Do you listen to Bon Jovi on your cassette deck? Call your friends on a mobile phone the size of your arm? Are you reading this on a Commodore 64? No? Then stop judging the Yankees' front office based on a strategy they used in the 1980's. But Doug Drabek for Rick Rhoden! But Jay Buhner for Ken Phelps! Get over it. It doesn't happen anymore.
Throughout the month we've been running a lot of potential trade target posts here at Pinstripe Alley. On just about every one, particularly if the player in question is over 30 or in the final year of his contract, there's at least one comment that goes something like this: "The Yankees need to stop trading away all their young talent for rental players and old dudes." It's an odd thing to fret over because it's something that the Brian Cashman Yankees just about never do.
For the most part there are two types of Cashman trades. One is the long-term trade that involves giving up prized prospects, or some other valuable asset, but almost always for a player with several years of team control remaining. The Yankees did just that in December of 2009 when they shipped off Austin Jackson and Ian Kennedy for Curtis Granderson, who at the time was 29 and New York property through 2013. Jackson and Kennedy both became solid major leaguers, but Granderson hit 40 or more home runs in two of the four seasons that Cashman acquired, all for a sub-market $38.75 million. In early 2012, Cashman dealt top prospect Jesus Montero for a then 23-year-old Michael Pineda, who the Yankees would own for at least five more seasons (his lost years have delayed his free agency to 2018). It's taken a while for that trade to be worth much for either side, but the way Pineda's thrown now that he's finally healthy is making it seem like quite the win for New York. Last off-season, Cashman brought in more players with multiple pre-free agent years left in Nathan Eovaldi, Chasen Shreve and Didi Gregorius.
The other and more common Cashman deal is the dumpster dive, where the Yankees take on an undesirable contract or a struggling player while giving up only fringe prospects and spare parts. We've witnessed plenty of these in the past couple of years with guys like Martin Prado, Chase Headley, Brandon McCarthy and Alfonso Soriano joining the Yanks for the likes of Peter O'Brien, Yangervis Solarte, Vidal Nuno and Corey Black. These moves, of course, have brought mixed results, but that's alright because the risk is so minimal. Some fans complain now about the 2010 Lance Berkman acquisition because of the success Mark Melancon and Jimmy Paredes are having this year, but that deal was a safe one, too. Melancon is a reliever, which the Yankees have had a lot of success in developing and his limited work in the American League has been poor. Paredes was subsequently given the boot by two other organizations and is only first making an impact in the majors now at age 26. Cashman's flagship bargain swipe came in 2006, when he got Bobby Abreu, his hefty contract, and the late Cory Lidle in a deal structured around failed first round pick C.J. Henry.
In the glory days of the late 90's, the Yankees, did on occasion make mid-season deals to bring in older and rental players that cost them top-100 prospects and the results were always pretty good. To help them win the wildcard in 1995 they gave up Marty Janzen for David Cone. A year later, Cecil Fielder cost them Matt Drews. Ricky Ledee and Jake Westbrook were enough to save a flailing 2000 season with David Justice and Denny Neagle's price was Jackson Melian and quarterback Drew Hensen. Back then the Yankees could afford to be a little more free-wheeling with their prospects, first, because they self-scouted well enough to know those prospects weren't very good and second, because they had unflappable faith in their ability to re-sign guys like Cone thanks to their financial advantage and big city cache. Now that there's more competition for free agents and the internet age has made New York less of a necessity for players looking to build their brand, they need to be a bit more careful.
It's fun to talk about possible deals for David Price and Johnny Cueto but would the Yankees surrender their best minor leaguers for just a couple of months of either? Probably not. Cashman is a prospect hugger at heart and he's gained more control than ever under Hal Steinbrenner's stewardship. It isn't that the temptation is never there. Cashman did almost trade Montero for a Cliff Lee rental until he got cold feet at the potential inclusion of Eduardo "the ball jumps off his bat" Nunez. That move probably would have gotten the Yankees at least into the World Series in 2010, though it's hard to complain now that Pineda is tossing gas and Lee hasn't thrown a pitch this season. Still, if the team does make a big splash before the 31st, it's much more likely to be for someone who will be around for a while.