Just one season removed from selling at the trade deadline, Brian Cashman and the New York Yankees reprised their familiar role as deadline buyers by executing a stunning, seven-player trade with the Chicago White Sox last night.
In the massive swap, the Yankees acquired first/third baseman Todd Frazier, former Yankee reliever David Robertson, and reliever Tommy Kahnle from the White Sox in exchange for reliever Tyler Clippard and three prospects: OF Blake Rutherford, LHP Ian Clarkin, and OF Tito Polo.
Let’s break this trade down team by team and analyze what it means for both the Yankees and White Sox franchises.
What the Yankees Got: 1B/3B Todd Frazier, RHP David Robertson, RHP Tommy Kahnle
The Yankees of yesterday had three major holes: they had a black hole at first base, their relievers were burnt out, and injuries had ravaged their starting pitching. With yesterday’s trade, the Yankees patched two of those holes in a big way.
It is hard to pinpoint one specific centerpiece of this trade, given that all three players are exactly the type of players that the Yankees were looking for. However, the player that might excite fans the most is Frazier.
A 31-year-old slugger, Frazier was rumored to be going to the Boston Red Sox in a trade. It made too much sense; the Red Sox and White Sox were familiar trade partners, Boston had prospects to trade, and they desperately needed a third baseman.
While sitting on my couch listening to the rumors, I couldn’t help but think: while Frazier has played much of his MLB career at the hot corner, he has some experience at first base and may be better suited as a first baseman. With the Yankees needing a first baseman just as badly as the Red Sox needed a third baseman, Brian Cashman was on the same wavelength and made a call to the White Sox front office.
Hours later, Frazier was a Yankee and the Red Sox still have a Kung Fu Panda-sized hole at third base. But there was more to this trade than simply fleecing the Red Sox.
Frazier is a perfect fit for the Yankees. He is a proven veteran with 40-home run power and now gives the Yankees another Home Run Derby champion on their team to partner with Aaron Judge. Frazier is in the last year of his contract, but I think he would have interest in re-signing with the Yankees should they make a deep postseason run.
Frazier will hit in the middle of the order and will provide protection for the young Yankee bats. He is an excellent clubhouse guy, and the Yankees will be glad to have him.
The real prize of this trade though could prove to be the relievers the Yankees acquired. David Robertson is a proven commodity: he has pitched successfully in the toughest markets, including New York for seven seasons. A former fan favorite, Robertson is just as good a pitcher at age 32 as he was when he was a Yankee All-Star. Signed for this season and next, Robertson will presumably join forces with Dellin Betances as the primary setup men to Aroldis Chapman.
The wild card here is Tommy Kahnle. The 27-year-old righty has had a tremendous year for the White Sox, and was thought of as the piece of highest value by Chicago. Kahnle is among the AL leaders in strikeouts, and can be used as a middle-of-the-inning fireman if Joe Girardi needs to take his starter out early. A former Yankee farmhand who never pitched for New York, the native of the Empire State will get his chance now with all eyes upon him.
The acquisitions of Robertson and Kahnle really lengthen the Yankee bullpen. Chapman, Robertson, and Betances can close out the late innings, while Kahnle, Adam Warren, Chad Green, and Chasen Shreve can all be effective middle-inning options. In fact, the Yankees could even shift Green back into the starting rotation if they would rather find a fifth starter from within instead of making another trade.
All in all, there is nothing not to like about the haul the Yankees received. Frazier, Robertson, and Kahnle fill a very specific void and will be crucial pieces in the Yankees’ playoff push.
What the White Sox Got: OF Blake Rutherford, RHP Tyler Clippard, LHP Ian Clarkin, OF Tito Polo
The White Sox got a good group of prospects back from the Yankees in return. The obvious centerpiece here is Rutherford. The Yankees’ first round pick last year and #3 prospect, he will add to the White Sox’s impressive collection of prospects. It will hurt for Yankee fans to give up Rutherford so early in his development, but the Yankees have enough other outfielders, including Aaron Judge and Clint Frazier at the MLB level, that they were able to withstand the loss of Rutherford, who is still a long way away from the big leagues.
Clarkin is a southpaw starter that was also a first round pick, but he had been toiling in A-ball for parts of two seasons already following major shoulder surgery. With the Yankees hesitant to move him up in the system and with a 40-man roster decision looming, it made sense to cut ties with Clarkin at this time. It’s just a shame that he never panned out like the Yankees had hoped years ago.
Tito Polo was just acquired at last year’s trade deadline as a part of the Ivan Nova trade, and is a speedy outfielder. He has been outstanding since being promoted to AA two weeks ago, but never profiled as a top-rate prospect. He is merely a throw-in here, much like he was back in the Nova trade.
And as for the fourth piece going to Chicago, Tyler Clippard, it’s too bad that he never go the chance to work things out in New York. After being reacquired by the Yankees last year, he pitched well for the club in 2016 and for the first two months of 2017, but the wheels completely fell off for Clippard over the last two months. He was getting shelled every time he took the rubber, and someone had to be cut out of the bullpen to make room for Robertson and Kahnle. Best of luck on the North Side, Tyler!
Winners and Losers:
This is one of those rare trades in which it looks like everyone will emerge as a winner. The Yankees filled two of their three major holes, and didn’t give up too many top prospects in the process. They still have the trade chips left where they could pursue a starting pitcher, which might put the Yankees over the top.
And for the White Sox? There’s no way that this trade can go badly for them. Frazier, Robertson, and Kahnle had no future on a rebuilding club, and Chicago got some pieces of value back in exchange for their services.
It sounds cliche, but everyone is a winner here. This is an excellent trade for both the Yankees and White Sox, and it will be very interesting to see where Brian Cashman takes the Yankees next as we approach the Trade Deadline.