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Yankees Mailbag: Successful past deals and current arrangements

Looking back on when the Yanks last landed a momentous trade and what they should do with their immediate future.

New York Yankees v Baltimore Orioles

Good afternoon everyone, it’s time to dive back into the mailbag and answer some of your questions. Remember to send in your questions for our weekly call by e-mail to pinstripealleyblog [at] gmail [dot] com.

Stephen M. asks: With Rizzo on the IL, Jake Bauers has gotten the majority of reps at first base. Does he have any experience at the position from the minors? I only ask because it seems a better alignment would be LeMahieu at first and Isiah Kiner-Falefa at third, with Bauers back in the outfield at his more natural position. What am I missing?

Bauers has considerable time spent at both positions throughout his career, essentially splitting time at both no matter where you look. The Padres did draft him as a first baseman, but as early as 2016 he’s gotten plenty of reps in the outfield for every start earned at first. Now, is his defense any good out there? No, not really, and we’ve already seen that earlier in the year, but Kiner-Falefa is a good third baseman and also not really a good outfielder, so I’d support an alignment that at least gets one of the now-regulars into a comfortable role.

jmack175 asks: If Gerrit Cole opts out - what are the different scenarios? Money to make a serious run at Ohtani (assuming he even would come to NY), or try to resign Cole? Could free agents like Snell or Nola be other options?

There’s a few ways that things could play out, but only one reasonable one. If Cole opts out of his contract the Yankees can essentially void his decision with an opt-in, tacking on an extra year as compensation. There’s no world where the Yankees wouldn’t jump to do so if Cole is exercising his contractual rights — he’s been the cornerstone of the pitching staff like Judge is for the offense, worth every penny of the deal he signed and has already probably produced enough to warrant the eventual decline in his later years. They won’t let him walk away.

Ed L. asks: For the last two years before his tenure with the Yankees, Carlos Rodón was a very good pitcher. Prior to that, however, his record for years was, to be kind, poor. So, is Rodón having a hard luck year or has he reverted to form?

The prevailing problem has been injuries holding back Rodón from ever truly ramping up this year. He was delayed a lot longer than most would’ve hoped for after his back issues kicked in during spring training, and he hasn’t looked right in most of the starts he made upon finally arriving. It’s too difficult to judge whether this year displayed any semblance of Rodón’s future assuming he can get healthy enough to pitch a full year because the sample size is small and it’s unclear whether he was even fully healthy for any of his starts.

Given how the medical drama of this team has played out this year, I’d hardly be confident in assuming he was close to 100 percent. Rather, he got close enough and the team needed pitching so badly that they went with it similar to how Judge is going to need surgery. Judge has been mostly successful in doing so, but that’s a rarity — mechanics for hitters and pitchers can go completely out of whack attempting to compensate, and given Rodón’s uncharacteristically wild control over this season I’d say there’s reason to bet that it’s affected him. We’ll see what he can do in 2024 before the pitchforks can be warranted, but his leeway next year will be tight due to all of the other disasters that have befallen the team in recent times.

Craig S. asks: In the wake of a long series of trades by Cash and Co. which have ranged from meh to truly bad over the past two years, I’ve lost all faith in the front office after standing by them for so many years. Apart from minor trades that turned out well (Clay Holmes, etc.), what was the last truly impactful trade that Cashman has made?

So first we have to define what we’re looking for: we’re glancing over the bargain bin swipes that Cashman has put effort into collecting over the years and looking at his record with the blockbusters and other major trades. The team has certainly benefitted from those unheralded moves, but it’s a fair ask to make — stealing away a guy or two is useful to building a team, but the big stars that you seek out have to deliver or else it’s going to reflect poorly on you as a GM.

Now, this becomes a little tricky because the Yankees haven’t been the team to make the flashy blockbuster deal for a while. That means that once we get past a couple of deals the timeline starts to jump way back. There’s one obvious candidate, that being Giancarlo Stanton’s deal from Miami, but I want to look past that one because it more or less fell into the team’s lap — The Marlins were desperate to move his salary but he had a no-trade clause that he wasn’t willing to move for anyone except four teams, and the other three would’ve had to move too much around to get him. If you want to stop there, that’s more than fair, but I want to dig a little deeper for the next answer.

That being said, I think my answer is the Granderson trade in the 2009-2010 offseason. It’s a clearly successful trade that brought in a star outfielder (though he didn’t stay around as long as they made have hoped, Grandy was a core member of the offense for several seasons). There’s the obvious flaw of missing out on the best player to move in said deal, that being Max Scherzer, but that was part of the moving pieces that the Yankees weren’t involved in one way or the other so it’s hard to argue that it was a failure to miss out on him.

I wouldn’t personally consider getting Granderson by himself a blockbuster, but the overall deal certainly was, and at the very least it was a major shakeup for the team. There were bigger names that moved on the pitching front that offseason, but Granderson’s bat was the best of the bunch to move. From then on they strayed away from these deals, and from big free agent signings, for a number of years until the Baby Bomber era and the Stanton trade. Getting Gleyber Torres for half a year of Aroldis Chapman was also certainly impactful, but I’m taking the intention of the assignment to be immediate additions to the team and Torres was a piece for the future that they got from selling. Thus, we have a decade of time between blockbusters that the Yankees won out on — not the most inspiring message for sure.