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An ode to The Bull

(photo by Otto Greule/Allsport)

As we near the end of Retro Week at RAB, I thought I’d take a look at one of the unsung heroes of the early-90s Yankee teams, a man who seemed to go entirely underappreciated despite putting up several very strong pinstriped campaigns: the immortal Danny Tartabull.

Tartabull, born to Cuban parents in San Juan, Puerto Rico, was drafted by the Cincinnati Reds in the third round of the 1980 amateur draft. He turned in two productive seasons in Rookie and A-ball, but struggled a bit after being promoted to the Reds’ AA affiliate. Following the 1982 season, he was selected by the Mariners as a free agent compensation pick, according to Baseball-Reference. Apparently teams could do that back in the day.

However, “struggled” is probably a bit unfair — he only really struggled by virtue of the fact that he managed a .774 OPS at AA after a .954 the year prior in Single-A. Additionally, it should be noted that Tartabull walked eighty-nine times in 126 games at AA and had an IsoD of .139, so even though his BA and SLG declined rather precipitously, his batting eye was outstanding and remained that way throughout his career.

He spent the 1983 season rediscovering his power stroke, and finally got a taste of the show in 1984, receiving 24 plate appearances for Seattle at age 21 at the end of the season. It all seemed to come together for Tartabull the following year, as he spent the 1985 season utterly annihilating AAA to the tune of a .300/.385/.615 line over 546 PAs, during which time he clubbed forty-three home runs and won the Pacific Coast League MVP.  Tartabull was rewarded with a September call-up for a second-straight year and hit to a Jesus Montero-esque .413 wOBA over 69 PAs.

Tartabull stayed in the bigs for good, breaking camp with the Mariners in 1986 and posting a robust .361 wOBA during his first full season in the Majors. After the season the M’s shipped Tartabull (along with reliever Rick Luecken) to Kansas City for starter Scott Bankhead, outfielder Mike Kingery and reliever Steve Shields. Shields only lasted one season in Seattle and was out of baseball after 1989; Kingery posted an exactly league average year in 1987 but was a decidedly below-average hitter for the majority of the remainder of his career; while Bankhead turned in two strong seasons and two injury-shortened campaigns in Seattle before leaving as a free agent in 1991.

Unfortunately for Seattle, Tartabull absolutely killed it in Kansas City, turning in a .392 wOBA  (145 wRC+) from 1987-1991, which was the fifth-highest wOBA in all of baseball during that five-year period. The Bull parlayed his outstanding production into a big-time contract with the Yankees, who signed the then-29-year-old to a five-year, $25.5 million deal which made him the fifth-highest-paid player in baseball at the time.

Interestingly, the Yankee 1991-1992 offseason apparently bore some striking similarities to this past winter’s. From YES’s own Jack Curry in a January 7, 1992, story in The New York Times:

After two months of offseason lethargy and front-office chaos, the New York Yankees emerged Monday with a $25.5 million free-agent outfielder and a suddenly voracious appetite for the trade market.

In a quick move that surprised fans and baseball people alike and reminded many people of George Steinbrenner`s previous spending sprees, the Yankees signed slugger Danny Tartabull to a $25.5 million contract just after midnight on Monday.

–snip–

But by making a splash in the free-agent market and promising Monday that more roster changes were imminent, the Yankees indicated that their club philosophy had been altered and additional transactions are expected before spring training.

Now that Tartabull is signed, the Yankees have a surplus of outfielders, and Michael will almost certainly try to peddle Jesse Barfield for a pitcher or a third baseman.

Michael is reluctant to trade Roberto Kelly, who is very marketable. Mel Hall is a left-handed hitter, and that makes him valuable at Yankee Stadium, especially if the Yankees get a right-handed-hitting third baseman, such as Montreal`s Tim Wallach.

The Yankees ended up holding onto Barfield, who played one more season in pinstripes (putting up a heinous 21 OPS+ in 105 PAs) before retiring, and Curry wound up being a year early on Kelly, who of course was famously traded after the 1992 season for Paul O’Neill.

