Editor’s note: Our “25 Smartest Moves of the Past 25 Moves” series might have concluded, but with the lockout still in force, we thought that it would be fun to take a week to shout out five other savvy transactions that just barely missed the cut of the top 25 vote. Enjoy!
After 1997, it had become clear that the Yankees’ acquisition of Kenny Rogers had not worked. They had signed him as a free agent ahead of 1996 after Rogers made his first All-Star team in ‘95. While Rogers helped the Yankees win a ring in 1996, he was only average during the season, and his longest outing of the playoffs was when he got knocked out after three innings in an ALCS start. In 1997, he was bad, and the press attention garnered from his struggles didn’t help.
After the year, the Yankees found a landing spot for Rogers, trading him to Oakland. In return, the Athletics gave up just a player to be named later. That player to be named later ended up being just what the Yankees needed to help add to the 1998 championship and become a genuine dynasty.
Trade Details: Kenny Rogers to OAK; Cash and a player to be named later (Scott Brosius) to NYY
Transaction Date: November 7, 1997; Brosius named PTBNL on November 18, 1997
NYY stats (1998-2001): 540 games, 2,129 PA, .267/.331/.428, 65 HR, 94 OPS+, 97 wRC+, 8.7 fWAR
Going to New York as the PTBNL would be Oakland’s third baseman/utility man Brosius. A seven-year MLB veteran, Brosius had only played over 100 games in a season for the first time in 1995, and responded by putting up very solid hitting numbers in ‘95 and ‘96. However, those numbers then fell off a cliff in ‘97, as he put up a 50 wRC+ and got into the negatives in WAR according to FanGraphs. Between that and the fact that Oakland had highly-rated third base prospect Eric Chavez coming through, Brosius was suddenly expendable for the A’s.
Meanwhile, the Yankees had an opening at third base. The Yankees opted against picking up Wade Boggs’ option, ending his tenure with the team. When Brosius was made official, the Yankees got someone for that spot who had recently been pretty good. However, even if he couldn’t bounce back from the ‘97 season, they got someone capable of backing up a couple different positions.
As it turned out, Brosius would very much bounce back from the ‘97 campaign.
After a slow April, Brosius came alive as the weather heated up, hitting .328/.404/.539 over May and June. Those numbers and the fact that he had been part of a Yankees’ team that went 61-20 in the first half saw Brosius get named to his first ever All-Star team in 1998. He continued to play well over the rest of the season, finishing third on the team among position players in fWAR with 5.0. However, his most memorable contributions in that season were still yet to come.
Brosius was good in both the ALDS and ALCS as the Yankees won both to return to the World Series, where they would face off against the Padres. After a mostly quiet Game 1, he went 3-for-5 in Game 2, driving home one run as part of a three-run first inning as the Yankees went up 2-0 in the series.
The series then shifted out to San Diego, where the Padres threatened to fight their way back into the series. San Diego took a 3-0 lead in the seventh inning of Game 3 when Brosius took center stage.
Leading off the seventh inning, Brosius homered off Sterling Hitchcock, getting the Yankees on the board, which would partly lead to the NLCS MVP getting removed a couple batters later. An error got the Yankees another run, getting them within one run of the Padres going into the eighth inning.
After Paul O’Neill drew a leadoff walk in the eighth, San Diego brought in future Hall of Fame closer Trevor Hoffman, who quickly bounced back to record the first out of the inning. However after another walk, Brosius came to the plate and wrote his name into Yankees’ playoff lore.
He took a 2-2 Hoffman pitch to center field for a three-run home run, giving the Yankees their first lead of the day. They eventually won the game 5-4, going up 3-0 in the series. In Game 4, Brosius added an RBI single to his tally with the Yankees up just 1-0 in the eighth inning. They finished off that game as well, completing both the sweep and one of the most memorable seasons for a team in baseball history. Brosius was named World Series MVP for his Game 3 heroics and his series stat line of going 8-for-17 with two home runs and six RBI.
In wake of this exceptional season, GM Brian Cashman had to make a tough decision. The Yankees had a talented third base prospect named Mike Lowell in their system and he even debuted in 1998, but it would’ve been hard to let Brosius walk away in free agency after his exceptional season (not to mention his Fall Classic highlights). So they decided to re-sign Brosius to a three-year, $15.75 million contract while they still had exclusive negotiating rights in early November. Lowell was shipped to the Marlins in February for three pitching prospects who didn’t pan out, and he would eventually make Cashman rue the trade.
Nonetheless, having Brosius as a championship contributor was a nice consolation prize. He never quite reached an All-Star level again after 1998, but he remained a solid piece for the Yankees as they added World Series titles in both 1999 and 2000. He earned a Gold Glove for his defense during the 1999 campaign and bounced back from a down year with a 2.2 fWAR season in 2001 — all while also providing some more postseason heroics.
In Game 5 of the 2001 World Series, the Yankees were down to their last out, trailing 2-0 and on the verge of going down 3-2 in the series. After winning in dramatic fashion the day before, Brosius continued that trend with a two-run home run to tie the game. The Yankees won the game to go up 3-2 and get on the verge of a fourth-consecutive World Series. It’s unclear what happened after that, there were conflicting reports.
After the season, Brosius announced his retirement. He’s spent the years since coaching baseball at various levels, including at the MLB level as the Mariners’ third base coach in 2018.
The other side of the deal, Rogers, went on to resume a very good MLB career after the trade, and even got back at the Yankees in the 2006 ALDS. However, the move was an unmitigated success, as Brosius helped turn the late ‘90s/early 2000s Yankees into a genuine dynasty.