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A history of the Yankees acquiring Cy Young Award winners

With Corey Kluber headed to New York, let’s look at the other times the Yankees have acquired a past Cy Young winner.

MLB: Cleveland Indians at Minnesota Twins David Berding-USA TODAY Sports

From 2014 to 2018, Corey Kluber was one of the best starters in baseball, winning two Cy Young Awards and finishing in the top three two other times. However, injuries have wiped out most of his past two seasons, which allowed him to be available for the Yankees on a one-year deal for 2021.

In doing so, he joins a not-unsubstantial list of former Cy Young winners to join the Yankees after winning the award. As we consider how Kluber’s Yankee tenure might go, let’s go back in history to see how this has gone the previous times, and break down what category their Yankee career fall under.

Went Great: David Cone, Roger Clemens, CC Sabathia

David Cone won his Cy Young in 1994, with literally every other person receiving votes also being a past, present, or future Yankee. (Second through fifth were Jimmy Key, Randy Johnson, Mike Mussina, and Lee Smith.) A year and a half after winning the award, he was wearing Yankee pinstripes.

It’s hard to categorize Cone’s time in New York as anything but a success. He helped them to four World Series titles, threw a perfect game as a member of team, and has since become a beloved broadcaster for the franchise.

Roger Clemens had already won five Cy Youngs when he was traded to the Yankees ahead of the 1999 season. The following year, he won a sixth as a member of the team in 2001, and is still the most recent Yankee to win one.

Clemens helped the Yankees to back-to-back championships in 1999 and 2000, just as Cone was starting to fade. His numbers in New York aren’t as good as any other stop in his career, and he had an ill-fated return in 2007, but on the whole, his acquisition worked well.

CC Sabathia helped knock the Yankees out of the 2007 playoffs before winning a Cy Young that same award season. Two years later, he was helping keep them in the postseason. In five postseason starts in 2009, he had a 1.98 ERA in 36 13 innings as the ace on the eventual World Series champions (earning ALCS MVP honors along the way).

After that season, Sabathia had two more top-five Cy Young finishes as a Yankee, and then went through some lean years before reinventing himself, becoming an important rotation piece as the Yankees got back into playoff contention towards the end of the 2010s. All through that, he was an invaluable clubhouse presence. 10/10, would sign again.

Pretty good: Catfish Hunter, Dwight Gooden

The only one on this list to be acquired immediately after a Cy Young win is Hunter. He won the award in 1974 and became one of the first big name free agents in baseball history the next offseason.

The Yankees won the fight for him and he very nearly won another Cy in his first season. He declined after that due to various arm troubles, but remained a popular leader in the clubhouse. It didn’t hurt that Hunter helped the Yankees to two World Series titles and was the winning pitcher in the clinching victory in Game 6 in 1978.

After debuting at 19 and winning a Cy Young at 20, Gooden seemed destined to be in the inner circle of all-time greats. Unfortunately injuries and personal demons led to a pretty steep decline.

After a year out of baseball while serving a suspension in 1995, the Yankees signed “Doc” for ‘96. He put up league average numbers, but threw a no-hitter in May and won a ring, despite not being on the postseason roster. He had a lesser season the following year, and then departed via free agency. Gooden later returned in 2000, where he put up pretty good numbers in 64 innings, winning another ring.

Legendary pitcher, bad Yankee: Gaylord Perry, Randy Johnson

A 41-year old and two-time Cy Young winner, Perry was sent to the Yankees in a 1980 trade battled for the AL East crown. They won the division, but Perry wasn’t exactly a major factor. In 50 23 innings across 10 games, he had a 4.44 ERA (89 ERA+). He left after the season without being used in the Yankees’ ALCS loss.

In the aftermath of the 2004 ALCS loss (alleged loss, I have no memory of that happening), the Yankees went for the killshot and acquired the guy who had been one of if not the best pitcher for the last decade: Randy Johnson. Whether it be because “he couldn’t handle New York” or because he was over 40, he didn’t quite live up to the expectations that came with his status as a five-time Cy Young winner. He had one relatively good season, one bad one, and in no small part due to his constantly-ailing back, was quickly shipped back to Arizona where they got him from.

Meh: Jack McDowell

On the surface, McDowell’s numbers in his only season as a Yankee are pretty good. Acquired from the White Sox ahead of the 1995 season, the 1993 Cy Young Award winner pitched to a 3.93 ERA, 118 ERA+, and 4.0 WAR, stabilizing a rotation that was quite shaky until Cone was acquired at the trade deadline. However, he also flipped the fans off after one particularly bad outing, and was on the mound against Edgar Martinez for the unceremonious end of the 1995 ALDS. That soured McDowell’s time in New York, and the club allowed him to leave in free agency despite the solid numbers.

I’m sorry, who?: Mike McCormick

If you look at the list of any baseball award winners, they’re mostly filled with the names you know. However, there are some randoms in there. I mean no disrespect to Mike McCormick, who just passed away last year and had a perfectly fine 16-year career. However, I would never have guessed that he had won a Cy Young if you gave me 1,000 guesses.

McCormick took home the Cy in 1967 after leading the NL in wins with the Giants. That and his comeback story (he was nearly out of the majors for good in 1964) were probably what got him the award. Looking at it in a modern lens, there are several better choices, including runner-up Jim Bunning. In terms of WAR, McCormick was 11th in the NL in 1967.

The lefty declined pretty quickly after that, leading to a 1970 trade that sent him to New York. He threw just 20 23 innings as a Yankee and left as a free agent after the season.

Bartolo Colon: Bartolo Colon