The Lessons of the Trade Deadline [2016 Season Review]

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The 2016 trade deadline was, truly, a monumental event for the Yankees. The team’s mediocre on-field performance pushed ownership to give Brian Cashman the authority to sell at the deadline, something the club hasn’t done in nearly three decades. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to call this year’s trade deadline a franchise-altering event.

Will the deadline alter the franchise for the better? That’s what we’re all hoping. The Yankees made five trades in the week leading up to the deadline, four of which qualify as “seller” trades, and those trades netted them two big leaguers and 12 total prospects. After the deadline Jim Callis said the Yankees have “the deepest system in the game.” The five trades told us five different things about the Yankees.

The Chapman Trade: The Yankees Are Opportunists

The first of the five trades was the Aroldis Chapman trade with the Cubs. It happened a full week prior to the deadline. I wanted the Yankees to trade Chapman even if they were in the race. I wrote that for I don’t know how many months before the trade actually happened. The club bought low in the offseason and had a chance to sell outrageously high at the deadline.

The Yankees did exactly that. They were 50-48 on the morning of the day of the Chapman trade, and they’d just won six of their last eight games. Rather than hang on to Chapman and try to get back into the race, they were smart about their situation. Contenders around the league were lining up for Aroldis and the offers were impressive. Far better than the draft pick the Yankees would have received after the season.

The Chapman trade told us the Yankees are going to be opportunistic. They acquired him at a deep discount (for terrible off-the-field reasons) and flipped him for a massive return. Getting Gleyber Torres alone would have been a major win. The other three players are gravy. I think it’s pretty gross the Yankees used the domestic violence incident to buy low on Chapman, but the team showed when an opportunity that is too good to be true presents itself, they’re going to pounce.

The Miller Trade: Committed To The Rebuild

Okay, fine, it’s a transition, not a rebuild. Whatever. The Yankees were in a very unique position at the trade deadline because they had not one, but two top notch relievers to peddle to contenders. Chapman was the first to go. Following that deal, the Yankees took offers for Andrew Miller, as they did last offseason. And of course everyone wanted him. Pretty much every contender was in on Miller.

Unlike Chapman, the Yankees didn’t have to trade Miller. I mean, they didn’t have to trade Chapman either, but it was such an obvious move. He was an impending free agent and his value was through the roof. Miller had two more affordable years left on his contract — plus he is insanely good and very popular — and keeping him would have completely justifiable. Teams wish they could have 25 guys like Andrew Miller on their roster.

Rather than keep Miller for those reasons, the Yankees acknowledged the bullpen market had exploded, and they capitalized on the opportunity. They’re so committed to the rebuild transition that they traded exactly the kind of player they want to acquire: affordable, effective, and likeable. The timetables didn’t line up though. A top notch reliever is not what they need right now. They need Clint Frazier and Justus Sheffield more.

The Clippard Trade: A Complete Tear Down Isn’t Happening

The Yankees won’t say it, but they’re rebuilding. They’re just not rebuilding all the way. A complete Astros style tear down isn’t going to happen because a) it can’t due to some unmovable contracts, and b) ownership doesn’t want it to happen. Hal Steinbrenner has made that very clear. They want to remain in quasi-contention to keep fans interested (i.e. sell tickets, etc.).

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The Tyler Clippard trade, which went down a few hours after the Miller trade, is the perfect example. Rather than turning Miller’s vacated roster spot over to a young reliever, the Yankees brought in a productive veteran to help them win. The cost was minimal — the Yankees gave up Vicente Campos, who got hurt (again) a few weeks after the trade — and the message was clear. The Yankees are still trying to win, which is commendable. There’s something to be said for refusing to be an abject embarrassment on the field.

Now, does it makes sense to try to remain competitive even though the team on the field is telling you the postseason isn’t going to happen? That’s up for debate. I’m sure some fans appreciate the wins while others would rather a slightly better draft pick and larger bonus pool. That’s not for us to decide though. The Yankees have made their position clear. They’re going to try to win while rebuilding. The Clippard trade is the latest example.

The Beltran Trade: The Yankees Aren’t Afraid To Take Risks

The Yankees made five trades prior to the deadline this year but only two actually came on deadline day. The first sent Carlos Beltran to the Rangers for three Single-A pitching prospects in a deal that was more or less inevitable. Once Chapman and Miller were traded, there was no real point in hanging on to Beltran, another impending free agent. Yeah, he was the team’s best hitter, but that also increased his trade value.

