The week leading up to yesterday’s trade deadline was one of the most important weeks in recent Yankees history. The team stopped prioritizing the present and focused on the future. They traded four veterans (Aroldis Chapman, Andrew Miller, Carlos Beltran, Ivan Nova) for a haul that includes one big leaguer (Adam Warren), ten prospects (ten!), and two players to be named later. That week leading up to the deadline is potentially franchise altering. I have some thoughts.
1. The Yankees did way better with their pre-deadline trades than I ever possibly imagined they would. Part of that is me not having a great grasp of the market, and part of it is Brian Cashman doing a great job marketing his players. Four players for Chapman? Mark Melancon, another elite rental reliever, got two. Four players for Miller? Will Smith got two. Three players for Beltran? Jay Bruce got two. That’s pretty awesome. This season has not been particularly good or enjoyable, but these trades have turned this year into a positive. The Yankees added some serious upside to the farm system and a ton of depth as well. They have guys they can call up soon and plenty of ammo for trades as well.
2. Speaking of the farm system, it’s now one of the best in baseball if not the best in baseball. The Yankees added two consensus top 25-ish prospects (Clint Frazier, Gleyber Torres) plus a third consensus top 100 guy (Justus Sheffield) plus two others who were on top 100 lists coming into the season (Billy McKinney, Dillon Tate). I haven’t put a ton of thought into this yet, but here’s my rough top ten prospects list as of right now:
- Clint Frazier
- Aaron Judge
- Gary Sanchez
- Gleyber Torres
- Jorge Mateo
- Blake Rutherford
- Justus Sheffield
- James Kaprielian
- Tyler Wade
- Miguel Andujar
Tate is probably No. 11 right now, between Andujar and Dustin Fowler. Anyway, that’s a pretty stacked system. I count seven no-doubt top 100 guys plus a possible eighth. (If Kaprielian doesn’t make top 100 lists next spring because of his injury, I’ll understand.) My favorite part is that the top three guys are all in Triple-A and reasonably close to MLB. Sanchez and Judge could be up right now, really. (Frazier still needs some more time there.) Torres and Sheffield are a little further away, but man, the Yankees have a lot of high-end talent close to the show. That’s pretty awesome.
3. I do love the Frazier pickup. I didn’t even bother listing him in my Scouting The Market: Indians post because I didn’t believe the Indians would trade him. He’s that good. Frazier’s not a true five-tool player but he’s awfully close, and he’s shown big time baseball aptitude by closing some holes in his swing and improving his selectivity over the last few years. The Yankees haven’t had a true offensive cornerstone since Robinson Cano left and Frazier has that kind of ability. Will he be that guy right away? It would be neat if it is, but probably not. It took Robbie a few years to really figure it out himself, remember. Frazier was a huge, huge get for the Yankees. They never have access to this kind of talent in the draft. Getting it for a reliever, even one as good as Miller, is a tremendous move.
4. Another thing I like about those top three prospects: they’re all right-handed hitters. The Yankees have leaned a little lefty heavy the last few years and that’s mostly by design due to the Yankee Stadium short right field porch. They’re going to need some more lineup balance going forward and those three guys are going to help provide that. The Yankees have been a little too susceptible to southpaws the last few seasons. There’s some serious help on the way to address that weakness.
5. Miller was one of the best free agent signings in franchise history even though he was only a Yankee for a year and a half. He was excellent on the field, he said all the right things off the field and put the team first by accepting a setup role, and his contract proved to be a bargain. Such a bargain that the Yankees were able to trade him for a pretty significant package of prospects. Trading Miller was a smart move because chances are his value will never be higher, but man, I wish the Yankees could have kept him. I imagine pretty much everyone loved having him on the team. Miller was a total pro.
6. The Miller and Chapman trades were the same but different. They were the same because both guys are high-end relievers who fetched a package of four players. They were different because Chapman was a rental and most expected him to be traded. The Yankees sought as much as possible for Aroldis and that was that. Miller had two more years of control left, and because of that, the team had to be blown away to move him. I almost feel like whatever the Yankees get out of the Chapman trade is gravy. He was a goner no matter what. With Miller, it feels like the Yankees really have to hit on that trade package because they gave up those two extra years. The circumstances surrounding the two trades are quite different.
7. One benefit of trading Chapman and Miller: Dellin Betances figures to have a nice easy workload the rest of the season. He’s the closer now, which likely means fewer multi-inning appearances and fewer appearances in general. The Yankees aren’t very good, so it’s not like Dellin is going to see many save chances going forward. That’s a positive in my book. Betances has thrown not only a ton of innings the last few years, he’s thrown a ton of intense high-leverage innings. Easing up on his workload in the second half is not the worst thing in the world.