For his part, Tartabull lived up to his contract during his first two years in the Bronx, posting an outstanding .397 wOBA in 1992 — 4th-best in the American League that season — and a very good .376 in 1993. His production dipped some in the strike-shortened 1994 — a .358 wOBA in 470 PAs — but he really fell off in 1995, hitting to a paltry .321 wOBA through 59 games before the Yankees shipped him out to the A’s for Ruben Sierra.

All in all, Danny Tartabull was a pretty solid Yankee, posting a .370 wOBA (127 wRC+) during his three-and-a-half seasons in pinstripes. However, he was arguably only the third-best hitter on the team during that time frame, despite getting paid as if he were the best, and this — along with his precipitous decline from 1994-1995 — is presumably why he’s seemingly never been all that fondly reminisced by Yankee fans. Well, except for my brother, who is very likely the only person in the world with a customized “TARTABULL 45” name-and-number tee. (Yankee fans familiar with the all-time SNES classic, 1994’s Ken Griffey Jr. Presents Major League Baseball, also likely have warm memories of Tartabull, who was an absolute BEAST in that 16-bit classic).

Still, a closer look at his pinstriped career reveals a player who was pretty much the ideal Yankee — Danny Tartabull got on base with the best of them, posting a terrific 16% BB% (he finished his 14-year career with a 13.1% BB%; for reference Alex Rodriguez has an 11% career BB%, though he’s also played four more seasons) that helped fuel an excellent .372 OBP; and he hit for power, posting a .221 ISO and .473 SLG. So in essence, Tartabull was basically Nick Swisher, with even more walks and a touch less power.

Tartabull was traded to the White Sox for the 1996 season and had a reasonable bounceback year with a .353 wOBA, which he then parlayed into a one-year deal with the Phillies. Tartabull played in all of three games for the Phils in April of 1997 before fouling a ball off his toe which somehow caused him to miss the remainder of the season. Tartabull retired after the season, culminating a largely underrated career in which he swatted 266 bombs and posted a very respectable .377 wOBA and 132 wRC+.

Despite the apparent mutual dislike between Tartabull and the Bronx — he was quoted as saying “I feel like I’ve been released from jail” following being traded for Sierra — the statistician in me is happy to have had him on the Yankees, especially as the team began to emerge from the darkest period in franchise history.

Mailbag & Poll: Pineda, Non-Guaranteed Deals

Only four questions this week, but three are pretty long. As an added bonus, we’ve got a poll at the end as well. The Submit A Tip box in the sidebar is the best way to send us anything, mailbag questions or otherwise.

"Tell me about it. I've been stuck with this bullpen since 2005." (Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

Daniel asks: True that Pineda had a poor second half, and it is assumed he’ll build upon his performance last season. My question is how much will Pineda benefit from having a shutdown bullpen this season, even if he doesn’t make strides forward? How much did his bullpen hurt him last season? How many of his baserunners were allowed to score by the Seattle bullpen?

The Yankees had one of the very best bullpens in the game last season, but the Mariners were pretty much middle of the pack in terms of ERA (3.61) and FIP (3.86). Their 6.34 K/9 and 16.6 K% were the second worst marks in the game though, and relievers who can strike guys out tend to do a better job of pitching out of jams than guys who rely on contact. The Yankees, on the other hand, were among the best in baseball at 8.46 K/9 and 22.2 K%.

Seattle’s bullpen inherited eleven runners from Pineda last season, and they allowed eight (!) of them to score (72.7%). That’s pretty nuts, the league average was 31.2% last year. The Yankees were at 24.9%. If only four of those eleven men came across (approximating the 31.2% league average), Pineda’s ERA would have been 3.53 instead of 3.74. If only three of the eleven came around to score (approximating the 24.9% Yankees average), his ERA would have been 3.47. That assumes all those runs were earned, of course. Having a better bullpen should help, but I’d prefer it if Pineda avoided all those baserunners in the first place.