As part of the Beltran trade, the Yankees acquired right-hander Dillon Tate, the fourth overall pick in the 2015 amateur draft. Just last year. Baseball America ranked him as the 69th best prospect in baseball coming into the 2016 season. Tate’s stock took a hit in the first half because he hurt his hamstring and his velocity wavered, so much so that he sat in the upper-80s rather than the mid-90s at times. His stock was down quite a bit.

Rather than be scared away, New York targeted Tate in the Beltran trade and was willing to take on some risk in order to get premium talent. The Yankees never have access to players like Tate (and Frazier) in the draft. They never pick in the top ten. They were able to acquire that kind of talent at the deadline. To get Frazier, they gave up a great player in Miller. To get Tate, they had to roll the dice and trade their best hitter for a reclamation project. The Yankees didn’t play it safe. They’re shooting for the moon.

The Nova Trade: A Small Return Is Better Than No Return

Minutes prior to the trade deadline, the Yankees shipped Ivan Nova to the Pirates for two players to be named later. Two! That’s one more than I expected. Nova was another impending free agent, and again, there was no reason to keep him. He wasn’t a qualifying offer candidate and it wasn’t like he was pitching well either. A few teams were interested, including the Rangers, but ultimately Cashman connected with his favorite trade partner and sent Nova to Pittsburgh.

The Yankees didn’t get a whole lot for Nova. Tito Polo could maybe be a speedy fourth outfielder down the line, and Stephen Tarpley figures to get plenty of chances as a hard-throwing lefty, but neither player is likely to have much of an impact. They’re spare parts. They’re also better than nothing, which is what the Yankees would have received had they kept Nova and let him finish out the season in pinstripes. Keeping Ivan would have been pointless given the team’s place in the standings.

The Nova trade was a common sense trade. Get whatever you can and move on. Polo and Tarpley probably won’t amount to much, but you never really know. Tarpley could figure out how to throw his breaking ball for strikes, or perhaps some team wants Polo as the third piece in a trade. Point is, the Yankees had an asset in Nova whose value was rapidly approaching zero. They accepted a small return at the deadline because a small return is better than no return.

Masahiro Tanaka finishes seventh in AL Cy Young voting

(Mike Stobe/Getty)
(Mike Stobe/Getty)

Earlier tonight, the BBWAA announced Red Sox righty Rick Porcello has won the 2016 AL Cy Young award. He won despite receiving fewer first place votes (14-8) than Tigers righty Justin Verlander, who finished second in the voting. Indians righty Corey Kluber finished third. Here are the full voting results.

This was the second closest vote in Cy Young history. Porcello beat out Verlander by a mere five voting points. The closest vote ever? Back in 2012, when Verlander finished four points behind David Price. Womp womp. Porcello won because he had way more second place than Verlander (18-2), and also because two writers left Verlander off their ballot entirely. A Red Sox pitcher second placing his way to the Cy Young is fitting, I’d say.

Anywho, Masahiro Tanaka finished tied for the seventh in the voting with Blue Jays righty Aaron Sanchez. Tanaka received one fourth place vote and four fifth place votes. He finished behind Porcello, Verlander, Kluber, Orioles closer Zach Britton, White Sox lefty Chris Sale, and Blue Jays lefty J.A. Happ. Tanaka received Cy Young votes for the first time this year, and they were well deserved.

Also noteworthy: ex-Yankee Andrew Miller finished ninth in the Cy Young voting. He received one third place vote. Hooray for that. Gary Sanchez finished second in the Rookie of the Year voting and Joe Girardi finished fifth in the Manager of the Year voting. The MVPs will be announced tomorrow.

The Time the Yankees Traded the Best Relief Pitcher in Baseball [2016 Season Review]

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

I can’t think of another player who became as beloved as a Yankee as Andrew Miller despite spending so little time with the Yankees. He didn’t even win a championship in New York or anything. Miller wore pinstripes for only a season and a half, yet he was a fan favorite, a clubhouse favorite, and one of the team’s best and most reliable players. I don’t think it’s hyperbole to call him one of the greatest free agent signings in Yankees history.

