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Yankees Trade Partner History: Washington Nationals

Trades between New York and Washington have run the gamut between World Series winners and utter disappointments.

New York Yankees Photo by Ronald C. Modra/Getty Images

The Yankees and Nationals (née Expos) do not have the same storied trade history as some of the other trade partners we have covered in this series. Business between the two clubs has been limited mostly to one team purchasing a player off the other’s roster. However, two trades at the end of the millennium netted the Yankees a pair of players who had outsized influence on a pair of World Series titles.

Best Trade

April 5, 1995: The Expos trade John Wetteland to the Yankees for Fernando Seguignol.

I seriously hesitated to include one of the most despicable humans to play in MLB under the “best trade” heading, but the lack of movement between the two franchises and his contributions to winning a World Series forced me to nominate the 1995 trade for Wetteland in this section.

The Yankees and Expos were facing starkly different scenarios entering the 1994-1995 offseason. New York had a cadre of young talent coming through the pipeline but a seriously compromised bullpen. The Expos on the other hand had a roster stocked with veteran talent that stormed the league in 1994. However, with the season cut short by the strike, the perennially penny-pinching ownership demanded a fire sale of the team’s best contributors to avoid short-term cash flow issues. Therefore, as part of teardown that sent Larry Walker, Ken Hill, and Marquis Grissom to new homes, the Yankees acquired Wetteland for minor leaguer Seguignol.

Wetteland had established himself as one of the better closers in the league, amassing 105 saves in three years in Montreal. With Mariano Rivera not yet establishing himself as an elite reliever, New York had a serious shortage of high-leverage arms and so took advantage of the fire sale to acquire Wetteland for pennies on the dollar. He made 60 appearances in his debut season in the Bronx, converting 31 saves with a 2.93 ERA before leading the AL with 43 saves in 1996, pitching to a 2.83 ERA in 62 appearances totaling 63.2 innings. He became the first pitcher to record four saves in a Fall Classic, winning World Series MVP as the Yankees captured their first title in 18 years.

In 2019, Wetteland was arrested on child sex abuse charges. The prosecution filed a motion to dismiss the case in 2023 following a mistrial late in 2022 and an uncertain jury.

Worst Trade

December 16, 2003: The Yankees trade Nick Johnson, Juan Rivera, and Randy Choate to the Expos for Javier Vazquez.

Nick Johnson was one of the most highly touted position player prospects of his time, and started his career slashing .256/.377/.424 with 31 home runs, 113 RBI, and a 118 wRC+ in 248 games between 2001 and 2003. Rivera was a seldom-used bench bat, appearing in only 88 games between ‘01 and ‘03 while Choate was a mop-up reliever who pitched to a 4.43 ERA in 82 appearances totaling 91.1 innings between 2000 and 2003. The Expos meanwhile continued to skimp on payroll, losing Vladimir Guerrero in free agency before trading staff ace Vazquez to the Yankees following the ‘03 season.

Vazquez had established himself as one of the best starters in baseball at the turn of the millennium, with four straight seasons posting an fWAR of 4.6 or better. Between 2000 and 2003, only Randy Johnson (30.5), Pedro Martinez (29.7), Curt Schilling (26.8), and Mike Mussina (24.0) accrued more fWAR than Vazquez (21.9), with Vazquez tossing the third-most innings (902.1) of any pitcher during that span to go along with a 3.65 ERA and 3.47 FIP.

The wheels fell off in the Bronx. A mostly-solid first half earned him an All-Star nod, but the home stretch was a disaster. Javy pitched to a 6.92 ERA with an .846 OPS allowed across his final 14 starts, and a bad outing against the Twins in the Division Series booted the newcomer from the rotation. The final cherry on top saw Vazquez get bombed for a pair of Johnny Damon homers, including a back-breaking grand slam, dooming New York in Game 7 of the 2004 ALCS against the Red Sox.

Red Sox v Yankees Game 7 Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

Somehow, the Yankees felt compelled to trade for Javy again in 2010, when he’d have an even worse go of it than the first time around.

Most Overlooked Trade

December 22, 1999: The Yankees trade Hideki Irabu to the Expos for Jake Westbrook and players to be named later. The Expos send Ted Lilly on March 17, 2000, and Christian Parker on March 22, 2000 to the Yankees to complete the trade.

Hideki Irabu experienced a tumultuous Yankees career while fighting an internal fight against personal demons. His tenure came to an end after three seasons in which he won a pair of World Series rings but also pitched to a 4.80 ERA and 4.97 FIP in 74 appearances totaling 395.2 innings, with the Yankees trading him to the Expos for young pitcher Jake Westbrook and a PTBNL.

Westbrook made only three appearances for New York, allowing 10 earned runs in just 6.2 innings (13.50 ERA) before being dealt to Cleveland alongside Zach Day and Ricky Ledee for three-time All-Star and two-time Silver Slugger David Justice. Westbrook would go on to earn an All-Star nod in 2004 and win a World Series with the Cardinals in 2011, but Justice’s contributions to the 2000 championship run render the pitcher a footnote in fans’ minds. Justice came up huge for New York in the ALCS against the Mariners, slugging a pair of home runs and a pair of doubles while driving in eight, his three-run home run in the seventh off Arthur Rhodes the decisive blow to send the Yankees to their third-straight World Series while also garnering ALCS MVP honors.

That trade has continued to pay dividends in ripple effects down the road by the way. Just ask Aaron Judge.

Weirdest Trade

December 7, 2009: The Yankees trade Brian Bruney to the Nationals for a player to be named later. The Nationals send Jamie Hoffmann on December 10, 2009, to the Yankees to complete the trade.

Bruney was a perfectly serviceable reliever for the Yankees, pitching to a 3.25 ERA (140 ERA+) in a 153 appearances totaling 144 innings between 2006 and 2009. However, the Yankees apparently had their eye on players who could be moved in the upcoming Rule 5 Draft. Indeed, after selecting Hoffmann from the Dodgers with first overall pick in the draft, the Nationals immediately sent him to the Bronx as the PTBNL. New York soon determined that they had no use for outfielder, deciding not to add him to the 40-man roster and instead sent him back to the Dodgers.

Other Trades of Note

April 5, 1982. The Yankees trade Brad Gulden to the Expos for Bobby Ramos.
October 26, 1982. The Yankees purchase Brad Gulden from the Expos.
November 3, 1982. The Expos purchase Bobby Ramos from the Yankees.

Gulden already had the distinction as one of four players to be traded for himself, the Yankees trading him to the Mariners in 1980 for Larry Milbourne and a player to be named later. Seattle sent Gulden back to the Yankees as the PTBNL. Two years later, the Yankees traded Gulden to the Expos for Ramos in a swap of catchers, only for both teams to purchase the respective players back at the end of the season.

December 4, 2007: The Nationals trade Jonathan Albaladejo to the Yankees for Tyler Clippard.

In a seemingly minor swap of young arms, the Yankees gave away Clippard at the outset of what turned into quite a nice 16-year career that featured a pair of All-Star appearances for the ascendant early-2010s Nationals (he even briefly reappeared in New York for a calendar year from July 2016-17). Albaladejo technically gets to call himself a 2009 World Series champion, but the 34.1 innings he threw of 5.24 ERA, 5.81 FIP ball were the most he ever tallied in an MLB season. The Nats got the better of the Yanks here, no doubt.

St Louis Cardinals v Washington Nationals - Game Five Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

Previously in the Trade Partner History series

Boston Red Sox
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