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Revisiting the Yankees’ trade deadline

Exploring the opportunity cost of one Frankie Montas.

Tampa Bay Rays v New York Yankees Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Y’know, I quite like Lou Trivino. Since coming to the Yankees, he’s shaved five runs off his ERA, now a sterling 1.74. Although his strikeouts are down and his walk rate up, that shocking home run rate has normalized and he’s worked his way into the circle of trust within the Yankee bullpen.

Scott Effross, when he’s been on the field, has been very effective, albeit only in 10 innings since being acquired. Andrew Benintendi got off to a rough start in the Bronx, but was turning a corner ... before getting hurt. Nobody has seen Frankie Montas in six weeks, and I’m only slightly exaggerating. Harrison Bader has made a real impact in the field and on the bases, despite pretty poor hitting, in the eight (!) games he’s played.

All of this is to ask, how do we feel about the trade deadline, now two months removed?

It’s hard to not apply simple hindsight to the deals made, especially Montas. The righty was supposed to come in and be the No. 2 arm in the rotation, or at worst 2A depending on how you slot Gerrit Cole and Nestor Cortes in. Instead he’s committed three cardinal sins — he’s been bad, with a 6.35 ERA as Yankee, he’s worked extremely slow, and he’s hurt. The injury, to his right shoulder, is the same type he already saw IL time for back in July.

Montas was never my first choice of trade piece, and the Yankees were backed into a corner by Cincinnati undervaluing their top prospects and the Angels not making Shohei Ohtani available. Carlos Rodón was the next best option, and as a likely rental the cost difference may have been negligible. This is what’s important when evaluating trades to me, not who the prospects become, but the opportunity cost of the prospect. You only get to trade Ken Waldichuk once, and you dealt him for a guy with existing shoulder problems and more of a project to finish than someone like Rodón, still running a sub-3 ERA and FIP on the year.

Andrew Benintendi is hurt too, but a broken hamate bone is different than a perhaps-chronically-injured shoulder. There are certain risks you assume when you play baseball — you can be hit by a pitch and break your wrist, and the only way to avoid that risk is to not play at all. The only way to be entirely, completely sure you’ll never break your hamate is to never swing a baseball bat.

Despite the freakishness of the injury, you could still argue the opportunity cost of acquiring Benny could have been best spent somewhere else — Oswaldo Cabrera, for example, has 10 more PA than Benintendi this year, been nearly as good a hitter, and by fWAR, exactly as valuable. There’s a real argument that the Yankees would be a little ahead by not trading for Benintendi, promoting Cabrera before August 17th, and using T.J. Sikkema (a favorite of the prospect heads on staff) and Beck Way in a different deal.

The Yankees almost always make a deadline deal for relief help, and for the most part they get those right. The two big deals, though, the ones that were supposed to make the biggest day-to-day impact for the club, have mostly been duds and the feature players may not actually appear in the postseason at all. The process was fair on the Benintendi thinking, although I’ll still quibble a better move could have been made, but it sure looks like they just got Frankie Montas wrong, and he better be a real contributor in 2023.