8. The Yankees are totally going to sign a high-end reliever this offseason, aren’t they? They’ve had at least two elite relievers every year since 2011 and I don’t think they want to go into next season with Tyler Clippard and Warren backing up Betances. Chapman’s going to be a free agent this winter, as are Melancon and Kenley Jansen, so there’s your bullpen free agent watch list. Melancon was traded at the deadline too, so he’s not going to cost a draft pick. That could factor into the team’s decision. Either way, yeah, I expect some money to be spent on a top notch reliever after the Chapman and Miller trades.
9. It’s possible the Yankees could slip down into protected pick territory — they currently have the 15th worst record in baseball and are 5.5 games “up” on a protected pick — which would be cool, though I’m not sure there will be any qualified free agents worth signing this offseason. I guess a protected pick would make Jansen a greater possibility, plus there’s always a chance ownership steps in and forces a Jose Bautista or Edwin Encarnacion on the baseball operations folks, though I don’t think that’ll happen. This isn’t going to be a great offseason to have a protected pick. The free agent class is really crummy. Oh well.
10. I don’t really see the point of the Clippard trade. It’s not a bad trade or anything, it just seems … pointless. It’s almost like Cashman threw ownership a bone for agreeing to the Miller trade by adding a veteran reliever so the Yankees could still “go for it.” Vicente Campos is having a really nice year, but he has an ugly injury history, and I’m not sure he has the stuff or the command to start long-term. I still would rather see what he could do in relief going forward than Clippard, who we know is on the decline. Eh, whatever. Not a huge deal. Just seems weird to make a “buyers” trade like that at this deadline. They have bullpen arms to cover those innings.
11. Among all the non-top prospects in the trades, my favorite is Ben Heller almost by default. The kid throws 100 mph with a pretty good breaking ball on his best days. Yeah, he’s a reliever, but he was the third piece in the Miller trade and is pretty darn close to MLB. That’s a really nice third piece in a trade for a reliever. There’s a chance we’ll see Heller in September, though I would bet against it. He’s not going to be Rule 5 Draft eligible until next year, and 40-man roster space is precious. Heller might have to wait a little longer to make his MLB debut. Either way, I’m exciting by what he brings to the table. The top prospects are going to get all the attention, though the secondary pieces like Heller are often the difference between good trades and great trades.
13. The deadline was yesterday but trading season is not over. I expect the Yankees to continue exploring the waiver trade market in August. In a nutshell, players claimed on trade waivers can only be traded to the claiming team while players who go unclaimed can be traded anywhere. Trade waivers are completely revocable, so you can pull a player back if claimed. Pretty much any quality player with a good contract will get claimed, so Miller and Beltran weren’t going to get through. I could see the Yankees looking to swing an August waiver trade involving Starlin Castro, Brett Gardner, Starlin Castro, Brian McCann, Starlin Castro, Nathan Eovaldi, Starlin Castro, Michael Pineda, and Starlin Castro too. The odds of a deal are much lower because of those trade waiver rules, but I could see the Yankees pushing to get a little more done this month. There’s no point in stopping now.
14. In that same vein, the Yankees can continue the “selling” with some internal moves. The big one, obviously, is cutting ties with Alex Rodriguez and clearing that DH spot. Sanchez is the obvious fit there. He could DH part of the time, catch part of the time, and spend the rest of his days at the Tony Pena School For Catchers Who Can’t Catch Good. Cutting Mark Teixeira is another possible move, especially with Tyler Austin really forcing the issue in Triple-A. Sanchez is the big one for me though. There’s an opening for Judge in right field now. That’s not a problem. Sanchez is still stuck behind McCann and Austin Romine, and I think he’s at the point where he needs to come up to continue his development. A-Rod’s in his way. The Yankees were smart to trade veterans for prospects at the deadline. They should continue the process by waving goodbye to A-Rod. (And I guess Teixeira too.)
15. Even though it was necessary, it totally stinks to see your favorite team sell at the deadline and essentially admit they aren’t good enough to contend. That’s not fun. At the same time, I found last night’s game really enjoyable, I think because I had no real expectations. Stress-free baseball is fun in its own way, like Spring Training. The Yankees have already thrown in the towel by selling, so now they can raise some hell in the second half and make an unexpected run at a postseason spot because hey, what else is there to do? Remember, the Yankees still have a ton of games remaining with the other AL East teams. They can make their lives miserable down the stretch, and I will enjoy watching every minute of it.