The Yankees, coming into this season, were by and large expected to be sellers again at this year's deadline. A strong start to the season squashed that conjecture, however, and despite a catastrophic June tailspin, the Yankees found themselves in first place with a 0.5 game lead over the Red Sox in the AL East on July 31st, 2017. Whether or not making major buyer moves was the best idea for the Yankees this year, the team made three big deals in late-July acquiring Tommy Kahnle, David Robertson, and Todd Frazier from the White Sox, Jaime Garcia from the Twins, and Sonny Gray from the Oakland A's. Undoubtedly, the Yankees have increased their 2017 playoff odds with this series of moves, but were they worth it? Because I am absolutely nobody, I totally find it necessary to give my input on the costs, benefits and impacts of these trades and to deliver my worthless opinion using a familiar, but arbitrary A-F grading system. Lets look at the aforementioned deals using that system on a case by case basis.
Yankees acquire IF Todd Frazier, RHP Tommy Kahnle, and RHP David Robertson from the Chicago White Sox for OF Blake Rutherford, RHP Ian Clarkin, OF Tito Polo, and RHP Tyler Clippard
This mid-July deal is riddled with a lot of ups and downs. The ups? Kahnle is awesome, even though he was Rule 5 fodder for the Yankees a few years ago. He strikes everybody out and has coveted low-cost controllability for years to come. Robertson isn't cheap money-wise, but he has two more years of control as well, is a really effective set-up man, and a homegrown Yankee. This move really rounds out the bullpen in 2017 and beyond. Both Kahnle and Robertson are certainly an upgrade over Tyler Clippard who was nothing but super irritating dead weight, and probably a DFA-candidate at the time of the trade.
The bad side of this deal? First of all, the Yankees sold really low on Rutherford, their 2016 first-round pick. Rutherford is still only 20 and was showing some promise in the lower minors, even if his power-numbers weren't particularly impressive. Todd Frazier is nothing but a name at this point and he has been annoyingly overhyped by a lot of Yankee fans following this trade. He's literally what the Yankees expected to get out of Chris Carter offensively, though, admittedly, his glove is better. Getting someone like Alonso or Duda who are true first-basemen and a little better offensively than Frazier would have probably been the better move.
Also, the Yankees already had a lot of bullets in the bullpen, even with Betances and Chapman struggling a bit. This was a big price to pay for a marginal upgrade in the corner infield and to shore up what was already a position of strength. Maybe the front office just didn't see Rutherford developing into the player they hoped he was going to develop into when they drafted him? Maybe they just really are obsessed with the idea of a "super-bullpen"? This one didn't sit that well with me even though I'll admit it helps the team. The Yankees are pretty much playing six inning games from now until the playoffs, and listening to Michael Kay and co. make fun of Frazier for commuting to the Bronx from Toms River, NJ is...quaint, I guess.
The Yankees acquire RHP Jaime Garcia from the Twins for RHP Zack Littell and LHP Dietrich Enns.
This seemed like a back up move in case the Yankees didn't land Gray or Darvish at worst and a depth move at best. There's not a lot of impact here. The two guys the Yankees traded were in the 20-30 range in terms of their team prospect rankings and they got Garcia, a rental, who will likely round out the 5th spot if Montgomery continues to struggle, or become a long reliever/swingman with the Gray trade completed. Can't really complain about this move except that it was very vanilla in a week when most of us were excited about a potential Gray/Darvish blockbuster.
Yankees acquire RHP Sonny Gray and $1.5 Million in International Signing Money from the Oakland Athletics for SS/CF Jorge Mateo, RHP James Kaprielian and OF Dustin Fowler.
This one is the big blockbuster. The Yankees had been connected to Gray for what seemed like the whole damn season and with about 15-20 mins left before the deadline, the deal finally came together. Gray has all the potential to be a difference maker. In 2017, Gray has a great stat line in 2017 thus far at 6-5, 3.43 ERA, and 94 Ks in 97 Innings, good for a 2.2 fWAR. Steamer projects him to be worth at least one more fWAR for the rest of 2017, though that seems a little low considering how well Gray has pitched so far this season. The real kicker here is that the Yankees get control of Gray for two more seasons. Gray will bring some stability to a Yankees rotation with a lot of question marks now and in the future. Gray, however, is a risky asset. He missed the beginning of the 2017 season with a shoulder injury and pitched to a 5.69 ERA in 2016.
Despite the risk involved with Gray, I seem to be in the minority of people who think the Yankees did not acquire him at any discount. The prospects the Yankees gave up to acquire Gray are themselves a lot like Gray- risky, but with a lot of upside. Jorge Mateo, despite tearing up Double-A this season has seen his prospect clout wane recently. There's no doubt that Mateo is highly talented and athletic with the ability to play two premium positions in centerfield and shortstop, however, the Yankees are loaded with up-the-middle INF/OF talent. Kaprielian is incredibly talented, but has spent most of his professional career on the disabled list. Dustin Fowler looked to be MLB ready this season before suffering a freak season-ending injury. Despite these risks, and considering the risks that Gray himself presents, if either Kaprielian or Fowler rebounds strongly from injury and continues building on their promise, the A's could easily come out on top of this deal without even mentioning Mateo.
Gray, despite the question marks surrounding him, is a great pitcher. He might not be an "ace" per se, but he's somebody the Yankees needed to acquire if they wanted to make a serious push this year, and he also fits well into their future plans for the next few years. Make no mistake, the Yankees indeed gave up a haul in terms of talent, but they added a frontline starting pitcher for 2017 and the next two seasons. If the Yankees were going to set themselves up as buyers, this was the move they needed to make and Cashman and co. ponied up and made it.
Overall, the Yankees made moves that give them a shot to be true competitors this year. Adding Gray to a shored up super bullpen with Garcia as depth might make them the favorites to win the AL East. Now its up to them not to make the boneheaded move of sending Clint Frazier back down to the minors when Hicks comes off the DL. Until we see which way that move goes, these aggressive buyer moves of the past couple weeks get a grade of "incomplete" overall.