By Richard Cuicchi | August 07, 2016 at 08:21 PM EDT | No Comments
Two weeks ago I wrote about major-league teams that I thought would be the biggest buyers and sellers leading up to the trade deadline on August 1. I characterized the sellers as those teams packing it in for the season, looking down the road a few years to re-build their rosters. I figured the New York Yankees would be in that classification. Indeed they unloaded several of its top-flight stars to the dismay of its fans, but now Yankee General Manager Brian Cashman is having a hard time keeping the smirk off of his face, when he ponders what he got in return.
Apparently Cashman had convinced Yankee ownership that he had a blueprint for the club that meant they might have to sacrifice the rest of the 2016 season, even though the team was still playing above .500 ball and weren’t entirely eliminated from the playoff picture yet. He got the green light to make the deals he felt were needed.
Cashman has several objectives in mind in re-shaping the team. The age of the Yankees was of great concern, since they haven’t had ample prospects coming up through their farm system, forcing them to acquire highly-priced free-agents already past their prime years. Plus, their farm system hasn’t produced a cadre of reliable young arms who can rejuvenate their pitching staff. Finally, the Yankees need to shed themselves of huge player salaries to which they had previously committed.
Going into the final two weeks of the trade period, Yankee relievers Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller were two of the biggest bargaining chips on the table for enticing buyers who had ample top prospects to give up. It was expected the two relievers would draw tons of attention from bidding clubs, and they didn’t disappoint. But Cashman didn’t stop there. He also dealt the Yankees’ best offensive player this year, veteran Carlos Beltran, and starting pitcher Ivan Nova, even though their starting pitching has largely been on the rocks this season.
The Yankees got a ton of players in return. Four prospects from the Cleveland Indians for Miller. Three prospects and one current major leaguer from the Chicago Cubs for Chapman. Three prospects from the Texas Rangers for Beltran. Two players to be named later from the Pittsburgh Pirates for Nova.
In the list of prospects the Yankees received were five of the Top 100 Prospects named by Baseball America prior to the 2016 season: outfielder Clint Frazier (#21), shortstop Gleyber Torres (#41), pitcher Dillon Tate (#59), pitcher Justus Sheffield (#69), and outfielder Billy McKinney (#74). Also traded to the Yankees were five other pitchers and an outfielder. Only middle reliever Adam Warren from the Cubs, a former Yankee player, has prior major league experience. Another former Yankee, Tyler Clippard, was acquired in a straight-up deal with the San Diego Padres.
So, how were the Yankees winners in this fire sale? Except for Warren and Clippard, who will replace Miller and Chapman in the bullpen, none of the high-potential prospects just acquired are major-league ready. None of the prospects can be expected to give the club a lift during the remainder of this season, maybe not even next season.
Keep in mind that 39-year-old Beltran and Chapman would have been free-agents at the end of this season anyway, so it was in the best interest of the Yankees to get something of value in return now.
36-year-old Yankee first baseman Mark Texiera announced last week his retirement for the end of this season; and today the Yankees announced they will unconditionally release 41-year-old Alex Rodriguez this season and then worked out an agreement to allow him to stay on as a special advisor and instructor for the team through 2017. 35-year-old pitcher CC Sabathia, who has only been marginally effective this season, has a vesting option for 2017 that would pay him $25 million, but the Yankees could use a buyout clause to lessen that expense. Catcher Brian McCann could be on the trading block in the off-season, while he still commands value in other positions in return.
What’s going to happen over the off-season is that Cashman will execute on his blueprint by flipping several of their new prospects to acquire some of the missing pieces the Yankees need to be immediate contenders in 2017. At the top of their requirements list is an ace at the top of the rotation and some affordable veteran position players, who can provide offensive punch to replace the high-priced, aging veterans. Shedding some high dollar salaries from the payroll will also help with new acquisitions.
Additionally, several minor league players coming up through the Yankee farm system could be ready for permanent spots on the big-league roster next season. They include first baseman Greg Bird, outfielder/DH Aaron Judge, and catcher Gary Sanchez, who will compete as replacements for Teixeira, Beltran, and McCann, respectively.
Many would argue the Texas Rangers were the real winners at the trade deadline by scoring Beltran from the Yankees and catcher Jonathan Lucroy from the Milwaukee Brewers. Some people felt the Yankees waved the white flag on the 2016 season. Perhaps. But it would have taken a monumental effort, even with a roster including Beltran, Miller, and Chapman, as well as some divisional opponents to have fallen out of favor with the baseball gods, to get a playoff spot. But it’s a certainty the Yankee trades have positioned themselves to greatly improve their club for next year and beyond. That’s a big deal.