The Yankees Jumpstarted Their Rebuild by Dominating the Trade Deadline
Nearly two months ago, when it was first reported that New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman was considering dealing Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller from his ridiculously loaded bullpen, I wrote about how doing so made a lot of sense for the Bronx Bombers.
In short, I said the Yankees needed to try and do what Theo Epstein and the Chicago Cubs just did. With a meager 6.5% chance of making the playoffs, per our algorithms, New York isn’t going to win anything this year barring some type of improbable run, so the Yankees might as well shift their focus to the future, selling off what they can in an effort to load up the farm system.
It’ll be hard for anyone to ace a rebuild the way the Cubs have, but Cashman is off to a good start. The dude had himself a heck of a July, retooling his farm system with several impressive moves.
As a result, the Yankees system, which graded out as slightly above average prior to these deals, is now one of the best in baseball.
After these trades, Yankees will have 7 of our midseason Top 100 (also Sanchez, Mateo, Judge, Kaprelian). https://t.co/LNaToQvn0q
— JJ Cooper (@jjcoop36) July 31, 2016
Let’s take a look at the two big trades -- Chapman and Miller -- in addition to briefly touching on what else the Yankees did.
Chapman to the Cubs
New York’s most notable trades sent away Chapman and Miller, who teamed with Dellin Betances to form an otherworldly and generally terrifying bullpen.
Chapman went to the Cubs, making them pretty much unfair, but Chicago paid a steep price. The Cubbies parted with reliever Adam Warren and three prospects -- Gleyber Torres, Billy McKinney and Rashad Crawford -- to acquire Chapman.
Torres, a 19-year-old shortstop who was ranked as Chicago’s top prospect, is the centerpiece of the deal. Baseball America has Torres as the 27th-ranked prospect in the game.
Warren is a solid reliever who, ironically, the Cubs originally acquired from the Yankees in exchange for Starlin Castro, which means New York basically got Castro -- a moderately-priced 26-year-old with a career .314 wOBA who is signed through 2019 -- for free. McKinney and Crawford are both decent prospects in their own right, with McKinney widely regarded as the better of the two.
There are two other factors that make this deal look so good for New York. First, Chapman is a free agent after this season. While he could sign with Chicago long-term, there’s a chance the Cubs just gave up a ton for a half-season rental. Also, when juxtaposed to what New York parted with to get for Chapman this winter -- which amounts to four not-so-highly-rated prospects -- the Yankees turned a pretty nice profit on the Cuban flamethrower.
Miller to the Indians
Miller, New York’s other stupid-good lefty reliever, went to the Cleveland Indians. Boasting a superb starting rotation, Cleveland has effectively moved all its chips to the center of the table for 2016 and is the frontrunner in the American League.
Again, though, the Yankees got plenty in return, with prospects Justus Sheffield and Clint Frazier headlining the haul.
Frazier, an outfielder who was the fifth overall pick in the 2013 MLB Draft, was rated as Cleveland’s second-best prospect prior to the season. His bat carries his prospect profile, and in his age-22 campaign, Frazier put up a .372 wOBA in 391 plate appearances in Double-A at the start of this year.
Cashman calls Frazier "electric bat” "bat speed is already legendary" "Shows up in dirty uniform for national anthem." #Yankees
— Joel Sherman (@Joelsherman1) July 31, 2016
Sheffield, a 20-year-old left-handed pitcher, checked in this spring as the Indians’ sixth-best prospect. In 95 1/3 innings in High-A, he posted a 3.79 FIP with a 22.8% strikeout rate in 2016.
Right-handed relievers J.P. Feyereisen and Ben Heller are also headed to the Yankees. The four-player package led some to proclaim New York “fleeced” the Indians.
That's Not All
Like Chapman, Beltran is on the last year of his deal. In return for sending the well-traveled outfielder to the Texas Rangers, New York landed three prospects, including pitcher Dillon Tate. He’s hasn’t performed well this year (4.44 FIP and 9.3% walk rate in Low-A), but Tate was taken by the Rangers with the fourth overall selection in the 2015 MLB Draft. He obviously has big-time potential.
Nova, who showed promise with a 3.58 SIERA in 2013, has struggled since since undergoing Tommy John surgery, but he’s off to the Pittsburgh Pirates for two players who will be named later.
Just a month ago, New York’s farm system was fairly top heavy with infielder Jorge Mateo, pitcher Domingo Acevedo outfielder Aaron Judge and catcher Gary Sanchez leading the way. Now, thanks to the addition of 12 new players, the Yankees feature a deep system with several top-tier talents.
The Yankees have a very solid core of young, nearly MLB ready players around which to build.
Sanchez and Judge will likely be up in the bigs this year, while Frazier is probably still a year out. A future outfield featuring Frazier and Judge looks pretty darn good. Don’t forget about Greg Bird and Luis Severino, two youngsters who played well for New York in 2015. Bird is currently injured while Severino has spent the majority of the season pitching in Triple-A.
Torres and Mateo, both currently in High-A, are multiple years away from the Bronx, but they give the farm system a mix of high-end potential and well-rounded depth.
With Mark Teixeira ($22.5 million) in the last year of his deal and Alex Rodriguez ($20 million) off the books following the 2017 season, New York will have a whole bunch of cash to throw at free agents along with a lot of cheap, controllable assets. That’s a scary combination and one the Cubs used this winter to land Jon Lester, John Lackey, Ben Zobrist, and Jason Heyward.
This year hasn’t been a total loss for New York as Michael Pineda and Masahiro Tanaka are pitching like two of the best starters in the American League, and Betances will get to try on the closer role for size. Plus, Judge and Sanchez figure to get their first significant playing time down the stretch.
While there may not be a bunch of wins the rest of way in 2016, Cashman and the Yankees have set themselves up for a sustained run of success down the road.