Patrick asks: When a player is signed to minor league contract with an invite to camp, and it’s later described as non-guaranteed, what portion of the contract is non-guaranteed? Are they guaranteed a spot on a minor league team? Do players that don’t make The Show typically accept such a role?

Non-guaranteed contracts also apply to players who sign one-year deals during their pre-arbitration and arbitration years (so Russell Martin‘s contract is not guaranteed this year, for example). For players on minor league contracts, the team doesn’t have to pay them a thing until they add them to an actual roster (other than meal money), either majors or minors. These contracts all have some kind of opt-out clause allowing the player to elect free agency if they’re not added to the big league roster by a set date. The new Collective Bargaining Agreement instituted a uniform June 1st opt-out date, but the two sides can agree to an alternative date. Bill Hall, for example, can opt out his contract with the Yankees on April 4th. He’d rather look for a big league job elsewhere than play in the minors for the Yankees, but that isn’t true for all players. Some do go to the minors, like Dustin Moseley in 2010 or Cory Wade last year.

Guys on the 40-man roster with non-guaranteed contracts can be released in Spring Training without being paid their full salary. The club does need a valid baseball reason to release them though, the union isn’t a fan of players being released for money saving purposes and they will fight it. This year clubs have until March 19th to release a player and only pay them 30 days termination pay, and after that (but before Opening Day) it’s 45 days pay. If someone is on the 40-man roster as of Opening Day, they are entitled to their entire salary. The Yankees released Chad Gaudin in Spring Training two years ago, and only paid him $737k of his $2.95M salary (45 days worth). Guaranteed contracts, which are most free agent and multi-year deals, entitle the player to every cent unless he voluntarily retires or is released due to breach of contract (like Aaron Boone playing basketball).

Mike asks: I’ve followed the Yankee farm system for a long time, but have never followed another team’s farm system in depth. I have noticed that while the 15-30+ range prospects might not posses the star power it seems the depth of the Yankee Farm is really quite impressive. Is this my bias or does Damon Oppenheimer have a gift at getting guys who might not be stars but have a great chance to develop into major league regulars? I see the Yankees producing lots of Brett Gardner types in the future.

(J. Meric/Getty Images)

We all focus on top prospects, and we should because those guys are the cream of the crop and deserve the attention. The best way to compare farm systems is to look further down the prospect rankings though. Don’t just compare the top three prospects, compare the #10 prospects, the #20 prospects, and the #30 prospects. Just as an example, Baseball America ranked Branden Pinder as the Yankees 30th best prospect in their Prospect Handbook, touting him as a power relief arm with a 93-94 mph fastball and a slider that’s shown “flashes of becoming a plus pitch.” The 30th best prospect in the White Sox’s farm system (the worst in the game) is Duane Heath, who had a 4.73 ERA in Triple-A last season and “won’t be trusted as more than a middle reliever.” Big difference between Pinder and Heath, showing the difference in each team’s prospect depth.

The Yankees still have some high-end star power in their farm system (though trading Jesus Montero took a big chunk of that away), but it’s primarily built on depth. They’ve done a good job of turning mid-to-late round draft picks into potentially useful players, which is far above the usual rate-of-return on those selections. Phil Coke is a useful player but nothing special, though he’s a star compared to most 26th round picks. David Robertson is 17th round gold. The Yankees have a lot of guys like that in the 12+ range of their farm system, including guys like David Phelps (14th), D.J. Mitchell (10th), Bryan Mitchell (16th), Brandon Laird (27th), Tyler Austin (13th), and Nik Turley (50th). The horde of power bullpen arms is just silly — Mark Montgomery (11th), Zach Nuding (37th), Graham Stoneburner (14th), Whitley (15th), Dan Burawa (12th), and Matt Tracy (43rd) among others — and it’s all by design. I don’t know if I’d call it a gift, but Oppenheimer & Co. have done a good job of maximizes those often forgotten late draft picks.

