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Revisiting the Yankees’ 2017 trade deadline

Two years out, let’s take a look back at the 2017 deadline moves from the Yankees, highlighted by two major deals.

Sonny Gray pitches for the New York Yankees pitches in the first inning against the Baltimore Orioles during game two of a doubleheader at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on August 25, 2018 during Players Weekend. Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

Even though they had finished with winning records and were at least peripherally in the playoff hunt in the previous couple years, 2017 was the real birth of the current era of Yankees’ playoff contenders. After Gary Sanchez’s emergence the previous season, Brian McCann was traded away, joining several other big names that had been dealt away at the 2016 trade deadline. Sanchez would be joined by Aaron Judge and Luis Severino as home grown emerging stars making their mark on the major league team.

As the trade deadline neared, the Yankees faltered a bit. Throughout June they either led or traded the AL East lead back and forth with the Red Sox. However, a 4-9 stretch to start July saw them fall not only multiple games back of Boston, but a couple behind the Rays as well.

Needing to bring in reinforcements, the Yankees started making moves around mid-July. With a young core now in place, not only did they make moves, but they made some swings for the fences for the first time in a couple years. Let’s rewind two years and look at the Yankees’ 2017 trade deadline moves:

July 19: Acquired Todd Frazier, Tommy Kahnle, and David Robertson from the White Sox for Ian Clarkin, Tyler Clippard, Tito Polo, and Blake Rutherford

July 23: Traded Rob Refsnyder to the Blue Jays for Ryan McBroom

July 30: Acquired Jaime Garcia from the Twins for Dietrich Enns and Zach Littell

July 31: Acquired Sonny Gray from the Athletics for Dustin Fowler, James Kaprelian, and Jorge Mateo

The headline move among these was of course the Gray trade. On the whole, it was a move that didn’t exactly work. He was so bad in 2018 that he was dropped from the rotation at points, and then traded for, at least on paper, far less than what the Yankees sent away for him.

However, if we take 2017 in a vacuum, it wasn’t all bad. Gray had a 3.72 ERA in 11 starts down the stretch for the Yankees. He put up a losing record as a member of the Yankees that year, but also got on average less than four runs per game in support that season. Gray wasn’t the ace of aces during that period, but he was fine.

He also gave the Yankees five quality innings, allowing two runs (only one earned) to win in game four of the ALCS. While they did go on to lose the series, they absolutely don’t get that close to the World Series in 2017 without Gray.

Of course, you can’t just take it in a vacuum as one of the “positives” of that trade was getting multiple years of control of Gray, which didn’t work out. Luckily, the Yankees haven’t been burned on what they sent to Oakland, at least not yet. (Later in the week here at Pinstripe Alley, we’ll have a more in depth look at the prospects traded away in 2017.)

The other major move there was the big multi-player deal with the White Sox. That one you don’t really need to add a caveat to in order to say that the Yankees did well from themselves. For one, again they haven’t really been burned by who went to Chicago so far. Besides that, everyone they got back performed quite well.

David Robertson was absolutely lights out down the stretch in 2017, and gave the Yankees another good season the next year. His 3.1 innings in the 2017 Wild Card Game was one of the best Yankees’ playoff bullpen performances ever. Tommy Kahnle had a lost season last year, but has had a nice bounce back year this season, and was really good in 2017 as well.

The last acquisition in that deal was Todd Frazier, whose time in the Bronx was much more fleeting. He played just the last couple months of 2017 with the Yankees, but put up a really solid 114 wRC+ in those 66 games. The “thumbs down” gesture that began during one of his at-bats also became a signature for that very fun team.

The other two trades were far less interesting, so let’s just go through them quick.

Jaime Garcia was a giant pile of meh, putting up about a league average ERA in eight games with the Yankees. As for Rob Refsnyder, his career home run total is higher than his career WAR, which is not good. No harm, no foul there.

If you’d like, you can also group July 13th’s Tyler Webb for Garrett Copper trade in here, but that was even more inconsequential than the Refsnyder trade. Cooper played in 13 games for the Yankees and then was traded to the Marlins in the following offseason. Considering that he has a 142 OPS+ this season, he should be in contention for Miami’s All-Star representative, which is weird.

Even if you say the Gray trade was an outright loss, it’s hard to say the Yankees didn’t do pretty well for themselves at the 2017 deadline. They improved their playoff chances that year, and got other players that have also helped in subsequent years. They did all that without giving up any major necessary pieces for the future either.