One of the defining principles of being a sports fan is the risk that your favorite player on your favorite team will play out his full contract and sign somewhere else. Alternatively, the player can be traded, claimed on waivers, sent down a level, and any other number of more obscure roster moves. Some people handle this by cheering “for the laundry,” that is, the team itself, while keeping rooting for a particular player at a minimum. This way, if that player leaves the team, it doesn’t feel as disappointing. I’ve always handled the instability of rosters by cheering for the Yankees, while also actively cheering for some favorite players on other teams, except when they play for the Yankees.
With this in mind, I thought it’d be fun to look at a few of the players who have made an impact on the Yankees’ in the past few seasons, where they’ve gone and how they’ve done in successive seasons.
Carlos Beltran (2014-2016, 3.7 fWAR as a Yankee)
One of the greatest switch-hitters in history, Beltran joined the Yankees after playing in the National League for a decade. Signed for three years at $45 million as a part of the 2013 free agency spending spree, Beltran entered the lineup and fell flat on his face in his first season in the Bronx. In 109 games, Beltran posted an OPS of .703 and a 97 wRC+, totaling -0.6 fWAR. Yeesh.
However, in the two seasons following, Beltran was nothing less than the best full-time hitter in the lineup, averaging a 121.5 wRC+, 4.3 fWAR, and acting as a mentor to some of the Yankees’ youngest players, especially Aaron Judge during 2016 Spring Training. Overall, I think Beltran’s time in New York was less than successful. With 3.7 fWAR x $8.5 mil/win, the team lost about $13.55 million in value on the deal.
Beltran was one of the key trades made by the Yankees at the 2016 deadline, being sent to the Texas Rangers. Dillon Tate, the former 4th overall pick and current 12th ranked prospect for the Yankees, was the centerpiece of the trade.
After being bounced in the ALDS by the Blue Jays, Beltran signed a one-year, $16 million contract to DH for his former team, the Houston Astros. Through 33 games he’s posted an 85 wRC+, and is on pace for his worst season since 2000 with the Royals. I can’t help but hope he turns it around. He seems like a tremendous influence in the clubhouse and such a quietly excellent baseball player.
WAR and wRC+ may not be the biggest concerns for Houston, however. With such a collection of young players, Beltran’s history of mentoring probably places him as half-player, half-coach. He seems to have fostered a special relationship with shortstop Carlos Correa, formed as the two were teammates for Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic. There’s certainly value in having a teacher like Beltran in the majors, though it’s not like Correa needs the help.
Stephen Drew (2014-2015, -1.0 fWAR as a Yankee)
Everyone’s favorite Yankee second baseman! The Stephen Drew experience in New York was certainly an experience. Drew was flipped to the Yankees midway through 2014 from the Red Sox in exchange for Kelly Johnson. He posted a 34 wRC+ in 46 games in 2014, and a 76 wRC+ in 2015. Those are not good numbers. Being worth negative fWAR means the $500,000 sent to the Yankees with Drew was the most valuable aspect of the deal.
Drew left the Yankees after 2015 and signed a one-year deal with the Washington Nationals. As a part time player in the American capital, he posted a 124 wRC+ (not a typo) in 70 games. He’s struggled this season, as the modicum of power that he’s shown before seems to have disappeared, and he’s slugging .278 with an ISO of just .056. Combining that with a lack of ability to get on base, and I think you’d be hard-pressed to find a Yankee fan still mourning the loss of Stephen Drew.
Brian McCann (2016-2016, 6.7 fWAR as a Yankee)
Brian McCann is a great example of a trade that can work out for both teams. After signing a five-year, $85 million deal ahead of the 2014 season, McCann became a reliable, exceptional part of the Yankees for three seasons. He never played less than 130 games a season, and paired a league average bat (101 wRC+) with plus power for a catcher (69 home runs). In addition, McCann’s terrific framing and calling led to him becoming one of the more valuable catchers in the American League. At $17 million AAV, McCann was paid $51 million in his three seasons in the Bronx. At $8.5 mil/win, he was worth about $56.95 million to the Yankees, making this a good signing for Brian Cashman.
McCann was, perhaps, a victim of circumstance while with the Yankees. Following his age 32 season, he felt he could still reliably catch every day, yet New York called up Gary Sanchez midway through the 2016 season and clearly view him as the keystone of future Yankee teams. The Yankees ended up flipping McCann to the Astros, receiving #9 prospect Albert Abreu. Again, this is probably a trade that’s worked out for everyone. McCann has hit well in Houston, posting a 129 wRC+ while catching nearly every day. Sanchez has been given the reins in New York, and the Yankees got a solid pitching prospect to boot. Sometimes, trades go well for all involved.
Brandon McCarthy (2014, 1.8 fWAR as a Yankee)
I couldn’t write this without mentioning McCarthy, my favorite Twitter athlete. Traded to the Yankees from the Arizona Diamondbacks in the midst of the 2014 hunt for starting pitching, McCarthy was a great stopgap in New York. Making 14 starts down the stretch, he improved on virtually every metric he had in Arizona. McCarthy struck out more batters, walked fewer, gave up fewer home runs and saw his ERA drop more than 2 runs (5.01 in Arizona, 2.89 with the Yankees). His FIP was also cut by more than half a run (3.82 to 3.22).
Brandon McCarthy parlayed his strong performance in the Bronx to a $48 million contract from the Dodgers over 4 years. He’s had health problems in LA, undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2015 and not returning until late 2016. He’s currently back on the DL with shoulder issues. There haven’t really been enough starts to draw a real conclusion on how well McCarthy’s done out west, but in limited action this season (29 IP) he’s posted a 3.10 ERA and 3.57 FIP. I, for one, hope that continues when he returns.
If there’s a former Yankee you’d like to see profiled, let me know in the comments below and I’ll see about making this a semi-regular series.