If there were any doubt the Yankees would be buyers or sellers before the July 31 MLB trade deadline, it was resolved emphatically Tuesday night by general manager Brian Cashman. The Yanks undoubtedly have entered “win now” mode after dealing three prospects including prized 2016 first-rounder Blake Rutherford to the Chicago White Sox for infielder Todd Frazier along with relief pitchers David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle. The Bombers also managed to unload reliever Tyler Clippard to offset some of the money owed to Robertson for the remainder of 2017.
A few thoughts…
♦ Let’s start with what the Yanks gave up. Rutherford, 20, is a highly talented and regarded prospect. Losing him is a blow for sure but like the always say— you have to give up something to get something. If there’s one blue chipper in the organization the Yanks could withstand losing I’d think Rutherford ranked high. The outfield is already crowded going forward in the Bronx led by youngsters Aaron Judge and Clint Frazier. They also have Estevan Florial in the system, who some regard as a better MLB prospect than Rutherford, who’s hitting .281 at lower Class-A this season. Of course there’s also Dustin Fowler, who can hopefully bounce back in a year (or two) from the devastating knee injury he suffered during his MLB debut earlier this summer. Point is, there’s no denying Rutherford tools and potential to become a star someday down the line in Chicago, but given the haul New York got back he was a Yankee-friendly focal trade piece in the deal.
♦ I don’t know a lot about Ian Clarkin and Tito Polo other than they’re regarded as “decent” prospects. Polo came to New York as part of the Ian Nova to Pittsburgh trade and projects as a fourth outfielder down the line. Clarkin is a left handed pitcher and Yanks 19th ranked prospect coming into the season, but has battled several injuries over the past three-plus years. He conceivably could become a mid-rotation starter in Chicago pretty soon.
♦ It was brilliant for Cashman to have Chicago take Clippard as part of this. Not only did the embattled reliever have zero present or future with Robertson and Kahnle coming, his departure for Chicago counters roughly half of what is owed to Robertson by New York for the rest of this season. Clippard’s been so bad lately (14.63 ERA/2.38 WHIP over his last eight innings) that it’s literally addition by subtraction and sends Yanks fans scrambling to find a new whipping boy to blame for everything and anything (watch your back, Jacoby Ellsbury).
♦ Frazier is the biggest name coming to New York but I feel the Robertson/Kahnle combo is the most important. Both have been excellent with the Sox this season, which is desperately needed to a Yankee bullpen that’s sucked over the past few months. Robertson has a 2.70 ERA over 33.1 innings and goes from closer to Andrew Miller-type role with the Yanks. Don’t sleep on Kahnle either, who’s quietly been one of the best relievers in MLB this year. He has 2.50 ERA in 36 innings and is averaging 15 strikeouts per nine innings pitched.
♦ I love that neither pitcher acquired is a rental. Kahnle is still under team control for three years and arbitration-eligible for the first time this offseason. Robertson’s signed through next year and isn’t cheap, as he’ll count $11.5 million towards the team’s luxury-tax threshold in 2018. I’ll live with that for next year—it isn’t like Robertson’s 38-years old (he’s 32) with diminished skills.
♦ I’m not a huge Frazier fan but look, the Yanks have been the pits when it comes to offensive production at first and third base. Frazier, 31, is hitting a mere .207 (Ugh that’s Chris Carter territory) but does have 16 home runs and his peripherals suggest he has a good chance to rebound over the next few months. He can’t possibly be any worse than Chase Headley at third or whoever the Yanks trot at first. He’s is a solid pickup if you regard him for what he’s supposed to be in New York— a short-term upgrade over what’s currently there. I can’t imagine Cashman making him a big offer to stick around this winter but stranger things have happened.
♦ It couldn’t be any clearer this trade signifies the Yanks thinking they are a playoff team right now. That means they absolutely need to find a veteran starter before July 31 to replace Michael Pineda. It doesn’t necessarily have to be Sonny Gray and if it giving up a blue-chipper for Gray is what it takes I hope it doesn’t happen, but the team can’t send out Luis Cessa or Bryan Mitchell every fifth day and expect continued positive results. I’d be interested to see what Atlanta wants for Jaime Garcia or a veteran innings-eater similar to him.
Conclusion: When I first read this trade was going down I was horrified at what pieces the organization would be forced to give up. Losing Rutherford sucks but all things considered, he’s a price worth paying. I’m stoked the Bombers still have a plethora of top prospects in the organization after gaining three (very useful) players Tuesday—a list that includes Clint Frazier, Gleyber Torres, Chance Adams, Justus Sheffield, Miguel Andujar, Jorge Mateo and Tyler Wade.
If the Yanks can manage to pick up a starter before the deadline and have it not cost them more than Mateo (a guy I really like) and/or Wade, I’d be real excited.
Basically the Yanks were able to replace one of the worst relievers in all of baseball (Clippard) with one of the best (Kahnle) and get Robertson as additional reinforcement. They now have a back end bullpen consisting of the two new guys plus Dellin Betances and Aroldis Chapman, not to mention an underrated Adam Warren. All five guys are signed at least through next year so it’s not a one-and-done type of deal either.
What’s not to like?