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The under-the-radar acquisitions that helped save the Yankees’ season

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Though these moves were seen as minor at the time, they have paid off in huge ways.

MLB: New York Yankees at Boston Red Sox Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

While it’s true that a season is neither won nor lost at the trade deadline, impact acquisitions have the ability to completely change the narrative of a team. As the dust settled from one of the most hectic deadlines in recent memory, the Yankees’ biggest and most impactful additions came via the acquisitions of Anthony Rizzo and Joey Gallo. But sometimes, it’s the smaller deals that have an unexpectedly huge impact on a team. Brian Cashman and his team pulled off three such deals midseason.

The first was a late April move that saw Mike Tauchman flipped to the San Francisco Giants for reliever Wandy Peralta and first baseman Connor Cannon. At the time of the trade, Mike Tauchman was little more than a defensive/baserunning depth piece, and Wandy Peralta had pitched to a 4.72 ERA (94 ERA+) and 4.85 FIP across 192.2 career innings. While the move was largely seen to be of no consequence—in fact, I remember seeing fans bemoaning the fact that the team was parting with Tauchman—Peralta’s Statcast data, particularly his ability to avoid hard contact and get hitters to chase, was at least somewhat intriguing.

The second under-the-radar deal came on July 26th, when infield prospects Diego Castillo and Hoy Jun Park were swapped for Clay Holmes, a reliever from the Pirates that no one was really paying attention to, who had pitched to a career 5.57 ERA (76 ERA+) and 4.85 FIP. Much like Peralta, Holmes had some Statcast data that leapt off the page, including an elite ability to limit barrels and keep the ball in the park. He also threw a sinker that averaged out at 96 mph, so I’m sure that helped his case. The big question with Holmes, as it had been his entire career, was whether or not he could keep the ball in the strike zone.

Finally, the third piece came in a deal that in no way, shape, or form can be seen as under-the-radar. On July 29th, the Yankees acquired Joey Gallo and Joely Rodríguez from the Texas Rangers in exchange for prospects Josh Smith, Glenn Otto, Trevor Hauver, and Ezequiel Durán. Obviously, given the nature of this article, I’m talking about the guy who everyone thought was just a throw-in: Rodríguez. In 75 career innings for the Phillies and the Rangers, Rodríguez pitched to a 5.03 ERA and 4.35 FIP. Unlike both Peralta and Holmes, Rodríguez didn’t exactly have elite anything. He was, apparently, just another lefty reliever.

To really determine the value these three players have provided for the Yankees, let’s take a look at some of their career numbers before arriving in New York:

Now let’s look at what all three pitchers have done since being acquired by the Yankees:

The differences for all three of these relievers is night-and-day. According to ERA+, every single one of them has been well above league average, if not elite, in pinstripes. Though Rodríguez has remained mostly a lefty specialist (or as much of a specialist as you can be with the new three-batter minimum) for the Yankees, both Holmes and Peralta have pitched huge innings down the stretch for a team fighting tooth-and-nail to make the playoffs. That is massive, considering the fact that these were deals that most people didn’t particularly care about at the time.

We’ve already written great in-depth pieces about the adjustments that both Holmes and Peralta have made since coming to New York so I’m not going to belabor those points here, but will instead ask a hypothetical question: where would this team currently be without these under-the-radar deals?

Before the trade deadline, the Yankees saw Darren O’Day go down for the year, watched as Justin Wilson imploded before their eyes, forced us fans to watch Nick Nelson and Brooks Kriske pitch in major spots, and traded Luis Cessa and the aforementioned Wilson to the Reds. Since the trade deadline, the Yankees lost Zack Britton (who was having the worst season of his career, by the way) for the year, stood by as a COVID-19 outbreak took out a number of starters and relievers, saw Jonathan Loáisiga hit the injured list with a rotator cuff injury, and watched as Aroldis Chapman pitched through a gnarly fingernail issue, removed him from the closer role, and eventually saw him hit the injured list with elbow inflammation. Did I miss anything?

Between ineffectiveness from the likes of Britton and Wilson and injuries to Britton, Loáisiga, and O’Day, the Yankees needed to find guys that could cover a lot of innings. The trio of Perlata, Holmes, and Rodríguez stepped up and ate those innings, and the fact that they’ve come in and been extremely effective—Holmes, in particular, has been excellent, but Peralta and Rodriguez have both pitched very well in big spots over the last couple weeks—is an important cherry on top. And, as an added bonus, their presence has meant less appearances by Nelson and Kriske!

Cashman went out looking for bullpen help early on in the season and made it his goal to shore up some holes closer to the deadline. At the time, I think a lot of fans had the same reaction I had when I saw the names Wandy Peralta, Clay Holmes, and Joely Rodríguez pop up on my Twitter timeline: “Who?” Now, two months later and seeing all three of these guys pitch in massive spots during an unbelievably tight playoff race, I think it’s safe to say Cashman found bullpen help and then some.