This doesn’t include the international players either, and prior to the CBA changes the Yankees were routinely among the biggest spenders in Latin America on an annual basis. It’s not all big seven-figure signings like Jesus Montero or Gary Sanchez, they’ve got a ton of quality prospects — like Ravel Santana ($150k), Claudio Custodio ($300k), Ramon Flores ($775k), and of course Robinson Cano ($150k) — on cheaper, six-figure payouts. They’re not all stars, but the Yankees have been consistently producing useful pieces for their roster and to use as trade bait over the last few seasons.

Jeb asks: If you could trade a future of uncertain performance (what is currently is) from the team in return for guaranteed bounce back years from all aging players and career years from the remainder of the roster at the cost of having a guaranteed steep decline in performance from each player for the remainder of their contracts, would you?

So the question basically asks a) the best possible year in 2012 plus utter crap in the future, or b) the current situation (a.k.a. reality). I know which one I would pick, but let’s do a poll. I’ll answer in the comments later so I don’t influence the poll results at all.

What would you prefer?
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The children of the 1980s

On a Sunday in August in 1992, just 28,000 fans filled the Stadium to watch the Yanks lose in extra innings to the California Angels. (Photo by flickr user

As we while away the days until meaningful baseball returns to the Bronx, we’ve entered the Wayback Machine, and we’ve revisited, for many of us, the Yanks of our youth. It’s always entertaining to sit here with the perspective of five World Series championships and a slew of playoff berths under our collective fan belts while remembering the lost years of the 1980s and 1990s. After all, who doesn’t love a little stroll down Memory Lane with Hensley Muelens?

For me, this Retro Week look back has taken me on ride to my childhood. My first Yankee experiences were in the mid 1980s as the Yanks toiled behind the AL East leaders, as George Steinbrenner traded the same players over and over again, wouldn’t let youth develop and sacrificed the Yanks’ draft picks for mediocre free agents. Still, as a little boy, I loved going up to the Bronx for baseball games.

One of the biggest differences between the Yankees of today and the Yankees of yesteryear was, of course, the ballpark. The Yankees of the 1980s played in a stadium that was barely a decade removed from a renovation. While our parents knew the Stadium as it was for the Mick and Joe D, we knew it for Reggie, for Don Mattingly and, when they moved in the fences, for Jack Clark. Camden Yards and the retro stadium craze was but an idea on paper by the end of the decade, but for kids my age, it was a baseball playground and Cathedral rolled up into one.

The old stadium in late 1980s and early 1990s was marked by its focus on baseball. There were no other diversions for fans of all ages than the game on the field. The concourses, cramped by the mid-2000s, were always pretty empty and so too were the upper decks. Attendance on the weekends topped out in the high 20,000s or low 30,000s. Only Opening Day or a Red Sox visit, even then, pushed the attendance toward the 40 or 50 thousand range.

We went to the ballpark those days for the games just as we do today. But our expectations were low. The Yankees of 1990 were flat-out terrible, finishing in 7th place for the last time in franchise history. In fact, from 1989-1992, for a span of four seasons, the Yanks didn’t finish above .500 and couldn’t climb out of the bottom half of the AL East. So with rows upon rows of empty seats in the Tier Reserve stretching out into the Bronx night, teenagers would scramble for foul balls, and security guards would chase errant fans from shuttered sections.

Eventually, when A-Rod arrived and then when construction on the new stadium began, attendance climbed, and the Yanks sold out nearly every game. In high school, I could buy tickets on a whim; by the end of college, StubHub was the only way to go. The stadium changed as the Yanks fancied up the seats with extra padding and waiter service. But the shell of the structure was reaching 80, and the Steinbrenners wanted a modern facility.