Miller’s departure from the Yankees really had nothing to do with Miller himself. He went above and beyond the call of duty in New York, but the rest of the team was not ready to contend, so much so that they needed an infusion of young talent. The dominant and affordable Miller was one of the club’s most valuable trade chips, so when the trade deadline rolled around, the Yankees entertained offers. Eventually someone met their demands.

The Spring Injury

The trade deadline was not the first time the Yankees dangled Miller on the trade market. They listened to offers over the winter and reportedly discussed sending him to the Astros for a package similar to what Houston sent to the Phillies for Ken Giles, but things never came together. Miller remained with the Yankees and reported to Spring Training not really knowing what his role would be.

“Certainly, they felt like more firepower can help us reach the goals. And if that’s what it takes to get there, then I’m all for it,” said Miller after Joe Girardi declared the newly acquired Aroldis Chapman the team’s closer. “I came here to play for the Yankees. I had a choice to go there. My goal is to win … I’m not worried about some sort of milestone or Hall of Fame case or anything like that. I’m just trying to go out there and win.”

MLB announced Chapman’s suspension in early-March, which meant, once again, Miller would be the team’s closer. At least temporarily. He went about his business in Spring Training, got his work in, and prepared for the season as usual. Preparing to be a closer is no different than preparing to be a setup man. Then, on March 30th, right at the end of camp, Miller took a line drive to his right wrist.

That looked bad. It looked bad and it was bad, really. Tests showed Miller suffered a chip fracture in his right wrist, and after seeing a specialist, he was cleared to play through the injury. MLB rules would not allow him to wear a brace, even on his glove hand. He would have to gut it out for several weeks.

Thirty Games as Closer

If the wrist injury had a lingering effect on Miller’s performance, it didn’t show during the regular season. He went 6-for-6 in save chances during the first 30 games of the season — the Yankees didn’t give him many leads to protect, unfortunately — and during that time he allowed seven hits and one walk with 20 strikeouts in 11.2 innings. At one point Miller retired 22 straight batters with 14 strikeouts. Yeah.

Miller’s most memorable moment as the closer this year was his final save chance before Chapman’s suspension ended. The Red Sox were in town and the Yankees were nursing a 3-2 lead in the eighth inning. Girardi went to Miller for the four-out save, and after getting the final out of the eighth, he loaded the bases with one out on three singles (Josh Rutledge, Dustin Pedroia, Xander Bogaerts) in the ninth. It was butt-clenching time. Then Miller did what Miller does (with some help from home plate umpire Ron Kulpa).

Three days later, Chapman returned from his suspension and took over as the closer. Miller did nothing to lose the job, but Chapman has been one of the best closers in baseball over the last few years, so the Yankees gave him the job. Miller could have made a big stink about it — more than a few players would have, I’m sure — but he didn’t. He slid back into the eighth inning and Dellin Betances took over the seventh.

“What do you want me to do? You want me to throw a fit?” said Miller the day Chapman returned. “The goal here is to win. I think if you go around and ask, there’s 25 lockers in here, and I think everyone is going to say that. We haven’t gotten off to the start that we want to. I think we’ve played well in the last couple of days, and the goal is to keep that going. Wins are what’s fun at the end of the day.”

Back to the Eighth

Weirdly enough, Chapman allowed a run before Miller this season. Chapman gave up a run in his first game back from the suspension. Miller didn’t allow his first run until the next day. He entered the eighth inning with a one-run lead against the Royals, then allowed a leadoff home run to Lorenzo Cain. (It was Cain’s third homer of the night.) The Yankees rallied to win that game, but still, Miller finally allowed a run, and some tried to make it a thing that he was unhappy about losing his closer’s job.

“There shouldn’t be (an adjustment). It should be the same,” said Miller after that game. “I’m out there trying to get outs, and unfortunately, I made a bad pitch and had to pay for it. Honestly, I’m just focused on the hitters. I’m trying as much (as I can) to concentrate on that.”

To the surprise of no one, Miller went right back to dominating as the setup man, and along with Chapman and Betances, he help form one of the most devastating bullpen trios in baseball history. In 30 games and 31.2 innings as the eighth inning guy, Miller pitched to a 1.99 ERA (2.55 FIP) with 54 strikeouts and six walks. That’s a 44.3% strikeout rate and a 4.9% walk rate, so yeah. He also had a 54.2% ground ball rate too.

