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This Day in Yankees History: Making trades and avoiding arbitration

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The Yankees trade Lee Mazzilli, Hideki Irabu; re-sign Bernie Williams and Chien-Ming Wang.

MLB: JUN 17 Nationals at Yankees Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Icon SMI/Corbis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Welcome to the relaunched This Day in Yankees History. With the offseason well underway, the Pinstripe Alley team is continuing this revived program. These daily posts will highlight two or three key moments in Yankees history on a given date, as well as recognize players born on the day. Hope you enjoy this trip down memory lane with us!

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This Day in Yankees History (December 22)

38 Years Ago

The Yankees trade Lee Mazzilli to the Pirates for Tim Burke and three minor leaguers. This marked the third time in 1982 that Mazzilli was traded, as he had originally been sent by the Mets to the Rangers on April 1, then from the Rangers to the Yankees in August for Bucky Dent. Mazzilli would never play for the Yankees again, but he did return to the team as Joe Torre’s first base for four seasons, earning a World Series ring in 2000.

21 Years Ago

The Yankees send pitcher Hideki Irabu to the Montreal Expos, receiving Ted Lilly, Christian Parker, and Jake Westbrook in return. It was a disappointing ending to a once-promising career in pinstripes for Irabu, who came over from Japan with a great deal of hype but didn’t live up to it outside of a few hot months here and there.

15 Years Ago

The Yankees re-sign Bernie Williams to a one-year, $1.5 million contract. It would wind up being the last deal of his career, as he posted a .281/.332/.436 slash line with 12 homers in 131 games, though his dismal late-career decline in defense made him borderline unplayable. Although Bernie did not officially retire for many years, he never played in the majors again.

12 Years Ago

The Yankees avoid arbitration with ace Chien-Ming Wang by signing him to a one-year, $5 million contract for the 2009 season. Unfortunately, the right-hander would not be the same after the foot injury that ended his 2008 campaign after only 15 starts, and he would not be offered a contract for 2010. It took him until 2011 to recover from injuries and return to major league ball with the Nationals, and he was a shadow of his former self.

11 Years Ago

Desperate for pitching beyond the three-man rotation that led them to the 2009 World Series, Brian Cashman trades for Javier Vázquez for the second time in his career. The Yankees sent Melky Cabrera and minor leaguers Michael Dunn and Arodys Vizcaíno to the Atlanta Braves in exchange for Vázquez and reliever Boone Logan. Despite coming in fourth in the NL Cy Young voting the year prior, Vázquez was a bust in pinstripes once again, and was even demoted from the rotation in August. Unsurprisingly, he did not make the playoff roster, and was not pursued as a free agent. The lefty Logan at least had the decency to put in reputable work out of the bullpen over the next four seasons.

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Birthdays

Happy 33rd birthday to Yankees reliever Zack Britton! Originally drafted by the Baltimore Orioles in the third round of the 2006 MLB Draft, Britton — then known by Zach — made his Major League debut on April 3, 2011, throwing six innings of one-run ball against the Tampa Bay Rays to earn the win. A mediocre starter for the first three years of his career, Britton would dominate once moved to the ‘pen before the 2014 season, quickly becoming the Orioles’ closer. In 2016, he put together one of the best performances as a reliever in baseball history (0.54 ERA, 0.836 WHIP, and a perfect 47-for-47 in saves), but was famously left in the Rogers Centre bullpen by manager Buck Showalter during the AL Wild Card Game, a fact that he has commented on not infrequently.

On July 24, 2018, he was acquired by the Yankees in exchange for Dillon Tate, Cody Carroll, and Josh Rogers, and was re-signed to a two-to-four-year swell-opt, which was exercised by the Yankees this winter. In pinstripes, Britton has been one of the most reliable relief pitchers in baseball, posting a 2.14 ERA, 1.120 WHIP, and 206 ERA+, in large part due to his 70+ ground ball percentage. Long live the bowling-ball sinker.

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We thank Baseball Reference, Nationalpastime.com, and FanGraphs for providing background information for these posts.