After spending his entire career with the Yankees system, Adam Warren this week found himself off to the Windy City, traded to the Chicago Cubs in exchange for Starlin Castro (Brendan Ryan also went to Chicago in the deal). After signing Ben Zobrist, the Cubs no longer had a spot for Castro in their infield, and with the black hole at second for the Yankees since the loss of Robinson Cano, this deal made a lot of sense for both parties. Still, I'm sad to see Warren go. He's been a solid pitcher in pinstripes, but I'm mainly sad because I hoped 2016 might be the year he could fully realize his potential, a potential that Yankees have never seemed to be able to maximize.
The Yankees took Warren out of the University of North Carolina (Go Heels) in the fourth round of the 2009 Draft. After succeeding as a starter in the minors, the Yankees used Warren mainly as a reliever when he made the jump to the majors in 2013. He pitched well enough to get into the discussion for the fifth rotation spot in 2014, but lost out to Michael Pineda. Still, it worked out for the best, as Pineda showed his sky-high potential and Warren became a terrific reliever, posting a 2.89 FIP in 78.2 innings out of the pen.
2015 saw the Yankees ask the most of Warren they had yet - not just in terms of innings pitched (a new career high of 131.1), but in terms of what role he would play. While he'd made a couple spot starts before, the Yankees moved Warren in and out of the pen all throughout the year. Warren took the challenge of having no established role and ran with it, posting a 2.2 fWAR, a 3.59 FIP, and holding the rotation together while many other starters struggled with injuries. His longest and best career outing came just last year, when he out-dueled Justin Verlander, striking out seven over eight innings of two-run ball:
He also helped the Yankees clinch their first playoff berth in 2012, as he pitched three scoreless innings to secure a victory over the Red Sox. He also made one of the slickest grabs of the season to keep the Yankees ahead:
With moving Warren in and out of the pen, he could never quite become dominant at one or the other. He pitched well as a starter last season (3.92 FIP) and was a terrific reliever (2.71 FIP) but one wonders if he could have been even better if he'd just been slotted in to one of those roles over the last two years. With the rotation pretty much full again for 2016 (at least until injury strikes again), Warren looked to be headed for another in-between role. Perhaps this is one of the reasons the Yankees decided trade him - with his skills and some room to grow, they weren't going to get the most out of him. Turning him into a young, skilled starting second-baseman actually looks like the best way to get that value out of him now, in fact.
Lost in the shuffle somewhat is Brendan Ryan, who is also going to Chicago in the Castro deal. While he hasn't been with the team as long as Warren, he's still given us some fun memories. His glove played well in a late-inning defensive replacement role, but he could never hit well enough to stay in the lineup.
He did fist bump himself once, though, and that's awesome:
Warren and Ryan are off to Chicago, and while Ryan's loss into major, it's still a bit sad to see Warren go. He gave the team a lot of good innings over the past few years, and his versatility was key to holding down the fort when starters got hurt. Still, it'll be nice to see what he can do in a regular role, as it seems like the Cubs might use Warren at the back end of their rotation.
Of course having a real second baseman with some serious upside helps to ease the pain, too.