Miller allowed eight runs (seven earned) in those 31.2 innings and five came on home runs. All solo shots. One was even a walk-off. I totally forgot about this:

That was basically the only way to score against Miller for those three months (or ever). You had to hope he made a mistake you could hit out of the park. Putting together a rally against him — stringing together singles and walks, that sort of thing — is basically impossible. He misses too many bats and he doesn’t beats himself with walks, which is sort of crazy because earlier in his career, Miller had a lot of problems throwing strikes.

For the first time in his career, Miller was an All-Star this season, and he actually had a tough outing in the All-Star Game itself. He entered the eighth inning with a two-run lead and it went fly out (Brandon Belt), single (Jonathan Lucroy), strikeout (Jay Bruce), single (Starling Marte), walk (Adam Duvall). Miller loaded the bases and threw 28 pitches in two-thirds of an inning. Will Harris had to come in to bail him out. (Harris struck out Aledmys Diaz to strand the bases loaded.)

The Yankees traded Chapman to the Cubs on July 25th, so for his final week in pinstripes, Miller returned to the ninth inning and served as the closer. He converted both save chances and struck out three in two scoreless innings that week. All told, Miller had a 1.39 ERA (1.78 FIP) in 45.1 innings with the Yankees in 2016. He struck out 77 (44.8%), walked seven (4.1%), and got a ton of grounders (52.9%). Miller also saved eight games in eight tries in his two short stints as closer. Total domination.

The Trade Deadline

On the morning of July 31st, the Yankees were 52-51 and 4.5 games back of the second wildcard spot with four teams ahead of them. They’d lost their last three games as well. The Yankees had been spinning their wheels all season. Each hot streak was met with an equally long cold streak. It had been a struggle all season just to get over .500. Remember that? They didn’t do it for good until August 10th.

There was no real indication the Yankees were going to make any sort of run in the second half. Chapman had already been traded, so the team was ready to sell, though Miller was different. Chapman was going to be a free agent after the season. Miller is signed through 2018 at an affordable rate. The Yankees didn’t have to trade Miller the way they had to trade Chapman (and Carlos Beltran and Ivan Nova). There was no reason not to listen to offers though.

Just about every contender in baseball had interest in Miller. The Indians, Cubs, Giants, Dodgers, Rangers, Astros, Nationals, Red Sox, Cardinals … you name the team and they wanted him, understandably. The Yankees set the price high and let teams come to them. It was a bidding war, and when it was all said and done, the Indians stepped up and gave the Yankees what they wanted.

On July 31st, the day before the trade deadline, the Yankees shipped Miller to Cleveland for a package of four prospects: outfielder Clint Frazier, left-hander Justus Sheffield, and right-handers Ben Heller and J.P. Feyereisen. Baseball America ranked Frazier and Sheffield as the 21st and 69th best prospects in baseball, respectively, in their midseason top 100 list earlier in July. They were the headliners.

“One of those two wouldn’t have been enough. We had to have them both,” said Cashman after the trade. “(There) was a pit in my stomach that I have the most difficult job of all in calling Andrew Miller. Andrew, he didn’t want to go anywhere. He loved playing here. Andrew was everything you want. Unfortunately, we had a lot of areas that need to be addressed, so unfortunately he was part of that type of solution.”

After the Trade

The Indians didn’t acquire Miller to get to the postseason. They had a 4.5 game lead in the AL Central on the day of the trade and FanGraphs put their postseason odds at 95.0%. Cleveland made the trade because they wanted to win the World Series, and they very nearly did that thanks in large part to Miller. The Indians pushed the best team in baseball to extra innings in Game Seven of the World Series, and they did it without Michael Brantley and Carlos Carrasco. They came so close!

Miller was Miller after the trade. He had a 1.55 ERA (1.53 FIP) with a ton of strikeouts (44.7%) and grounders (56.4%), and few walks (1.9%) in 29 regular season innings with the Indians. Coincidentally enough, Miller earned his first of three regular season saves with Cleveland against the Yankees.

Miller took it to another level in the postseason, allowing three runs in 19.2 innings with 30 strikeouts and five walks. He set new MLB records for strikeouts and innings by a reliever in a single postseason. Miller recorded at least four outs in all ten postseason outings and was named ALCS MVP in Cleveland’s five-game series win over the Blue Jays. The guy was marvelous. Miller gave the Indians everything they needed and then some.

