Way back in 1997 the Yankees found themselves in the market for a second baseman late in the season. By mid-August they finally decided that the three-headed monster of Mariano Duncan, Pat Kelly and Luis Sojo wasn't going to cut it so they made a post deadline deal for Rey Sanchez. For his services they sent the awesomely named but utterly expandable minor league pitcher Frisco Parotte to the Cubs. The Count of Monte Frisco never made it passed high-A ball.
At 29, Sanchez was the definition of a serviceable player. From 1991 to 1996 his unassuming .264/.306/.325 slash line was just enough offense to get him regular playing time thanks to his exemplary glovework. He wasn't going to embarrass you but he wasn't going to stir the drink either. That was good enough for the Yankees who would do anything within their power to secure a playoff spot and defend their World Series title. Sanchez stepped right in as the everyday second baseman and paid immediate dividends. He started his Yankee career with a 10-game hitting streak and never looked back. In his 38 regular season games in pinstripes he slashed .312/.338/.420 and breathed life into the bottom of the lineup. The Yanks cruised back into the playoffs with 96 wins, albeit with a wild card berth behind the 98-win Orioles.
In an ALDS heavyweight matchup with the Indians, Sanchez was inconsequential. A series dominated by star power had little use for a light-hitting second baseman and the Yankees lost a heartbreaker in five games. During the offseason they made no effort to bring Sanchez back as they went all-in on perennial all-star Chuck Knoblauch. Ultimately, the Yankees couldn't have asked much more out of Sanchez. For a very modest investment they got quality production at a key position during their stretch run. That's what every contending team hopes for when they make trades late in the season.
Fast forward to 2015 and second base is again a question mark for the Yankees. The Stephen Drew experiment has not worked out, Brendan Ryan shouldn't be relied upon to hold down the everyday job, and the team is apparently unwilling to hand the keys to Rob Refsnyder for the balance of the season. Just before the trade deadline they acquired Dustin Ackley from the Mariners for a couple of expendable prospects, and if they're smart, they'll use him at second base much like they did Rey Sanchez 18 years ago. The former number two overall pick is coming to the Yankees as a utility player, but advanced defensive metrics agree that his natural position of second base is by far his best. For at least the remainder of the season, deploying him at the keystone everyday makes the most sense.
Like Sanchez when he came to the Bronx, Ackley's offensive output has been modest to this point in his career as the 27-year old has put up a .242/.305/.366 slash line. Luckily, he also comes with the same fielding reputation that Sanchez did in the middle infield. The Defensive Runs Saved metric provided by Baseball Info Solutions rates Ackley as 23 runs above average at second base over his career which is far better than what Drew and Ryan have done at the position during their careers.
There are also circumstances surrounding Ackley's disappointing bat that indicate a Sanchez-esque offensive turnaround is very much a possibility. Currently Ackley's BABIP sits at an impossibly low .231 even though he is making hard contact more than 30% of the time. If that BABIP climbs back toward his career number of .282, his slash line will pick up as well. In addition, Ackley is a left-handed batter moving from an offensive black hole in Safeco Field to an offensive oasis in Yankee Stadium. It would be no surprise to see him turn into a more consistent long-ball threat in pinstripes. He can be every bit the "good enough" option that Sanchez was and then some, providing stability at a key position and helping the Yankees secure a playoff spot.
Even if it turns out that Ackley isn't a significant improvement over Drew or Ryan at second base during the next two months, at least they can see exactly what they're working with. The Yankees will have him as a cost-controlled asset for the next two seasons, so at the very least he can be a relatively cheap (compared to Drew) option for veteran infield depth going forward. No matter how you slice it, this trade should be a valuable one for the Yankees.