I have a soft spot for the Colorado Rockies. I think following and writing about such an analytically-inclined organization like the Yankees drives a desire to also follow a purely vibes-based franchise, and no club makes decisions on vibes quite like the Rockies. Wanna sign Kris Bryant? Sure man. Wanna make absolutely no trades for an entire calendar year? If that’s what you want, go for it.
This go-with-the-flow attitude means that very few teams have an extensive trade history with Colorado, but New York has paired up with them enough times to get a couple deals done.
November 20, 1995: The Yankees trade Mike DeJean to the Rockies for Joe Girardi.
Mike DeJean actually had a 10-year MLB career, with an above-average ERA+ and at points a very effective relief piece. His 1997 in particular saw an eye-watering 171 ERA+ over 59 appearances, not bad at all.
Joe Girardi counters.
This was a Don Zimmer special, as Girardi was a favorite of his when he managed the Cubs and then again when he coached for the then-expansion Rockies from 1993-95. The new Yankees bench coach encouraged the front office to pick up Girardi and the rest is history.
Girardi wasn’t actually all that great as a Yankee. He was a solid enough defending catcher for the 1996 champions and semi-backup for the winning clubs in ‘98 and ‘99. He probably still got a few too many starts over the ascendant Jorge Posada post-’96, but even then, trading a relief pitcher for a guy who can give you a hit that in many ways kicked off a dynasty is worth it every time. His introduction to the organization also, in a way, helped lead to 2009 as well.
There really isn’t a “worst” trade between these teams. There’s that saying that if you never gamble, you’ll never win, and that’s been a huge part of the Rockies’ philosophy over the last 25 years or so. Obviously, the Nolan Arenado Affair ended in disaster for Colorado fans, but the team just doesn’t do much of anything. The 13 trades between the two franchises are a litany of players to be named later, minor purchases, and a couple of deals that saw the Yankees on the winning side.
Most Underrated Trade
March 23, 2019: The Rockies trade Mike Tauchman to the Yankees for Phillip Diehl.
The Yankees benefitted from the Rockies’ org tremendously ahead of the 2019 season. They signed DJ LeMahieu as a free agent, who went on to post a 136 OPS+ in his first season in pinstripes. A throwaway trade for Tauchman followed, and Mike would be one of the faces of the “next man up” philosophy of that division winning squad.
Used mostly as a platoon outfielder, Tauchman posted a SLG north of .500 (!) and worth nearly three wins in just 296 plate appearances. Not only was he a plus hitter, he chipped in on defense too:
Tauchman was never this good again, struggling in the COVID-shortened 2020 season and dealt midway through 2021 to San Fransisco. A bit of a bounceback came last year, notching two wins with a 107 wRC+, but the peak of the Sock Man was that terrific, perhaps inexplicable, 2019.
January 3, 2001: The New York Yankees traded Seth Taylor (minors) and Jay Tessmer to the Colorado Rockies for David Lee.
The Yankees get something out of this deal, but it came in a roundabout way. Lee never pitched a single inning for the Bombers, dealt two months after acquisition to the Padres. New York got Carlos Almánzar in that transaction, and while he only appeared in 10 games for the AL pennant, he did post a 137 ERA+ in that spa — albeit with one spectacular primetime Subway Series blow-up against the Mets mixed in.
Other Trades of Note
Like I said above, there just isn’t much activity with the Rockies, and that’s not unique to the Yankees. New York has purchased a couple actual names from Colorado, Reid Brignac in 2013 and Chris Capuano in 2014, but both deals weren’t very fruitful. The forgettable Brignac lodged a .270 OPS across 45 plate appearances, manning shortstop alongside fellow erstwhile Rockie Jayson Nix.
Cap, meanwhile, was something close to average in his 2014 stint, with a 90 ERA+ — could be better! — and doing enough to be brought back on a one-year, $5 million deal. That deal was a d i s a s t e r, as Capuano was booted out of the rotation early in the 2015 season, DFA’d four different times throughout the campaign, and ended the year with a 7.97 ERA.
Previously in the Trade Partner History series
Editor’s note: And with that bit of Rockies weirdness, our Trade Partner History series has come to a close! Thanks for following along in January with us and be sure to check out the other teams in the “Full list to date” link above in case you missed any. It’s been a fun offseason exercise for us to revisit all of the Yankees’ blockbusters, misses, and everything else in between. Here’s to the next heist.