With the Yankees facing a startling series of injuries, they’ve been forced to sign veteran players like Logan Morrison and Brad Miller as insurance policies on minor league deals. In an appearance on WFAN on Monday, Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman spoke about the difficulty in making trades for depth pieces before mid-season.
“You never want to get hurt earlier in the year because it’s harder to get stuff outside your franchise until after the June draft,” Cashman said. “It doesn’t mean it’s impossible, but it’s more difficult. The prices are usually twice as high because they’re insurance policies for other clubs.”
With Cashman talking trades, I decided to take a look back at his very active 2017 and break down some of the moves he decided to pull the trigger on as the Yankees quickly transitioned from a re-tooling club to legitimate American League contenders.
July 19, 2017
Yankees receive: Todd Frazier, David Robertson, Tommy Kahnle
White Sox Receive: Blake Rutherford, Ian Clarkin, Tito Polo
The Yankees killed two birds with one stone by acquiring a pair of high level bullpen arms and a veteran third baseman in this trade with Chicago. Almost two years later, this looks like a win for New York. Clarkin never made it past Double-A with the White Sox, Polo is now in the Mariners organization, and Rutherford hasn’t had the type of breakout that can really excite Chicago fans. Both teams can theoretically win this trade if Rutherford becomes a big league regular, but the Yankees appear to be the winners here two years later, especially if Kahnle continues his bounce back season.
July 31, 2017
Yankees Receive: Sonny Gray
Athletics Receive: James Kaprielian, Jorge Mateo, Dustin Fowler
It’s hard to declare a winner less than two years after a trade, but so far it hasn’t paid dividends for either side. Gray’s struggles are well documented, but so far none of the three players acquired by Oakland have made Cashman and company kick themselves too hard. This might have been a case of the Yankees having stronger knowledge of their prospects than anybody outside the organization. In 2015, Mateo stole 71 bases in 96 Class-A games, vaulting him up the prospect ladder. Last season he posted only 25 steals in 131 games for the A’s Triple-A affiliate, while slashing a feeble .230/.280/.353. Mateo’s off to a scorching start to the 2019 season, so it might not be too late for the 23-year-old shortstop to live up to his billing.
Kaprielian, a 25-year-old former first-round pick, has yet to pitch an inning in the A’s system as he battles elbow and shoulder injuries. He was considered by many to be the headline prospect in the deal, so the winner of this trade could hinge on his recovery. It wouldn’t be surprising if the A’s attempt to turn Kaprielian into a relief pitcher upon his return. Fowler appeared in 69 games for the A’s in 2018, but didn’t produce and finds himself back in Triple-A to start 2019.
The Yankees turned Gray into outfield prospect Josh Stowers this past offseason. Stowers would have to become a breakout prospect for the Yankees to come out on top of this trade in the long run, but right now it’s not as if they’re missing the pieces they sent to Oakland either. This trade was a failure, but not a disaster.
November 18, 2017
Yankees Receive: JP Sears, Juan Then
Mariners Receive: Nick Rumbelow
Cashman might have gotten something for nothing when he made this deal to clear room on the 40-man roster. While Rumbelow has struggled in Seattle, the 19-year-old Then currently ranks as the Yankees No. 28 prospect on MLB.com. The right-hander posted a 2.70 ERA in 50 minor league innings last season, showing impressive command with a 1.98 BB/9 rate. This will never be a memorable trade but there’s a chance the Yankees got something for nothing.
November 20, 2017
Yankees Receive: Mike King
Marlins Receive: Garrett Cooper, Caleb Smith
In another move to clear up 40-man roster space, the Yankees acquired King, now their No. 12 overall prospect, coming off one of the best pitching seasons in all of the minor leagues. King pitched to a 1.79 ERA in 161.1 innings in 2018. The 23-year-old right-hander could be a diamond in the rough, and just that possibility makes this trade a win for the Yankees in hindsight.
December 11, 2017
Yankees Receive: Giancarlo Stanton
Marlins Receive: Starlin Castro, Jose Devers, Jorge Guzman
This move was really more like a free agent acquisition than a trade. Castro was replaceable with Gleyber Torres waiting in the wings, and neither Guzman or Devers were cream of the crop prospects in the Yankees’ system at the time. This was about the Marlins starting fresh and the Yankees taking on a humongous contract for a player that was supposed to take them to the next level. It’s too early to declare this deal a win or loss for either side, but the Marlins saved a ton of money and Stanton carried the Yankees at times last season when they battled injuries and had to fight for a spot in the wildcard game.
Guzman has big time arm talent and Devers could become a solid MLB shortstop in time, but Guzman continues to have the same control issues he had in the Yankees’ system and Devers doesn’t possess a ton of upside offensively. Guzman posted a worrisome 6.00 BB/9 in 96 innings in 2018, which was a major regression from the 2.43 BB/9 that had scouts optimistic about his future in 2017. Stanton has eight years left to prove that he’s worth the $325 million contract the Yankees decided to take on.
One theme is consistent in all of these trades. While many of the trade chips are still very young, it seems like the Yankees did a great job in 2017 of acquiring established MLB talent by trading prospects at the height of their value. Gray didn’t pan out, Robertson left for Philadelphia, and Frazier was nothing more than a rental, but nobody’s fighting tooth and nail to acquire the prospects the Yankees gave up in the process. Cashman says it’s hard to make trades early in the season, but you also have to wonder if teams will become weary of making trades for any prospects the Yankees are willing to part ways with. At the end of the day you can’t win them all, but Cashman seems to win most.