Today, we come to expect winning from the Yankees, and I wouldn’t want to return to those days of bad baseball with no crowds. Today, we have a gleaming, modern facility with wide open concourses and a different view behind center field. Sometimes, I may miss being a little kid and being awed by the park and players below. There is an innocence to it that we cannot recapture. But that is what our memories are for. Today, the Yankees win, and the Wade Taylors, Jeff Johnsons, John Habyans and Greg Cadarets of our youth are better left there.

Open Thread: Terry Mulholland

The Yankees got 66 starts out of Jimmy Key and Jim Abbott in 1993, and the other 96 starts out of ten different pitchers. Then-GM Gene Michael spent the ’93-’94 offseason trying to shore up the starting rotation, but it wasn’t until early-February that he was able to add an arm. On this date in 1994, the Yankees acquired left-hander Terry Mulholland (and minor leaguer Jeff Patterson) from the Phillies for reliever Bobby Munoz and two Double-A guys (Kevin Jordan and Ryan Karp).

Mulholland, 30 at the time, was coming off an All-Star season in Philadelphia that saw him pitch to a 3.25 ERA in 191 IP. He’d thrown at least 180 IP in each of the previous four seasons, and there was talk about a multi-year contract immediately after the trade since he was due to become a free agent after the season. The Yankees beat Mulholland in arbitration ($3.35M vs. $4.05M) but didn’t sign him long-term. That turned out to be a very good decision.

In his first two starts, Mulholland allowed a dozen runs in just nine total innings. He allowed at least four runs in his nine first starts and in 12 of his first 13. By the All-Star break, he’d thrown 115 IP with a 6.65 ERA, a 1.57 WHIP, and a 1.8 HR/9. Batters were hitting .309/.358/.551 off him. Then-manager Buck Showalter moved him into the bullpen after the break, but five appearances later the season ended due to the strike. All told, the Yankees got 120.2 IP out of Mulholland, who posted a 6.49 ERA. None of three players they gave up toget him turned into anything great — Jordan was the bench of the bunch, spending seven years as a utility infielder — but the trade turned out to be a disaster.

* * *

Here is your open thread for the night. All three hockey locals are in action, and later on tonight you can catch Robinson Cano on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno (11:35pm ET on NBC). You folks know how these things go, so have at it.

The Yankees’ propensity to trade young pitchers

Wish you'd done it in pinstripes, Doug. (Rick Stewart/Getty)

The Yankees might have been the winningest franchise in the 1980s, yet they finished the decade with nothing to show for it. They made the postseason in the decade’s first year, but got swept out of the ALCS by the Royals. Then, in the strike-interrupted 1981 season, they managed to make the World Series, though they probably didn’t deserve to even participate in the postseason. From there it was all downhill. Sure, they mixed in a few second place finishes in the middle of the decade, but that was as close as they got.

What hurts most about the Yankees’ poor performances during these years is that they were in many ways the results of a win-now mentality. George Steinbrenner stopped at nothing to field the best team possible in the moment, even if that meant sacrificing players who could help future teams. There was no balance. Predictably, the Yankees went from being a decent team in the early- and mid-80s to a putrid one by the end. It wasn’t until Steinbrenner was away from the everyday team operations that they were able to create a better balance and rebuild a culture of winning.

One of the team’s hallmarks in the 80s was trading young pitchers for veterans. The idea is nothing new; we see it all the time these days. We just don’t see the same team do it over and over and over again. Prospects are valued much differently these days, perhaps because of the Yankees’ mishaps in the 80s (and, to a lesser extent, mid-00s). As we come to the conclusion of retro week here at RAB, I wanted to run down some of the more egregious pitching trades in the 80s.

Note: I’m doing this based mostly on research, seeing as I was born in 1982. My first major Yankees memories came sometime around 1987, though I clearly wasn’t familiar with the team’s culture at the time — despite my father’s constant cursing of Steinbrenner and his meddling. (Those criticisms fell on deaf ears to a kid who just wanted to collect baseball cards and read the box scores.) I might miss what someone else considers a significant trade. But that’s what the comments section is for. So have at it.