Outlook for 2017

The Indians are a small payroll team and they did ride Miller hard in the postseason, so I suppose there’s a chance they will entertain trading him this offseason to replenish the farm system. That’s nothing more than my speculation though. It certainly wouldn’t hurt to listen. Teams may still be willing to pay through the nose for bullpen help like they did at the trade deadline.

As for the Yankees, the focus is on the four prospects they received in the Miller trade. Heller made his MLB debut after the deal and figures to be a bullpen factor next season. Frazier is slated to begin the season in Triple-A and could reach the show at some point during the summer. Sheffield will start next year in Double-A and Feyereisen will be in Triple-A. They’re all pretty close to the big leagues, so we’ll see what happens. Nothing we can do other than wait.

In his year and a half as a Yankee, Miller was essentially the perfect player. He was ultra-productive, he was willing to pitch in any role, and he was on a bargain contract. You wish you could have 25 guys like this on your roster. Miller was not the problem in any way. The rest of the team was the problem. I don’t think anyone didn’t love Andrew Miller. He’s awesome. It’s a shame he had to go, but it was the right move. Given their current state, the Yankees need the young talent more than they need a dominant reliever.

Random Thoughts

Andrew Miller
(Getty)

The World Series

With the Chicago Cubs clinching the NL pennant, earning a spot in the World Series opposite the Cleveland Andrew Millers, one of the two longest World Series droughts in baseball will come to an end. Many have noted all the stuff that’s happened since the Cubs had last been in the Fall Classic (1945) and this will be the first time the Cubs franchise will play in a World Series that features players of color.

As it has been since 2009, rooting in the World Series will be relatively stress free. That’s the one upside of the Yankees missing the playoffs that I always mention this time of year. Watching playoff baseball–or any sport’s playoffs, for that matter–without having to live and die with each pitch is a wonderful experience. Granted, the combination of having an infant with me and the 8 PM start times, I really only get a few innings of stress-free enjoyment until the Sandman–and I don’t mean Mariano Rivera–comes and gets me.

MatsuiMVP
(AP)

Awards Season

When the World Series ends, awards season begins to kick off the Hot Stove season. I used to be very into this time of year, getting very passionate about whom I thought should win, spilling a lot of digital ink and dying on a lot of digital hills about this. Still, that doesn’t mean I’ve abandoned the idea of having opinions about this thing. Without doing any sort of real research, my picks for the awards are:

AL MVP: Mike Trout. It should just be Trout until…whenever? I know there are cases for other players this year, but the MVP is Mike Trout and probably will be Mike Trout next year, too.

NL MVP: Kris Bryant. Great year? Check. Successful team? Check. A narrative? Check. Dude’s probably got this in the bag and has for a long while.

AL Cy Young: Masahiro Tanaka. Why? Because I’m being a homer, dammit, that’s why.

NL Cy Young: Jose Fernandez. Call this a sentimental pick, but I don’t care. Jose Fernandez and the way he approached baseball represent everything good and right about the game. His attitude made baseball fun for him and those around him in myriad ways. The voters should honor his spirit with this year’s award, then create an award named after him from here on out.

AL ROY: Gary Sanchez. I’m still a homer.

NL ROY: Cory Seager. This one is so obvious it’s almost boring. If you wanna throw Trea Turner a vote or two, fine, but it’s likely to be Seager, as it well should be.

Changes

Once again, the Yankees are going to look way different next year than they did this year. Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira are gone. It’s possible that one of Brett Gardner or Brian McCann will be gone. It seems that the team’s only constant has been change lately, though this year’s additions may be a bit harder to predict. I’m sure they’ll go after a big bullpen arm, but beyond that, I’m really not sure. But, either way, I’m looking forward to seeing a new group out there for 2017, especially when that means full years from Gary Sanchez, Aaron Judge, and hopefully Greg Bird.

Andrew Miller has been brilliant this postseason, but that doesn’t mean the Yankees should regret the trade

(Maddie Meyer/Getty)
(Maddie Meyer/Getty)

Later tonight, the easy to love Indians will look to take a commanding three games to none lead in the ALCS. They held the Blue Jays to one run total in Games One and Two over the weekend. A big reason why: Andrew Miller. He’s struck out ten and allowed just one hit in 3.2 innings. So far this postseason he’s fanned 17 in 7.2 scoreless innings. Total domination.

