The dust is finally settling after an explosive MLB trade deadline that involved the Yankees as well as some of their closest competitors. Let's take a look at the impact of all these moves to the Yankees, Clint Eastwood-style.
The Yankees improved their team. In the deals leading up to the deadline and just minutes before the deadline past, they acquired solid players that deserve an everyday starting gig to replace spare parts that weren't getting the job done. Chase Headley, Martin Prado, and Stephen Drew can all hold their own at the plate and with the glove. The Yankees were starved for players that could do that consistently outside of Brett Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury. On top of the lineup help, they also brought in a league average starting pitcher in Brandon McCarthy. Another welcome addition to a starting rotation that can't get healthy.
The trades that brought these guys in also didn't require any major prospects to be shipped out. In fact, some of these trades helped clear some dead weight from the roster. Most Yankee fans probably would have paid good money to never see Vidal Nuno, Brian Roberts, or Kelly Johnson play in pinstripes again and now that's a reality. In the case of Nuno and Johnson, the Yankees even got something of value in return for their departure. Cashman may still wield a ninja sword after all.
While Cashman can still swing that sword, it may need a little sharpening. The four players added to the roster are good enough to start on this team, but that's not saying much. The Yankees are lucky to be above .500 right now and need a lot more help than the marginal improvements made in these deals if they want to be a playoff contender. These trades also continue two disturbing trends that the Yankees have become accustomed to over the past few years. First, they are all on the wrong side of 30 and at best will serve as just a band aid for this year and/or next. Secondly, they are asking Drew and Prado to play positions that they have never played at the major league level (unless you count Prado's two innings in right field five years ago). At least there's the comic relief aspect.
While the Yankees made small, short term moves, three other AL East teams either stockpiled some talent to improve the team over the next couple years (Red Sox, Rays) or made a move to improve their immediate chances at success (Orioles). This further marginalizes the Yankees modest improvement. Only the Blue Jays stood pat, but they are arguably the most talented team in the division at the moment.
The presence of Prado on the roster for next year also could make it even more difficult for Rob Refsnyder to break into the big leagues. If Brian Roberts was a more attractive option at second base to Cashman up to this point then Prado will look like Joe Morgan to him next year.
Speaking of Brian Roberts, the Yankees have shown all-around bad form when dealing with him this year. Signing him in the first place was a bad baseball decision. The injury prone 36 year old hadn't played meaningful baseball since 2009 and struggled to produce in the brief moments that he was healthy. Still, the Yankees made it clear that they were going to rely on him and only him to play second base in 2014. Surprisingly, he avoided injury and took his spot at the bottom of the lineup everyday. Unsurprisingly, his mediocre play left a lot to be desired. The Yankees turned a blind eye to this, though, and continued to run him into the ground, even as his play continued to deteriorate.
Just minutes before the deadline, the Yankees then found their replacement for Roberts in Stephen Drew. They fessed up to their mistake three months too late and finally designated Roberts for assignment. The problem is, they did this when Roberts was just two plate appearances away from reaching a $250,000 performance bonus. The timing of the move seems a bit cruel. The franchise curiously trusted him to start everyday, despite his limitations, until it was time for the likely last major payday of his career. This is the same franchise that has paid Ichiro Suzuki $13 million over the past two years to be one of the worst outfielders in major league baseball. Just another soulless move by a franchise that is starting to be defined by them.