When the New York Yankees released Clint Frazier on Tuesday, a bow was placed around the team’s 2016 trade deadline deal that sent reliever Andrew Miller to Cleveland. Frazier, a top outfield prospect, was the highlight of the Yankees’ return and was, especially after his 2020 season, expected to be in the outfield at Yankee Stadium for a long time to come. Unfortunately, injuries meant that didn’t happen. While he might hopefully recover a semblance of his old career, his release cements that the trade ended up being fairly disappointing for New York.
Cleveland, ultimately, did not end up having to give up very much production to get a lot out of Miller. Miller managed to put up 1.1 fWAR with Cleveland in 2016 after being traded, an especially impressive feat for a reliever. Of course, that was the year Cleveland won the pennant and appeared destined for a World Series championship before the Chicago Cubs broke their curse. His 2017 fWAR of 2.3 was even more impressive considering his role with the team. His 2018 fWAR of 0.40 was obviously much less impressive, but he was injured with a bad knee and then a shoulder impingement. That didn’t stop him from receiving a two-year, $25 million contract from the St. Louis Cardinals in December 2018.
Meanwhile, Frazier was largely a flash in the pan for the Yankees. His brightest point was the COVID-19 shortened 2020 season, when he finished with a .267/.325/.425 line with 1.4 fWAR and was a somewhat improbable Gold Glove finalist. Unfortunately for both him and the Yankees, that was the only season in which he was able to garner more than 0.1 fWAR. Besides that shortened season, he was really only a replacement-level player for the Yankees, who could have been replaced with really any semi-competent minor league outfielder.
Miller is a free agent now, and it’s up for debate how big a contract he’ll receive at age 36 after a few seasons of replacement level or less value with the Cardinals. However, his massive value for Cleveland made the trade worth it on their end, especially considering the struggles of the other player they sent to New York besides Frazier, who was considered very talented in their own right.
Cleveland also sent New York left-handed pitcher Justus Sheffield, who was a first-round draft pick as well. Sheffield has struggled pitching in MLB so far, however, having put up an ERA over 6.00 over 15 starts in 2021 for the Seattle Mariners, who acquired him from the Yankees as part of their trade for James Paxton. His future as any effective pitcher is up for debate.
The Yankees also acquired right-handed pitcher Ben Heller from Cleveland, who was considered talented but was designed for assignment by the Yankees in February 2021. He is currently a free agent at the age of 30.
The other pitcher the Yankees received for Miller was right-hander J.P. Feyereisen, who never actually appeared in the major leagues for New York. The Yankees sent him on to the Milwaukee Brewers in September 2019 in a very minor trade, though he was able to make his first appearance in the major leagues for them in 2020. He was then sent onto the Tampa Bay Rays in 2021, where he was able to pitch to an ERA below 3.00, albeit with a FIP of 4.21.
So, ultimately, it appears that Cleveland “won” the trade by getting a consistent producer over more than one season. Yankee fans should keep that in mind next time a top prospect is traded for a playoff push, or one is received who is supposed to star for years to come.