March 30, 1982: Traded Andy McGaffigan for Doyle Alexander

We kick this off with a name I’m sure isn’t familiar to many readers. McGaffigan was no superstar, but he pitched 11 seasons in the bigs and turned in fairly good performances. He ended his career with a 3.38 ERA in 833.1 innings, which covered 363 games: 62 starts and 301 relief appearances. For the Yankees he pitched two games in relief in 1981 before they traded him for Alexander just before the 1982 season.

McGaffigan was thrice drafted: first by the Reds in 1974, then by the White Sox in 1976 (in what was called the January Draft-Regular Phase, whatever that was), and finally by the Yankees in 1978. McGaffigan conquered A-ball in 66 innings after signing, and then played in AA for both the 79 and 80 season — though they were different teams, because apparently the Yankees had two AA teams. He then spent most of 1981 in AAA, pitching well there before his eventual call-up.

Alexander, unsurprisingly, had already passed age 30 when he went to New York. Well, in this trade at least. In June of 1976 the Yankees acquired Alexander from the Orioles, only to let him walk as a free agent after the season. Following his stellar 1981 season, in which he pitched to a 2.89 ERA (119 ERA+) in 152 innings, he completely imploded for the Yanks in ’82, reaching a 6.08 ERA in just 66.2 innings. After a similar performance in his first 28.1 innings in 1983, the Yanks cut him. Of course, he went on to pitch much better after that, and ended up playing through 1987.

April 10, 1982: Traded Ron Davis for Roy Smalley

Another seemingly smaller trade, but still involving a young pitcher. Davis came up through the Yankees system, and from 1979 through 1981 he was money, compiling a 2.86 ERA (136 ERA+) in 140 games. He finished 72 games during that span as well. Maybe the Yanks knew something here, because immediately after they traded him to Minnesota, his career imploded. He had a couple decent years, but was mostly terrible and had a hard time finding a job after age 30. (The Yanks traded him at age 25.)

Smalley, on the other hand, hit very well for the Yankees, compiling a 111 OPS+ in 82 and then a 126 OPS+ in 520 PA in 1983. After he started slowly in 1984, the Yankees sent him to the White Sox for players to be named later. One of those players to be named later was a young pitcher by the name of Doug Drabek. We’ll get to him in due time.

December 5, 1984: Traded Tim Birtsas, Jay Howell, Stan Javier, Eric Plunk, and Jose Rijo to the A’s for Rickey Henderson

Mike covered the Henderson trade earlier today, so there’s no need for a full rehash. I just wanted to dwell on Rijo for just a moment. There was really no good reason for him to break camp with the team in 1984. He was just 19, and while he mopped the floor with AA competition in ’83, he had very little professional experience. Of his 302 professional innings to that point, just 40.1 had come above A-ball. But the Mets had a shiny new 19-year-old toy in Dwight Gooden, and so Steinbrenner needed his. Rijo was mediocre in both the Bronx and Columbus in ’84, but he picked up some steam in ’85. It was a shame to see him go, and an even bigger shame when he finally won a World Series with the 1990 Cincinnati Reds. That would coincide with the worst Yankees team of my lifetime.

Plunk counts as a young pitcher, too. While he didn’t come with Rijo’s hype, he did perform well for a few years. He was decently effective, if way too wild, pitching out of the Yanks’ pen and making spot starts from ’89 through’ 91, and then found success pitching out of Cleveland’s pen in the mid-90s.

September 15, 1985: Traded Jim Deshaies for Joe Niekro

Again, Deshaies wasn’t the biggest name. But he was only 25 and had just seven innings of big league experience under his belt when the Yanks traded him for the 40-year-old Niekro. As a 41-year-old in ’86, Niekro was pretty horrible, posting a 4.87 ERA (84 ERA+) in 125.2 innings. The Yanks got eight good starts out of him in ’87 before dishing him to Minnesota, where he collapsed. His career would end a year later.

