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Yankees Trade Partner History: Texas Rangers

One of the best players of all time found his way from Texas to New York 20 years ago next month.

Texas Rangers v Boston Red Sox Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images

The Texas Rangers have hooked up with the Yankees for 27 trades since joining the American League as the second version of the Washington Senators in 1962. In this case, the best and worst are near-shoo-ins. The best trade brought a possible future Monument Park resident to the Bronx, and the worst set Yankee Stadium ablaze with some of the worst booing ever seen.

Some movers and shakers have changed hands between these two teams, so let’s take a look at the best, worst, weirdest, and most overlooked of those trades.

Best Trade

February 16, 2004: The Rangers trade Alex Rodriguez and cash to the Yankees for a player to be named later and Alfonso Soriano. The Yankees sent Joaquín Arias (April 23, 2004) to the Texas Rangers to complete the trade.

Shortly before the 2004 season began, Yankees third baseman Aaron Boone tore up his knee in a pickup basketball game. The front office suddenly had a position to fill, and they took a big swing on a trade for the reigning AL MVP. Alex Rodriguez was the biggest star in the sport, and the trade was unprecedented in scale (though the Red Sox came close with the same guy mere months prior). It was the biggest transfer of cash in MLB history, and A-Rod even agreed to slide over to the hot corner since Derek Jeter—for better or for worse—wasn’t about to be asked to move off shortstop.

When the deal was finalized, George Steinbrenner drew parallels to the acquisition of Reggie Jackson, which somehow ended up as a disservice to Rodriguez in a way. Jackson put up a total of 18.2 fWAR in his five seasons with the Yankees. Rodriguez put up 34.9 fWAR in his first five Yankee seasons from 2004-08, notching two more MVPs before putting on his own Mr. October-esque show en route to a World Series title in 2009.

The Rangers previously inked A-Rod to an industry-shaking 10-year, $252 million deal, of which $179 million remained at the time of the trade. Brian Cashman persuaded Rodriguez’s former team to put up $67 million to further offset the contract coming onto the books (A-Rod later signed another 10-year deal after opting out in 2007). In return, the Rangers received Alfonso Soriano and a player to be named later. For the latter, Baseball America reported the four options the Yankees gave: pitcher Ramon Ramirez, outfielder Rudy Guillen, shortstop Arias, and a young second baseman by the name of Robinson Canó. Fortunately, the Rangers chose Arias.*

*Fun/harrowing fact: Arias’ son was just signed by the Rangers as an international free agent. We are slowly turning to dust.

Had Texas chosen Canó, this may have retrospectively been one of the most hotly-debated trades in recent memory. Soriano was a Top 100 Yankee in his own right coming off back-to-back All-Star appearances, and in fact made five straight after that, two of those with the Rangers. He actually later returned to play with A-Rod in New York in 2013.

Although Yankees’ fans had a love-hate relationship with A-Rod and still do, he gave his all to the franchise and has expressed contrition for his previous immaturity. He’ll show up in the upper echelon of our Top 100 Yankees series, and this was the trade that started it all.

Worst Trade

July 29, 2021: The Yankees trade Ezequiel Duran, Glenn Otto, Trevor Hauver, and Josh H. Smith to the Rangers for Joey Gallo, Joely Rodríguez, and cash.

This was an instant classic of bad trades. It was clear within weeks that Gallo wouldn’t succeed in New York. Gallo arrived with a 136 wRC+ on the year, and Yankee fans were prepared for his boom-or-bust style. Even so, in his 140 games in pinstripes, he hit .160. There is no humanly possible amount of extra-base hits to offset that — as his 89 wRC+ will attest.

Fans who tuned in at the same all remember how horrid it was to watch the boos rain down on Gallo mercilessly. The New York Post checked in on Gallo in July 2023, now with the Twins, and he had this to say:

“I’ll probably never have a chance to play for the Yankees again,’’ Gallo said. “That was my opportunity, and now I’m known as the guy who [f–king] sucked for the Yankees. That part is tough, and I have to live with that for the rest of my career and the rest of my life, really.”

Harrowing stuff, and just a genuine bummer all-around.

On the other side, the Rangers turned their return into near immediate big-league contributors. Ezequiel Duran was the headliner and received rave reviews for his power stroke in the minors. He went on a tear in midsummer 2023 for the eventual champions, though he proved a bit streaky by cooling down late in the season. Hauver, an afterthought at the time, is developing well in Double-A but hasn’t taken the next step quite yet. Otto pitched for the Rangers until September 2023 when he was claimed by the Padres, and Smith has mostly been a utilityman without much punch. Still, there was talent here at the time, and the Yankees could’ve cashed in their minor-league trade chips more wisely.

