Earlier this week, Brock Hammond examined the Yankees’ recent trades to get a feel for where the team’s former prospects had gone. For the most part, he found that while not every trade has worked out exactly as the Yankees intended, none of the prospects the Yankees dealt had taken much of a step forward.
Brock focused on the minor-league aspect of the Yankees’ trades. Now, let’s consider the major-league side of their deals, by asking the question: based on what we now know about the player’s performance, would the Yankees take back any of the trades they made in 2018?
The first trade the Yankees made this year was for Brandon Drury. It was a three-team deal that ultimately cost the Yankees pitcher Taylor Widener and infielder Nick Solak. After Drury’s performance this season, it’s fair to speculate that Brian Cashman would like this one back.
Drury only appeared in 18 games with the Yankees, slashing .176/.263/.275. His OPS+ of 42 resembled that of a pitcher with a solid swing. He opened up for the first time about his struggles with migraines and his vision problems, issues that plagued him throughout the season. The Yankees eventually packaged him in a deal for J.A. Happ.
The Yankees’ next significant trade came closer to the trade deadline, when they shipped pitchers Dillon Tate, Cody Carroll, and Josh Rogers to Baltimore for Zach Britton. Based on how Britton played down the stretch, it’s hard to tell exactly if the Yankees regret the move.
Britton was very uneven in his initial appearances with the team, yielding six runs and six walks across his first eight games in pinstripes. He started to put things together towards the end of the year, rediscovering the sink on his fastball and getting hitters to chase. It was enough to push his ERA with the Yankees down 2.88, good for a 153 ERA+.
Yet his peripherals were badly damaged by his early struggles, as he ended up with a 4.0 BB/9 rate with the Yankees to go along with a middling strikeout rate. Not only that, Britton gave up two homers and three runs in four postseason games. The theory behind Britton’s acquisition was that he had turned a corner midseason and would give the Yankees a terrifying bullpen down the stretch. Instead, it took Britton some time to truly turn the corner, only to regress in the playoffs. He was fine overall, but it’s unclear if the Yankees would make the trade again.
Next, the Yankees sent Giovany Gallegos and Chasen Shreve for Luke Voit. Obviously, Voit channeled Babe Ruth for two months and posted a 188 OPS+. The Yankees, shall we say, would not take a mulligan on that one.
Indeed, the rest of Cashman’s deadline deals profile as ones the Yankees would keep on the books thanks to the performance of the players they acquired. They dealt Drury and outfielder Billy McKinney for Happ, and Happ quickly stabilized the rotation. Happ struck out 63 batters in 63.2 innings with the Yankees, running a 2.69 ERA and a 163 ERA+. He was exactly what they hoped for when they brought him in.
One of the Yankees’ more surprising deals, they flipped Tyler Austin to the Twins for Lance Lynn the night before the non-waiver deadline. It was a similar deal to the one for Happ, in which the Yankees dealt a young but middling outfielder for a half-season of a veteran pitcher. Lynn posted a cogent 106 ERA+ in a swingman role, and posted a 10.1 K/9 in 54.1 innings. He, too, was precisely what the Yankees were aiming for.
Finally, the last major move the Yankees made was shipping in Andrew McCutchen for infielder Abiatal Avelino and Juan De Paula. You might be noticing a trend: McCutchen gave the Yankees everything they could have asked for. He steadied the Yankees’ teetering outfield rotation when Aaron Judge was injured, raking to the tune of a .253/.421/.471 line and a 141 OPS+. He wasn’t quite vintage-McCutchen, but he was close enough to give the Yankees a genuine boost in the season’s final stages.
Judged solely on 2018 performance, the only deal the Yankees almost certainly would like back was Drury’s acquisition. You could probably argue either way on Britton. Otherwise, the likes of Happ, Lynn, Voit, and McCutchen all either met or exceeded expectations. Cashman clearly did a bang-up job of maximizing the Yankees’ chances down the stretch, retooling the team on the fly and entering the postseason with a loaded roster. The Yankees ultimately fell short in October, but it was in spite of a spate of quality moves to bring in good players.