In trading for Andrew McCutchen, the Yankees have added to the list of MVP winners to have played for the team throughout history. McCutchen won the award in 2013, getting all but two first-place votes.
Most of the players on that list won the award while playing for the Yankees. The franchise has been around forever, and they’ve been the most successful team in the league. It makes sense that they would have had seen so many of their players receive recognition over the years.
It’s extremely unlikely that McCutchen will win another MVP while playing for the Yankees. For one, his contract it up after this season, and at least right now, it seems that his stint in New York will end after this season. Also, McCutchen is probably never going to be at an MVP-level again. He’s been a good player in the last couple years, but it’s now been three seasons since he’s produced close to a 2013 level. It’s not meant as an offense, but he’s probably past his prime.
Plenty of other Yankees have played for the team after winning an MVP, but there are six others who have basically been in the same scenario as McCutchen over the years. Reggie Jackson came to the Yankees after winning an MVP and never won the award again, but no one would confuse that for him being past his prime.
These are the Yankees who never played at that level again, during or after their time in New York. There were no more All-Star appearancess, or things like Silver Slugger Awards for them.
6. George Burns
Burns won the AL MVP in 1926, just two years before he came to the Yankees. Previous winners were ineligible for the award, which explains why Babe Ruth didn’t win in 1926 or basically any season after 1923. Just glancing at it, there were some better choices than Burns that year, but it’s not crazy that he won considering the Ruth asterisk.
His drop-off after that was pretty steep, however. He led the league in hits in his MVP year, triple-slashing .358/.394/.494. Just two years later, he was hitting .249/.323/.388 when the Yankees picked him up in September 1928. Burns got two hits in four at-bats during the end of that year and was brought back for ‘29. He started that year going 0-9 with four strikeouts across nine games, however, and was picked up by the Philadelphia Athletics in June.
Despite that, he went on to play for Philadelphia in that year’s World Series. He only appeared in one game in the series, and his only action was making two outs in one inning in Game Five. The Athletics went into the inning down eight, but batted around and scored 10 runs. Burns had a rare 0-2 outing as a pinch-hitter who didn’t go and play in the field. The A’s went on to win the series. That would be the final game of his major league career.
5. Paul Waner
I expounded on Waner’s Yankee career in a full article which can be found here, but it wasn’t great. Prior to his final season in baseball, which was comprised of walking once and never playing again, he got into nine games with the Yankees the previous year. He went 1-7 with two walks.
4. Ivan Rodriguez
With Jorge Posada out injured, and the Yankees a couple games back in the Wild Card hunt, the Bombers acquired the 1999 AL MVP at the trade deadline in 2008. It didn’t go well. Rodriguez hit just .219/.257/.323 with the Yankees, and found himself splitting time with Jose Molina.
His struggles did probably play a part in Molina getting to play the final game at the old Yankee Stadium. As you may know, Molina went on to hit the last home run there, allowing him to be an extremely random trivia answer.
3. Ichiro Suzuki
Had Ichiro not re-signed with the team for the 2013-14 seasons, he might top this list. The longtime Mariner was traded to the Yankees in 2012, and played pretty well. He had 19 extra-base hits post-trade, including a two-home run game against the Red Sox, which I had the pleasure of attending.
Somewhat understandably after his performance down the stretch, the Yankees brought him back on a two-year deal, but he didn’t recapture his 2012 form. Despite some milestone hits during the contract, he had just a 82 OPS+ across those two seasons.
2. Jose Canseco
Canseco’s acquisition was done more so to block other teams from acquiring him than to fill a need in the lineup. However just going off pure stats, he put up some okay numbers when he did play for the Yankees. He hit six home runs, and triple slashed .243/.365/.432. He got just one at-bat during the World Series, but his time with the Yankees did produce this massive blast:
1. Jim Konstanty
Konstanty was a good pitcher in 1950, but an odd choice for NL MVP in retrospect. If you sort the vote-getters that year by Baseball Reference WAR, he was 19th.
The Yankees acquired him in 1954, and he allowed just two runs in 18.1 innings. The following season, he had one of the best years of his career. Other than innings pitched (which is big), wins, and saves (which are probably the reason he MVP in the first place), Konstanty’s stats aren’t terribly far off those from 1950. He had a 2.32 ERA in 73.2 innings out of the bullpen for the Yankees in 1955.
He struggled the next season, and the Yankees quickly jettisoned him, but as far as past their prime MVPs go, his 1955 season is pretty good. If McCutchen manages to better him, the acquisition will be an absolute success.