So last night, the Yankees made a trade that officially classifies them as “buyers” at this year’s trade deadline, acquiring Todd Frazier, David Robertson, and Tommy Kahnle from the White Sox. In return, the Yankees sent Tyler Clippard (!!!), Blake Rutherford (their 2016 first-round pick), and prospects Ian Clarkin and Tito Polo. This trade has garnered mixed reactions from Yankee fans, but I love it. Let’s break it down.
The biggest name in the deal is probably Todd Frazier. The former Rutgers product (that’s why I love this guy) is having a down year, hitting only .207, well under his career average. However, he’s never been a guy to hit for average, as .273 is his career best in a season. He does, however, hit for power, hitting 40 home runs just last year. He has 16 homers and 44 RBI this year, the kind of power numbers the Yanks haven’t seen out of either of their corner infield spots all season. The interesting thing here is where the Yanks plan to play Frazier. He is obviously primarily a third baseman, but has some experience at first as well. Will he take over for the streaky Chase Headley? Or will he play first where the Yankees are currently going with a platoon of Garrett Cooper and Ji-Man Choi, who both have little MLB experience between them? It’s tough to say, especially with Headley swinging the bat decently well right now (you know that means a 2-34 streak is on its way), so it’ll be interesting to see how Girardi handles this one. I think Frazier, who will be a free agent at season’s end, can definitely improve upon his season numbers with some better hitters around him in his new lineup. Also, I’m just gonna leave this here.
The Yanks also bolstered their bullpen big time in this deal, bringing back fan favorite David Robertson as well as Tommy Kahnle, who they drafted in the fifth round back in 2010. Robertson, the original successor to Mariano Rivera, left the Yanks in the 2014 offseason when they opted to instead sign Andrew Miller. Robertson is 4-2 and has posted a 2.70 ERA for the White Sox in 2017. Under contract for next year as well, he will immediately step into a 7th/8th inning role. Kahnle is 1-3 with a 2.50 ERA on the year, and is under team control through 2020. Both pitchers have WHIPs under 1 this season, which is nice because both Dellin Betances and Aroldis Chapman seem to have forgetten you actually don’t have to let people get on base when you’re a pitcher. But I digress.
Now, onto what the Yankees gave up. Obviously, Blake Rutherford is the one that hurts here. Any time you’re talking about a guy who was a first-round pick a little over a year ago, obviously he’s got a lot of potential. Rutherford is a five-tool guy with the potential to become a great outfielder at the major league level. However, he’s still a guy in A ball with a long ways to go. The Yankees’ long-term outfield situation looks pretty crowded right now, with Judge, Aaron Hicks, Clint Frazier, and hopefully Dustin Fowler once he recovers. Not to mention the potential to sign that Bryce Harper guy (cue the triggered Mets fans.) For that reason, I really don’t hate Rutherford being the centerpiece of this deal.
The White Sox also mercifully took Tyler Clippard off of our hands. I think he’ll enjoy the White Sox because at 38-53 he can give up all the home runs there that he wants and it won’t really matter.
The other two guys in the deal I honestly never heard of before last night. Ian Clarkin, a right-handed pitcher, was the Yankees first-round pick in 2013 who had yet to advance past single A. Of course the Yankees have a history of guys going on to pitch well elsewhere after struggling in New York (Ian Kennedy for example), but nothing about Clarkin’s career in the minors jumps out at you. Tito Polo is an outfielder who has spent most of his season at A Tampa as well, hitting .289 with 4 HR and 20 RBI to go along with 20 stolen bases in 60 games. Again, definitely a guy with promise, but single A outfielders don’t really do the Yankees any good when they (hopefully) already have some guys at the big-league level who could be long-term answers.
So overall, I really like this trade. Does Frazier solve their corner infield woes? Not necessarily, but he could certainly help them. A bullpen of Robertson, Kahnle, Adam Warren, Chad Green, Betances and Chapman gives the Yanks a huge advantage for nights like last night when Luis Cessa forgets how to pitch (can we call up Chance Adams already? I’m sick of seeing Cessa trot out there every 5th day.)
For Yankee fans who are angry about this trade because it’s still a “rebuilding year,” you could not sound more moronic. Yes, the expectation coming into 2017 was that this would be a rebuilding year. But this team has clearly shown the ability to compete, and if you have a chance to win you go for it. Now, that does NOT mean I’m for trading a Clint Frazier or a Chance Adams to get, say, Sonny Gray and go all-in on 2017. The Yankees’ window for success is just beginning to open, and they should not go mortgaging their future to try and get a little better this year. But why not give the young guys like Judge and Sanchez and Frazier their first taste of what it’s like to be in a pennant race in the Bronx? That’s the best kind of experience they can get. Because anyone can perform well when it’s May and you’re leading the AL East, but how about down the stretch in August and September when you’re trying to catch the Red Sox and hold off the Rangers and Rays for a wild card spot? High pressure baseball in the Bronx is like no other baseball, and it’ll be great to see if these young guys can live up to it like Derek Jeter, or completely crumble like A-Rod (2009 postseason notwithstanding.)
Montgomery on the hill today to try and win us our first series since what feels like the late 90’s, let’s see if the new guys can play a part in getting us a W. Let’s go Yanks baby!