While the Yankees squared off against Bartolo Colon in Minnesota on Tuesday night, Brian Cashman was working to bring another old friend home. The White Sox sent David Robertson, Todd Frazier, and Tommy Kahnle to New York in exchange for Blake Rutherford, Ian Clarkin, Tito Polo, and Tyler Clippard. How about that for some evening news? You practically need a flow chart to break that down. Tanya reported the full story here, but I have a few thoughts.
The cost to obtain this package is right, even if it hurts
This will probably be an unpopular opinion, but I think the cost is accurate. When I saw that the Yankees put Rutherford up as the centerpiece, I cringed. It hurts to give up top prospects, especially when said prospect is a recent first-round draft pick. Realistically, though, that’s the price of doing business for an elite relief pitcher.
The Yankees know all about that from last summer. Prized bullpen arms command top dollar at the deadline. Cashman secured two of them for a top prospect, an injury prone starter, a fringe prospect outfielder, and Clippard. While it may feel like an overpay, it’s a fair deal. Three pieces off the White Sox roster were never going to come cheap anyway.
It’s also worth mentioning that this package doesn’t preclude future deals. The Yankees have so much depth in their system that they could go out and acquire a starting pitcher, even after this blockbuster. The cost feels high, but the Yankees can afford it. They added three players without mortgaging the farm, an impressive feat in itself.
Where will Frazier play?
Frazier, 31, stands out as the most perplexing piece of the trade. His bat is nowhere near as potent as it was in his Cincinnati days. So far this season he owns a .207/.328/.432 batting line with 16 home runs. That adds up to a 103 wRC+, which is just a hair above average. That said, this level of performance would make for an enormous upgrade at first base. Ji-Man Choi and Garrett Cooper gave it their all, but I’ll take the established big leaguer.
The question here is where does he play? First base is the logical destination. He also has some experience at the position. Frazier’s played 740.1 career innings at first. With Greg Bird probably out for the season, this would fill that void.
On the other hand, Frazier has played primarily at third base. Would the Yankees reconfigure the infield for him? Perhaps the team slides Chase Headley to first base while Frazier takes over at the hot corner. I’m thinking that’s less likely. The Yankees need a first baseman, and Occam’s razor suggests that’s where the new guy goes.
The bullpen is now stacked
With the addition of Robertson and Kahnle, the Yankees once again have a premier bullpen. One would imagine that Robertson steps back into his role as fireman. He earned the nickname Houdini during his first stint in New York, after all. It’s also helpful that he’s pitched to a 2.70 ERA with a 12.69 K/9 this season. An endgame trio of Robertson, Dellin Betances, and Aroldis Chapman rivals any in baseball. That’s not exactly the three-headed monster of last season’s first half, but it’s pretty close.
Don’t sleep on Kahnle, either. The 27-year-old owns a 2.50 ERA with outstanding peripherals. Plus, he has 80-grade warmup music. According to some reports, the White Sox placed the highest price tag on the young right-hander. For the Yankees, Kahnle will bolster the middle innings. Alongside Chad Green, Joe Girardi has terrific weapons at his disposable. Gone are the days of seeing Chasen Shreve or Jonathan Holder pitching important innings.
There’s also the human-interest side to this trade. Both relievers are coming home to the organization that drafted them. Robertson’s Yankees career is well documented. He’s the reliever who succeeded Mariano Rivera, after all. Kahnle, on the other hand, was drafted by New York in 2010. The Rockies acquired him in the Rule 5 Draft in 2013, so he never actually pitched for the Yankees. Three years later and he gets to play for the team that developed him. How cool is that?
The Yankees are going for it
Over the last few weeks, a number of articles surfaced questioning the direction of the Yankees. Would the team buy or sell at the deadline? Perhaps Cashman would just stay the course and do nothing at all. The news is in, and it’s clear that the Yankees are buyers. You don’t trade your number three prospect without the intentions of going for it.
Does this deal make the Yankees instant contenders? I don’t think it does just yet. That said, the acquisitions certainly shore up key weaknesses. Lack of production from first base and an unreliable bullpen sent the team into a tailspin, after all. The Yankees have addressed their areas of concern and are ready to compete. That’s pretty remarkable when you consider that the team was beginning to rebuild this time last year. A lot has gone right for the Bombers this season.
I’ll miss Rutherford, of course, but I think this was a fair trade. I’m not going to spend too much time being upset over a 20-year-old in A-ball. Give me Robertson plus Kahnle and I’m happy. Toss in Frazier and the chance for a playoff run? Yeah, this will do just fine.