal — which was technically a separate trade than the Heston one because they waited longer than the required six months that you get to choose a player — was completed, and Herb spent the next day driving from Arkansas to Double-A Richmond. He saw several fireworks shows in the distance as he drove.
“It was weird,” he said. “The whole trade situation kind of happened so quickly. I didn’t really understand it at first, but I realized that if you’re being selected it’s a good thing. It was kind of like getting drafted all over again. They evaluate you and select you from a group of guys. It was a good thing.”
The PTBNL is often an afterthought, but there are success stories, like David Ortiz, Marco Scutaro and Coco Crisp. The Giants knew they would have to DFA Heston and they were hoping to get a lottery ticket in return. They liked Herb’s repertoire, and they believe he can be a back-end starter or a bullpen piece in time. They also liked his durability — he threw 163 innings last year — and think he will continue to improve because of his natural athleticism.
Herb is said to be one of the better-hitting pitchers in camp, and he was an all-conference quarterback and shooting guard in high school. He played at a small school with an 89-person senior class, and his baseball field didn’t have fences. “It was an oversized softball field,” he said. He wasn’t recruited, but he attended camps to put his name out and ended up at Coastal Carolina.
The Mariners took Herb in the 29th round in 2014, but his minor league numbers last season show that he might be the rare late draft pick and PTBNL to get his big league shot. After the trade, Herb posted a 2.76 ERA in 10 starts for the Flying Squirrels. He has a big believer in pitching coach Steve Kline, who said Herb is one of the most competitive players he has coached.
Kline will be the pitching coach for Triple-A Sacramento this season and Heston likely will start the season there. Herb appears ticketed for Sacramento, too.
“I guess it all worked out pretty well for the Giants,” he said, smiling.