The most impressive thing about Miller’s postseason is not necessarily his strikeout total, I don’t think, though it’s obviously fantastic. It’s the workload. He’s recorded at least five outs in each of his four appearances, plus Indians skipper Terry Francona has used Miller against the middle of the other team’s lineup. He’s not just dominating. He’s dominating the other team’s best hitters.

With Miller being basically the perfect relief pitcher this postseason, it’s only natural to wonder whether the Yankees made a mistake by trading him at the deadline. After all, he was under contract for another two seasons, so while he wouldn’t be doing this for New York this October, there was always next year and the year after. The Yankees traded not only an elite player, but pretty much the ideal team player, for prospects. Prospects!

The other night on the postgame show Pete Rose called the Miller trade a huge mistake, and, well, he’s Pete Rose, the all-time hit king, so clearly everything he says it correct. I don’t see it that way though. Sure, ultimately the Miller trade could turn out to be a massive mistake, but we are a very long way from knowing that for sure. The best way to judge this trade right now is using the information we had at the time, which is:

1. The Yankees were long shots. The Yankees did make a spirited run in August and early-September, but on the day of the Miller trade, they had just lost three straight and were 4.5 games back of the second wildcard spot with four teams ahead of them. There was no indication whatsoever the team would make a run to the postseason, and ultimately, they fell way short of a playoff spot. Miller wasn’t making up the five-game deficit by himself.

2. The bullpen market was nuts. One week prior to the Miller trade, the Yankees dealt Aroldis Chapman to the Cubs for one great prospect (Gleyber Torres) and three other solid pieces. That’s a tremendous haul for a rental reliever, even one as good as Chapman. Two years ago the Red Sox got one good prospect for rental Miller. The Yankees traded Miller at a time when the demand for relievers was at an all-time high. It’s simple supply and demand. The demand was high and the Yankees had the only supply. They cashed in big time.

(Jason Miller/Getty)
(Jason Miller/Getty)

3. The return was widely praised. The Yankees received a top 25 prospect (Clint Frazier), a second top 100 prospect (Justus Sheffield), and two others (Ben Heller, J.P. Feyereisen) for Miller, and the consensus was they made a fantastic trade. Keith Law (subs. req’d) said the Yankees “have done extremely well.” One executive told Jayson Stark the team “did the right thing.” Buster Olney called it a “strong haul.” Try to find a negative reaction to the trade at the time it was made. I’ll wait. There wasn’t even the token “big mistake” quote from an anonymous scout.

4. The Yankees badly need young talent. The Yankees are old. They’re getting younger now, but generally speaking, they had a very veteran team this past season. The need for an infusion of young talent has been obvious for a while, and while guys like Gary Sanchez and Aaron Judge were knocking on the door at midseason, the Yankees still needed more pieces. They weren’t a “one or two young players away from contention” team. The trade brought in the high-end talent the Yankees need to build the core of the next winning team.

In the short-term, the trade has done nothing for the Yankees other than boost their farm system ranking. Heller’s thrown a few innings in the big leagues, but nothing meaningful. For the Indians, this trade has had enormous impact in the short-term, which is what they expected. They traded for Miller because they want to win the World Series for the first time since 1948. This was an all-in move, the kind of all-in move small payroll teams rarely make.

This is a trade we won’t be able to evaluate for years from the Yankees’ perspective. And I might be a total dud when it’s all said and done. Who knows? Finding out is part of the fun. Miller’s immediate success — no one is surprised by this, right? he’s been awesome for a while now — doesn’t make the trade a mistake any more than immediate failure would have made the trade a steal. All the years of control involved make this a long-term evaluation.

“I want the teams that stepped up and made those trades to be rewarded for doing so. It would justify the action they took,” said Brian Cashman to John Harper. “I have absolutely no regrets about the deals we made — other than being in the position we were in. We did what we had to do, and hopefully everybody wins.”

Yankees trade Andrew Miller to Indians for four prospects

(Jim McIsaac/Getty)
(Jim McIsaac/Getty)

It turns out the Aroldis Chapman trade was only the beginning. The Yankees announced Sunday morning that they have traded ace reliever Andrew Miller to the Indians for four prospects: outfielder Clint Frazier, left-hander Justus Sheffield, and righties Ben Heller and J.P. Feyereisen. It’s a 4-for-1 swap. Coincidentally enough, Miller and the Indians will be at Yankee Stadium for a series next weekend.

