A little over an hour after the Yankees polished off their 4-3 victory over the Rays on Tuesday, they turned in a relatively surprising trade. At about a quarter to one o’clock in the morning Eastern time, the team sent relievers Luis Cessa and Justin Wilson packing. They will head to the Cincinnati Reds in exchange for a player to be named later.
Cessa’s inclusion in the deal is a little bit of a bummer. After being much-maligned by Yankees fans for most of his first four seasons in the majors from 2016-19, the right-hander finally seemed to find his rhythm in middle relief. From 2020-21, Cessa notched a perfectly serviceable 3.00 ERA, 3.63 FIP, and 1.250 WHIP across 45 games and 60 innings of work, good for 1.0 WAR. As the rest of the bullpen struggled from mid-June onward, Cessa thrived with a 1.50 ERA in 12 innings.
In a funny coincidence, Cessa originally came to New York from the Tigers alongside teammate Chad Green in a December 2015 deal for Wilson. Now, Wilson’s second Yankees tenure is ending with another trade involving Cessa.
The less-funny part of it is that the Reds probably don’t accept Wilson in this deal without Cessa because the southpaw is the anchor. Although Wilson’s first go-around in 2015 was fine and parlayed into a couple of good relievers, the sequel was somehow worse than Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.
Signed in February 2021 to bolster the bullpen on a one-year, $5.15 million deal that included a $2.3 million player option for 2022, Wilson instead abandoned his previously reliable form, got hurt, and when healthy, laid egg after egg on the mound to the tune of a 7.50 ERA and 6.76 FIP. There was nothing good at all to say about it, and he was involved in the worst WPA swing of the season (Robbie Grossman’s walk-off homer in Detroit that presaged a humiliating sweep.)
Unless Hal Steinbrenner is just being especially cheap, the Yankees are clearly playing salary/roster spot shuffle in anticipation of other Trade Deadline moves. I’m not a fan of Steinbrenner treating the CBT threshold as a hard cap when he obviously has the money to go over and not even think about the lost Benjamins, but, well, that’s the game he’s playing. They’ve been hoisted by their own petard, as they signed Wilson and the out-for-season Darren O’Day in the first place because they thought they were getting creative in unloading Adam Ottavino’s contract to Boston. Instead:
Adam Ottavino, a previous #Yankees bullpen cap casualty, has a 3.27 ERA for a 1st-place BOS team. NY essentially replaced Ottavino with Justin Wilson and Darren O'Day, who are both now gone.— Gary Phillips (@GaryHPhillips) July 28, 2021
Even given that Yankees rally against Ottavino on Saturday ... whoops.
We’ll see what comes next, but for now, best of luck to Cessa. And, uh, Wilson seems like a nice fella, so I hope he has a nice life. Let’s leave it at that.