The New York Yankees were supposed to be building. They were supposed to be in the middle of a youth movement, and a few years away from competing. Instead, after a surprising first half, the Yankees just went all-in on this season thanks to a blockbuster trade Tuesday night.
The Bronx Bombers enter Wednesday’s action with a 48-44 record, and sit 3.5 games behind the Boston Red Sox in the American League East. They are also 1.5 games ahead of the Minnesota Twins for the final Wild Card spot. That convinced general manager Brian Cashman it was time to buy and buy big.
The Yankees landed two-time All-Star third baseman Todd Frazier, former All-Star reliever David Robertson and rising reliever Tommy Kahnle from the Chicago White Sox. While they had to give up a package of prospects that included prized outfielder Blake Rutherford to get the deal done, New York filled some considerable holes.
Cashman knew he needed to improve his production at the corner infield spots, and it’s likely Frazier will team with Chase Headley to man first and third base. Headley is having a rough season, hitting just .258 with a disappointing .712 OPS. Clearly he needs to either start performing better or make way for someone else. Frazier will help him keep the production up at the corners.
Through 81 games this season, Frazier has struggled. He is hitting .207 with 16 home runs and 44 RBI. His OPS of .760 is far below expectations, but he did hit 40 home runs last season, and 35 in 2015. There’s pop in his bat and a change of scenery could wake him up. The 31-year-old will be a free agent after the season, so the Yankees are only getting a rental with him.
Robertson will return to where it all started with the Yankees. He spent the first seven seasons of his career in the Bronx, and is in the middle of a fantastic season. He’s 4-2 with a 2.70 ERA, a 0.96 WHIP and 47 strikeouts in 33.1 innings. He also has 13 saves in 14 opportunities. Robertson is making $12 million this year and is set to make $13 million next year before he hits free agency.
Meanwhile, Kahnle is in the middle of the best season of his four-year career. The 27-year-old is 1-3 with a 2.50 ERA, a 0.97 WHIP and 60 strikeouts in 36 innings. A hard-throwing righty, Kahnle could actually be viewed as the prize of the deal, since he will be under team control through 2020.
The Yankees already had a great bullpen, now they arguably boast the best in baseball. With Kahnle, Robertson, Dellin Betances, Adam Warren and Aroldis Chapman. If Frazier can combine with Headley to shore up the corners, New York could make a run in the AL East.
Oh, and an added benefit of landing Frazier and Robertson is the fact the Red Sox were trying to swing a deal for both:
The Yankees are likely still in the market for a starting pitcher, so they’re almost certainly not done dealing. But with Aaron Judge tearing the cover off the ball, Didi Gregorius and Starlin Castro turning in career years, Frazier as a second half bounce-back candidate and a lights-out bullpen, this is a team that can win now.
Cashman was right to take his shot with Tuesday’s trade. He kept his top prospect — Gleyber Torres — and still made his team a whole lot scarier. This deal was a big win for the Yankees.