“I enjoyed my time here. I loved playing in New York, living in New York, and I enjoyed my teammates,” said Miller to Meredith Marakovits after the trade. Miller was absolutely not part of the team’s problem. He’s arguably the best reliever in baseball and he’s a Grade-A teammate. The Yankees need young talent and Miller was their top trade chip, so off he went. Sucks. That’s the business.

Brian Cashman told reporters on a conference call that Hal Steinbrenner gave him the green light to trade Miller following Saturday night’s loss, their second straight loss to the last place Rays and third straight loss overall. Joel Sherman says Steinbrenner was very involved in the process. He read scouting reports and watched video on Frazier and Sheffield, the key pieces in the return.

Frazier, 21, was the fifth overall pick in the 2013 draft and he’s since blossomed into one of the game’s top prospects. Baseball America ranked him as the 21st best prospect in baseball in their midseason top 100 update. MLB.com had him a touch lower at 24th and Keith Law (subs. req’d) even lower than that at 34th. Here’s a snippet of MLB.com’s free scouting report on Frazier, a righty hitter and thrower.

Frazier’s bat speed and raw power are among the best in the Minor Leagues and suggest the ceiling of an All-Star. Though he struggled to harness his aggressive approach and recognize spin early in his career, Frazier has developed into a more complete hitter as he’s climbed the Minor League ladder, with strikeout and walk rates that continue to trend in a positive direction … Frazier has above-average speed and will continue to develop in center field, though he may eventually have to slide over to right field in deference to the some of the Tribe’s other center-field prospects in the high Minors.

Those plate discipline improvements have been pretty substantial. Frazier had a 29.7% strikeout rate and a 10.3% walk rate in Low-A ball back in 2014. So far this year he has a 22.3% strikeout rate and a 10.0% walk rate at Double-A and Triple-A. That’s a big drop in strikeout rate while climbing the ladder, and it’s good to see it’s coupled with no change in walk rate.

Frazier, who Cleveland promoted to Triple-A just a week ago, is hitting .275/.351/.465 (128 wRC+) with 25 doubles, 13 homers, and 13 steals in 93 total games this year. He started the season at Double-A. Remember, this kid is only 21. Frazier was more than three years younger than the average Eastern League player and he more than held his own. He excelled. This is the kind of prospect you have to get in a Miller trade.

Cut that hair, Frazier. (Harry How/Getty)
Cut that hair, Frazier. (Harry How/Getty)

Having followed Frazier these last few years, I’m comfortable saying right now that he immediately takes over as the Yankees’ top prospect. He has premium bat speed and power from the right side to go along with center field caliber defensive tools. Frazier has the kind of talent that could potentially make him the offensive cornerstone the Yankees have been lacking since Robinson Cano left.

Sheffield, 20, was the 31st pick in the 2014 draft and I wrote about him in our Scouting The Market: Indians post. He was the guy the Indians took with the compensation pick for losing Ubaldo Jimenez to free agency. It’s worth noting Justus is not related to Gary Sheffield. There’s been some confusion about that and I know I’ve said he (and his brother Jordan) is Gary’s nephew. That is not the case. There’s no relation at all.

Anyway, Baseball America and MLB.com ranked Sheffield at the 69th and 95th best prospect in baseball in their midseason top 100 updates, respectively. He did not make Keith Law’s updated top 50. Here’s a piece of MLB.com’s free scouting report:

Sheffield shows the makings of an above-average three-pitch mix. He’s hit 96 mph with his fastball but usually sits in the 92-93 mph range with late, arm-side life and some sink. His curveball flashes plus and projects as a swing-and-miss offering at the highest level, and he made strides developing his changeup in 2015 … Both his secondary pitches and his command require further refinement, but the southpaw has all the tools necessary to develop into a quality mid-rotation starting pitcher.

So far this season Sheffield has a 3.59 ERA (3.79 FIP) with a 22.8% strikeout rate and a 9.8% walk rate in 95.1 High-A innings. He’s roughly three years younger than the average Carolina League player. Sheffield is a tiny little guy at 5-foot-10 and 195 lbs., so the concern is his ability to get enough downward plane on his fastball to avoid being fly ball and homer prone. He’s a great athlete with a repeatable delivery though, plus he has the three pitches needed to start.

