Now that Christmas has come and gone, here’s to hoping that all of our readers were treated to a good haul from Santa Claus and got to spend some enjoyable time with family and friends. Nothing beats the joys associated with Christmastime, and that applies to the Yankees as well. Some of the best offseason moments of the last 20 years have come within the week of Christmas, which have provided Yankees fans with the greatest presents under the tree.
Recently, the Yankees have done their big shopping before the holiday (Giancarlo Stanton, Gerrit Cole) or after (Masahiro Tanaka), but let’s relive some of the Yankees’ greatest Christmas acquisitions.
David Wells - December 24, 1996
The Yankees had just won the 1996 World Series, but then the team went out and acquired one of the best arms on the market. By signing David Wells, a longtime division rival, the Yankees not only acquired one of the biggest Yankees fans on the market, but also a workhorse southpaw who became a fan favorite.
Wells signed on Christmas Eve, just in time for Santa to bring him to Yankees fans everywhere. Over the next two years, Wells went 34-17 with a 3.85 ERA, pitched a perfect game among six other shutouts, made an All-Star team, and finished third in Cy Young voting in 1998. Wells was later traded for Roger Clemens, but came back for two more years with the Yankees from 2002-2003. Although he was still productive, his second stint couldn’t possibly top his initial tenure, which began on Christmas Eve 1996.
Jason Giambi - December 17, 2001
Taking over for Tino Martinez was a tough ask for anybody, but Brian Cashman went out and arguably made an upgrade by signing Giambi to a record-setting contract one week out of Christmas in 2001. After several years as the American League’s preeminent patience-and-power hitter, Giambi came to the Yankees at age-31 and cleaned up his scruffy appearance while simultaneously cleaning up the order.
Giambi made three All-Star teams with the Yankees, popped 40 homers twice, swatted some clutch dingers, and ended his Yankees tenure with a .260/.404/.521 triple slash. He will likely end up as a Yankee whose numbers outweigh his reputation, but unfairly so. Giambi was one of the most productive Yankees of the mid-2000s, and Yankees fans had every reason to be excited in Christmas of 2001.
CC Sabathia - December 18, 2008
The Yankees whiffed on their Christmas acquisitions over the next few years, finding mostly lumps of coal (Carl Pavano, Kei Igawa). That all changed when the team swooped in to sign Sabathia, the best pitcher on the market coming off an incendiary performance down the stretch for the Milwaukee Brewers. After single-handedly getting Milwaukee to the playoffs and with the Yankees short on elite pitching, the team knew it had to have CC.
It wasn’t easy, however, and Cashman only sealed the deal by flying out to California to meet Sabathia in person. When he finally signed just before Christmas, it felt like an incredible present for Yankees fans. However, an even bigger gift was coming just a few days later.
Hideki Matsui - December 19, 2002
Two years after Ichiro Suzuki took America by storm as the most successful Japanese hitter to ever come to the MLB, the Yankees brought over one of the most feared hitters in Japan in Hideki Matsui. After weeks of rumors, the Yankees officially signed Matsui shortly before Christmas in 2002.
Over his seven years in pinstripes, Matsui rarely disappointed fans. Remarkably consistent, Matsui was a fan favorite who ended his time in the Bronx with perhaps his finest act: a World Series MVP performance in the 2009 Fall Classic.
Mark Teixeira - December 23, 2008
The best Christmas gifts are the surprise ones, like Ralphie’s Red Ryder BB gun in A Christmas Story. In that way, Teixeira might as well have been the Red Ryder for the Yankees in 2008—the gift they wanted, eventually resigned to themselves that they wouldn’t get, but ultimately found themselves with it in the end.
Teixeira seemed likely to go to the Boston Red Sox, but the Yankees were desperate after missing the playoffs for the first time since the strike-shortened 1994 season. Cashman opened his checkbook and swiped Teixeira from the Red Sox faster than the Grinch stole Christmas.
The first baseman had a similar impact on the Yankees as Giambi did seven years earlier, only he also won a World Series. Signed out of nowhere just two days before Christmas, it’s safe to say that Teixeira is most fans’ favorite Yankees Christmas present.