Deshaies produced a 3.67 ERA (97 ERA+) in 1102 innings for the Astros before reaching free agency. Considering some of the pitchers who took the ball for the Yankees during those years, 1985 through 1991, they could have used his services.

November 26, 1986: Traded Doug Drabek for Rick Rhoden

Just two years earlier the Yankees had received Drabek in return for a fading hitter. He came in and trashed AA competition immediately, pitching to a 2.32 ERA in ’84 and then a 2.99 ERA in ’85. While AAA was less kind to him in ’86, he threw just 42 innings there. Most of his work came in the majors, a 4.10 ERA (100 ERA+) in 131.2 innings. That’s a quality performance there for a 23-year-old rookie. But Steinbrenner was not about to change his impatient ways. The Yankees won 90 games in ’86, but finished 5.5 behind the Red Sox. And so they traded Drabek for Proven Veteran™ Rick Rhoden. It wasn’t all bad at first, as Rhoden pitched well enough in ’87, compiling a 3.86 ERA (115 ERA+) in 181.2 innings. But at age 34 he was on the downswing. He lasted just two more seasons, a below average one for the Yankees before finishing his career in Houston.

Drabek, on the other hand, had a nearly identical ERA in 87 (lower ERA+, because of the difference in leagues), but went on to post much better numbers in the coming years. Before he reached free agency after the 92 season, Drabek threw 1362.2 innings, compiling a 3.02 ERA (118 ERA+). He’s yet another guy who would have helped incredibly during those dark years in the late-80s and early-90s.

July 13, 1987: Traded Bob Tewksbury for Steve Trout

At 26 years old Tewks wasn’t that young when this trade happened. But he was still young and serviceable: he had pitched to a 3.31 ERA (124 ERA+) in 130 innings in ’86. But a slow start was apparently his undoing. Again the Yankees went for the Proven Veteran™ in Trout. To say it backfired is an understatement. Trout wasn’t all that good to begin with, though he did have a pair of good years in ’84 and ’85. He lasted just 46.1 innings with the Yankees, pitching to a 6.60 ERA (68 ERA+). The Yanks did get a couple of real, live pitchers in exchange for him. You might recognize some of the names: Lee Guetterman, Clay Parker, and Wade Taylor.

After spending time on the DL and in the minors in the last few years of the 80s, Tewks figured out something. He dominated AAA in ’89, and then tossed some solid years for St. Louis in the early-90s. That, however, came after he hit free agency. Still, the numbers speak for themselves: 968 innings, 3.48 ERA (109 ERA+) from ’89 through ’94 with the Cards. That includes a third-place finish in the Cy Young voting in 1992; some guys named Maddux and Glavine finished ahead of him.

April 30, 1989: Traded Al Leiter for Jesse Barfield

There’s no need, really, to reiterate this past trade review.

February 29, 1992: Traded Alan Mills for basically nothing

In early 1992 the Yanks had an issue. They had just traded for a third baseman, but had no room for him on the 40-man roster. They delayed announcing the move until late February. You can read more about this in The Ballad of Charlie Hayes. The Yanks ended up trading Mills to the Orioles to create room for Hayes.

It’s not as though the Yanks lost some huge contributor in Mills. He hadn’t been very good for the Yanks, and while he had a few good seasons for the Orioles, he was by no means a standout — though his 2.61 ERA (153 ERA+) in 92, just after the trade, definitely stung. But Mills was twice a first-round draft pick. The Yankees acquired him for the cheap price of a fading and discontent Butch Wynegar. Yet at age 25 they could only get two players who never played a live inning at Yankee Stadium. For shame.

Again, there might be trades that I haven’t included. You might also disagree with some of these selections. But the Yankees definitely dealt far too many young pitchers in the 80s. Some of them came back to bite big time. Some of them went onto be solid contributors when the Yankees needed just that. Seeing this list makes me appreciate how the Yankees are currently treating their pitching prospects. They’re not going to trade them away in just any deal, and especially in just any deal for veterans. After their previous experiences doing that, I think they’ve learned their lessons.