Both Heller and Feyereisen are pure relievers. Heller, 24, was a 22nd round pick in 2013. He has a 1.73 ERA (2.83 FIP) with 29.3% strikeout rate and a 7.3% walk rate in 41.2 innings between Double-A and Triple-A. Baseball America (subs. req’d) identified Heller has a prospect on the rise in their recent Indians’ top ten prospect update, saying his “fastball can reach 100 mph, and it typically sits 96-98.” He also throws a quality slider.

The 23-year-old Feyereisen is the clear fourth piece in the trade. He has a 2.23 ERA (3.06 FIP) with a 33.1% strikeout rate and an 11.8% walk rate in 40.1 innings. Feyereisen has a low-to-mid-90s fastball and a slurvy breaking ball. He throws across his body quite a bit, so he chews up righties but tends to get hammered by lefties. We could definitely see Heller in MLB at some point this season. Feyereisen’s a little further away.

None of the four guys the Yankees acquired are on the 40-man roster. Frazier won’t be Rule 5 Draft eligible until after next season. Chances are he’ll be added to the 40-man and called up before then. Sheffield and Feyereisen won’t be Rule 5 Draft eligible until after 2017. Heller will have to be added to the 40-man this offseason. This trade doesn’t create any immediate roster headaches.

This is one of those trades that I think no one wanted to happen but everyone understands. It was impossible not to love Miller. He was not just dominant. He’s also a Grade-A dude who did whatever the Yankees needed without complaint. There should be more ballplayers like him. At the same time, the Yankees had a chance to land a big haul, and getting both Frazier and Sheffield and two others qualifies as a big haul.

In other news, the Yankees added Tyler Clippard in a trade with the Diamondbacks, so he’ll essentially step into Miller’s bullpen spot. Joe Girardi confirmed Dellin Betances will now take over as closer with Clippard and others in the setup mix. Losing Miller really stinks. It does. He’s great. But considering where the Yankees are at this point in time, getting a package of prospects of this caliber was too good to pass up.

2016 Trade Deadline Rumors Open Thread: Friday

(Elsa/Getty)
(Elsa/Getty)

As you may have heard, a fake rumor was going around last night that Carlos Beltran had been traded to the Indians. Actually, it wasn’t a fake rumor, per se. It came from this MLB.com article with a bunch of trade suggestions, and Twins people put the deals up on the dang Target Field scoreboard. The internet was abuzz for a few minutes, but no, there was no Beltran trade. Not yet, anyway.

The trade deadline is less than 80 hours away now, and since the Aroldis Chapman trade earlier this week, things have been rather quite around the Yankees. That’s not all that uncommon. They tend to keep things close to the vest. You can read through Thursday’s rumors right here. There’s not too many of them though. Once again, we’re going to keep track of the day’s Yankees-related trade rumors right here, so check back often. All time stamps are ET.

  • 9:30am: The Rangers have remained in contact with the Yankees about Ivan Nova as well as Andrew Miller and Beltran. Possibly Michael Pineda too. Texas is short on pitching, and they just lost Prince Fielder to season-ending neck surgery, so they have a hole at DH too. [Joel Sherman]
  • 1:39pm: The Nationals are believed to be willing to trade Lucas Giolito for Andrew Miller, straight up. This seems like a leak designed to get someone else to blink. Who? I’m not sure. [Jon Morosi]
  • 1:56pm: Word is the Yankees would need “three times as much” as they received for Chapman to trade Miller. That doesn’t mean they want 12 players in return (duh), they want higher quality players. That makes sense. The Cubs got one postseason run from Chapman. Whoever gets Miller gets three postseason runs. [Jon Heyman]
  • 2:15pm: The Yankees would not trade Miller for Giolito straight up. I’m in the minority, but I agree with that. The Yankees are right to demand more. Giolito’s great, but he’s not some kind of generational talent, and his performance in the minors hasn’t matched the stuff. [Heyman]
  • 2:22pm: If the Nationals are willing to trade Giolito for Miller, they’ve yet to approach the Yankees about it. [Sherman]

Reminder before you comment: Your trade proposal sucks.