The year is almost complete, and that means it’s time to review 2018. It was a busy year, with all the subsequent peaks and valleys and intrigue. Today, let’s review the Yankees’ moves from 2018 and determine which was their best maneuver.
Using the calendar year of 2018 makes for an interesting heuristic. That leaves us with the moves the Yankees made in the direct lead-up to the season, their mid-season moves, and the handful of signings and trades they’ve made as the year has concluded. Of them all, which move did the most to put the Yankees in a better position to win, both in the short and long-term?
There are a few we can cross right off the list. The trade for Zach Britton was an aggressive move to double down on a strength and construct the ultimate playoff bullpen. Britton was good but not as dominant from start to finish as hoped, and he was uneven in the playoffs. Likewise, trading for Lance Lynn proved to help solidify the pitching staff, but it certainly didn’t move the needle enough to be considered the best move of the year. Andrew McCutchen was a great get for September, but one excellent month probably isn’t enough.
To me, there are three moves the Yankees made over the past year that stand out as having the biggest impact on the team’s fortunes: the trade for J.A. Happ, the trade for Luke Voit, and the offseason trade for James Paxton (remember, we’re talking all of 2018, not just the actual season). Each of these moves either had a profound immediate impact or has the potential to do so in the near-future.
The case for the Happ trade being the best move of 2018 lies in how quickly and demonstrably he addressed the Yankees’ biggest weakness midseason. When the Yankees’ pitching depth was feeling stressed in the middle of the campaign, Happ stepped in and exceeded expectations, providing huge production while also helping to excise the likes of Domingo German and Sonny Gray from the rotation.
Happ made 11 starts for the Yankees, totaling 63 strikeouts in 63.2 innings with a 2.69 ERA. In terms of runs-allowed WAR, Happ was worth more than two wins during his time in New York. Two whole wins, during a playoff chase, are tremendously valuable. Those wins did come at the cost of a pair of young players, Billy McKinney and Brandon Drury, but they were not an overwhelming price to pay in exchange for up-front, top-flight performance.
The Voit trade also has a very compelling case. The acquisition of Voit, while unheralded at the time, brought the Yankees’ just as much immediate impact as the Happ deal, along with the added benefit of future upside. Happ became a free agent after the season (before re-signing with the Yankees), whereas Voit could be in pinstripes through 2024.
Voit’s play down the stretch was, obviously, off the charts. His .333/.405/.689 slash line with the Yankees was good for a 194 wRC+, and he totaled nearly 2 WAR. It’s nigh impossible to predict exactly what Voit will do next, though Steamer currently projects him for a 115 wRC+ next year, which would make him a slightly above-average starter at first base.
Voit could be a first division starter going forward for the Yankees, he could be part of a platoon, or he could turn into a pumpkin. Regardless, the long-term potential he brings to the table, combined with the paltry cost (Chasen Shreve and Giovanny Gallegos) it took to bring him in, probably vaults Voit’s acquisition above Happ’s.
So, that would mean it comes down to the trade for Voit versus the trade for Paxton.Big Maple, of course, has yet to throw a pitch for the Yankees, so we can’t actually evaluate his acquisition in terms of what he’s done for the team, only what he is capable of doing.
I am high on Paxton, and have written about his ace-caliber talent. He is under team control for two seasons, meaning he could give the Yankees two high-caliber seasons at a position of need during a period of contention. That is hugely important, and though Paxton came at the cost of a good prospect in Justus Sheffield, that cost was more than deserved.
At then end of the day, however, I would call the Voit trade the Yankees’ best move of 2018. There’s uncertainty about exactly what Paxton will do next year; there’s no uncertainty about what Voit already did and how little it cost the Yankees. Even if Voit amounts to nothing from here on out, the Yankees essentially got two months of Babe Ruth for free in the thick of a pennant race. That’s simply an eye-popping move.
There’s certainly a case to be made for the contrary, though. What move do you think was the Yankees’ best? Was it the trade for Happ, Voit, or Paxton? Was it something entirely different, such as the re-signing of Happ, or the re-signings of CC Sabahtia or Brett Gardner? Let us know in the comments below.