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On prospects, playing time, and repeating past mistakes

Can the Yankees apply the lessons learned from their handling of Andújar and Frazier to their current top prospects, including Peraza and Pereira?

Washington Nationals v New York Yankees Photo by New York Yankees/Getty Images

It was the winter of 2018. Miguel Andújar was just coming off a runner-up AL Rookie of the Year finish after breaking Joe DiMaggio’s Yankees rookie record by clubbing 47 doubles. Meanwhile, Clint Frazier was striving for a permanent spot on the major league roster, gaining national attention for his legendary bat speed. Fast-forward to the start of the 2023 season. Oswald Peraza earned a spot in the spring training competition to win the starting shortstop job by batting .306 with a 147 wRC+ in 18 games at the end of the previous season while Everson Pereira was turning heads by posting some of the highest exit velocities of any player in the minors.

The parallels between the two pairs of players are apparent. Despite the similarities in the almost mythic retelling of Frazier’s and Pereira’s bat speed, Frazier is actually the more appropriate analog for Peraza. Both experienced success in spurts in their first tastes of the bigs, but neither was given sufficient opportunity to stick in the majors. Both saw their development halted as a result, Frazier never regaining form becoming of his top-prospect pedigree while worries that the same could happen to Peraza are already creeping in. Injuries (and a terrible swing) prevented Andújar from fully realizing his potential while Pereira was in retrospect nowhere close to ready to face big league pitching, as evidenced by his .151 average, 38.8-percent strikeout rate, 43.1-percent whiff rate, and 23 wRC+ in 103 plate appearances last season.

Andújar and Clint still had value in the years leading up to their final seasons in pinstripes, albeit depressed relative to their respective high points. Unfortunately, both found playing time hard to come by for multiple seasons — Andújar missed almost all of 2019 to shoulder surgery and was never the same player while Frazier struggled for years with concussion symptoms — and correspondingly saw their value tank.

Despite this, the Yankees continued to hold onto the pair well beyond their expiration dates, clinging to a shred of hope that they could partially rebuild their value, but ultimately both were designated for assignment. Holding on to a player rather than cutting one’s losses, only to be forced to let him walk for nothing after missing the boat on some compensation is foolish. Getting zero return, either on the field or via trade, from your top position player prospects is not a sound model.

New York Yankees v Detroit Tigers - Game Two Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images

What’s more, a worrying recent trend has befallen the Yankees — one that has seen almost every top position player prospect not named Aaron Judge witness their hit tool degrade upon establishing in the majors. For many in the current crop of prospects, their greatest value to the organization may be as part of a trade for proven MLB contributors.

Therefore, I would urge the Yankees to be mindful of the mistakes made with Andújar and Frazier when deciding how to proceed with Peraza and Pereira. I’m not demanding that management trade away their top prospects on a whim just for the sake of trading them (and no two prospects of any generation are exactly alike), but I’d also hope they now understand the pitfalls of holding on to a talented young player well beyond the point of having value to other teams. Remember, Andújar was the stumbling block that prevented the Yankees from acquiring Gerrit Cole prior to the 2018 season. Granted, Cole likely would not be the pitcher he is today if not for the two-year detour to the Brent Strom-led Astros pitching staff, but the point remains.

The common refrain warns against trading a player whose trade value is at a relative nadir. Give that player time to prove it again on the field, hopefully rebuilding some of that value to reap a better return. Well, we saw how that played out with Andújar and Frazier. Both were given (admittedly sporadic) opportunity to re-earn their starting jobs, only to stink up the joint to the point of being unplayable, failing to recoup even an ounce of their previous value.

The Yankees have an opportunity to improve their team this winter in advance of the 2024 season. Starting pitching stands out as the most pressing need, and to that end the team has been linked in trade talks for Dylan Cease, Corbin Burnes, Shane Bieber, and an assortment of young Marlins arms. While I’m certainly not suggesting that a package centered around Peraza and Pereira would be close to enough of a return for most if not all of those players, I would hate to see the Yankees repeat the mistakes of the past by allowing either prospect to be a sticking point in future negotiations.