It’s also important to note the Yankees flipped Gallo for Dodgers prospect Clayton Beeter, who is now on the Triple-A pitching staff and knocking at the door of the majors. So there is that small silver lining, at least.

Most Overlooked Trade

April 2, 2022: The Yankees trade Albert Abreu and Robby Ahlstrom to the Rangers for Jose Trevino.

It’s easy to forget that the Yankees’ starting catcher was acquired on the cheap for basically nothing. Trevino was a respected defensive catcher when he came over, but the bat was nonexistent in Texas. That changed quickly during his torrid first half of 2022, leading to an All-Star nod. The bat cooled off in the second half and his 2023 was hampered by injuries, but with Kyle Higashioka gone, Trevino will be the unquestioned full-time starting catcher (possibly with Austin Wells backing up). The pitching staff believes strongly in him and his cerebral approach has been lauded by many, as in 2022, he became the first Yankees player to win the Platinum Glove — and their first Gold Glove catcher since Thurman Munson.

Amusingly, Abreu quickly found his way back to the Yankees after flaming out in Texas and Kansas City. Ahlstrom struggled in Single-A in 2023. Cashman saw something in Trevino, and he was proven right. The catcher from Texas will be part of the Yankees’ immediate future and is making $2.73 million in his second year of arbitration.

Weirdest Trade

August 1, 2016: The Yankees trade Carlos Beltrán to the Rangers for Nick Green, Erik Swanson, and Dillon Tate.

Beltrán played 99 games for the Yankees before the deadline and compiled a 134 wRC+ that, even on paper, looked unsustainable (All-Star berth notwithstanding). Still, Cashman found a landing spot for the soon-to-be free agent at the same time he was also unloading Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller. Beltrán sported a .321 BABIP at the time of the trade, and indeed plummeted to an average offensive player the remainder of the season. Texas got swept in the 2016 ALDS, which was their last playoff appearance for seven years.

Green has bounced around the minors in the ensuing seven years, though Tate and Swanson both found major league success. The Yankees actually traded Tate in 2018 for closer Zack Britton, and flipped Swanson the same year as part of a package for James Paxton. So, solid prospect capital acquired in a losing year and put to good use. It’s somehow a better outcome than the Miller return, that’s for sure.

San Francisco Giants v New York Yankees Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

This begs the question of why the Rangers would trade three prospects for a 39-year-old DH and trust him to maintain high-level performance after 100 games. Teams hungry at the deadline will do a lot, as evidenced by the Gallo trade. Beltrán went on to play for the Astros in 2017, won a World Series, retired, got named Mets manager in November 2019, and ... well, it’s gotten complicated since then.

Other Trades of Note

August 14, 1980: The Rangers trade Gaylord Perry to the Yankees for a player to be named later and Ken Clay. The Yankees sent Marv Thompson (October 1, 1980) to the Rangers to complete the trade.

If you forgot that Hall of Famer Gaylord Perry ever pitched for the Yankees, you’d be excused. It was brief! The 41-year-old spitball specialist didn’t contribute much and wasn’t used as the Royals swept the Yankees in that year’s ALCS. Clay and Thompson at least made it a wash.

November 10, 1978: The Yankees trade Sparky Lyle, Mike Heath, Larry McCall, Dave Rajsich, Domingo Ramos, and cash to the Rangers for Juan Beníquez, Mike Griffin, Paul Mirabella, Greg Jemison, and Dave Righetti.

This would also have a good argument for best trade, and if you’re not a fan of A-Rod’s, you might prefer it. The former Yankees relief ace Lyle was disgruntled for all of ‘78 after being unceremoniously replaced as closer by free agent addition Goose Gossage, so as teammate Graig Nettles said, Lyle went “from Cy Young to sayonara.” A lot of players changed hands here, but the Yankees struck gold with Righetti, the 10th overall pick in 1977’s draft.

“Rags” would join Lyle and Gossage on the Top 100 Yankees after winning AL Rookie of the Year in ‘81, twirling a no-hitter in ‘83, and becoming an All-Star closer.

April 21, 1963: The Washington Senators trade Steve Hamilton to the Yankees for Jim Coates.

In just the second trade ever between the two teams, they swapped pitchers in a seemingly unremarkable deal at the time. Hamilton would go on to make a home in the Yankees bullpen from 1963-69. The “folly floater” specialist appeared as a reliever in over 250 games in pinstripes during one of the most crucial decades of Yankees history. Coates didn’t do much of anything for the then-Senators.

Los Angeles Dodgers v New York Yankees 1963 World Series Photo by Herb Scharfman/Sports Imagery/Getty Images

Previously in the Trade Partner History series

San Francisco Giants
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