In a stunning blockbuster just two weeks before the 2017 Trade Deadline, Brian Cashman and the Yankees pulled an old school Evil Empire move and acquired Todd Frazier, David Robertson, and Tommy Kahnle from the White Sox moments after Chicago seemed to have a deal in place with the Boston Red Sox. The biggest immediate impact of this trade however, could simply be the dramatic plot twist that we all witnessed this evening. Certainly, it might have been fun for a few hours to see the Yankees harken back to the dramatic arms races they seemed to engage in with their rival Red Sox every year, however, from a baseball standpoint, this trade was the wrong one at the wrong time for the Yankees.
For whatever reason according to most sports news outlets, Todd Frazier still seems to be the big headline name in this deal, and I just can't seem to put my finger on why. 2017 Todd Frazier's actual offensive stats, are actually not quite as good as what Chris Carter's were projected to be. Real life 2017 Todd Frazier is slashing .207/.328/.432 with a 103 wRC+ while Steamer had Carter projected to slash .218/.311/.478 with a 107 wRC+. Obviously Carter didn't put up those numbers, but prior to this season, that projection of Carter which Frazier has replicated, was only worth a $3 million, 1-year contract to the Yankees, not twice Carter's money plus prospects. Frazier is no longer the All Star player he was from 2012-2015, and his value comes more in the form of name-brand recognition at this point.
The Yankees also reacquired an old friend in David Robertson, their former 17th Round pick who rose to prominence with the team as former set up man to Mariano Rivera. Robertson had a successful start to his career with the Yankees from 2008-2014. He was a homegrown fan favorite and member of the 2009 World Series team, so he carries a great deal of nostalgia-value for a lot of Yankee fans. However, there are a few problems with the Yankees acquiring Robertson at this point. First, they already let him walk in 2014, and considered a supplemental pick, which they used to draft SS Tyler Wade more valuable than paying Robertson $11.5 million per year. The Yankees have now traded arguably two better prospects than Wade to bring back Robertson and the rest of his contract. Second, the Yankees already have an overpaid late-inning reliever in the currently maligned Aroldis Chapman. Chapman along with the currently struggling Dellin Betances should have been a warning to the team that even the best relief pitchers can be fickle mistress. Now, the Yankees will be paying a combined $26.7 million for the backend of their bullpen for at least the next two years, thus jeopardizing their quest to finally get under the luxury tax in the near future. Third, the other piece coming back to the Yankees is another one of their former relievers Tommy Kahnle. It is certainly possible that Kahnle could be the most talented player the Yankees are receiving in this deal. Kahnle may have posted a 2.63 ERA with Chicago in 2016, though, only in about 27 innings. His ERA has been even better so far in 2017, with his FIP even lower than that probably because he misses so many bats (15 K/9). Knowing the Yankees, and knowing Joe Girardi, however, the marquee names are more likely so see more playing time especially in high-leverage situations. Robertson will likely slide into the 7th Inning role, with Betances and Chapman continuing to pitch the 8th and 9th respectively.
Having too many good players for seemingly not enough positions isn't necessarily a bad thing. No one is saying that Robertson and Kahnle aren't good, though, I might say that about Frazier. The problem is that the Yankees have already tried launching themselves into the postseason on the back of a super-bullpen, and it just didn't work. The 2016 season, which the Yankees started with Aroldis Chapman, Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances, was the first season the Yankees finished in fourth place since 1992, and the 2016 team actually preformed better after they traded Chapman and Miller away at the Trade Deadline. The prospect haul they got back from those deals would have been good indicators of what it may have taken to rebuild a "super-bullpen" this year. They went ahead and did it anyway.
Blake Rutherford was the headliner in the package of prospects that the Yankees traded to Chicago. Rutherford was the Yankees 2016 1st Round pick, and has played all of the 2017 season in Low-A Charleston. At only 20 years old, he was putting up a 112 wRC+, and despite only hitting 2 home runs, he had 24 extra-base hits, 25 walks and 9 stolen bases in 302 PA. Yes, Rutherford might have been several years away from making a major league impact, yes, the Yankees have a wealth of outfield prospects, and yes, he isn't without his flaws as a prospect. However, as the 36th best prospect in baseball only a full year into his development, Rutherford had a chance to either become part of a future Yankees core, or develop into a better, more coveted trade chip. Two (albeit, higher-end) relievers and a league-average hitter whose reputation far precedes his on-field value seems somewhat disappointing of a return for Rutherford.
Ian Clarkin, another prospect in this deal, was once a heralded pitching prospect before missing all of the 2015 season recovering from Tommy John Surgery derailed his development. It doesn't hurt as much to lose a prospect who somewhat of a reclamation project, but Clarkin's ability to keep the ball on the ground, his promising numbers in the Minor Leagues, and his gorgeous, looping curveball still made him a promising starting pitching prospect whom the Yankees might sorely miss in the near future with Pineda's tenure in pinstripes likely over due to injury and free agency, Sabathia leaving via free agency and maybe retirement, Tanaka's opt-out clause looming, and the retail price for free agent pitching growing ever more obscene.
I concede the fact that the bullpen has been frustrating to watch, and with Greg Bird finally succumbing to ankle surgery, the team was going to be without a viable first baseman for the rest of the year. My response to that is pretty much "so what?". The Yankees never seemed to be fully committed to competing this season, and most informed fans seemed willing to commit to a rebuild of sorts in 2017. Instead of trading the team's 3rd best prospect for a declining former All Star, and two (albeit higher-end) relief pitchers, many were hoping to catch a glimpse of younger, homegrown players that the Yankees acquired mostly via trading away a declining former All Star and two (albeit higher-end) relief pitchers. I'll also concede the fact that the Yankees started off very well in 2017, and the nucleus of a future Major League core is starting to develop in Judge, Sanchez, Severino, and even Jordan Montgomery. The Yankees, since the start of June, however, have demonstrated that they are far from a complete team. The last two weeks especially have shown that the Yankees were not a David Robertson or two away from being viable contenders. The team as of this trade is in third place in the AL East behind Boston and the surging Tampa Bay Rays, and has a razor-thin 1.5 game hold on the second Wild Card slot. Without now even more buyer moves at the deadline, the Yankees have just senselessly bet 2017's house money all on black.