Thanks to a stretch in which the Yankees have won 9 out of their last 11 contests, the Bombers have regained sole possession of first place in the AL East. Still though, the club had some holes to fill entering Monday’s non-waiver trade deadline. Namely, the club needed a first baseman, some relievers, and most importantly, more starting pitchers.
Two of these holes were patched in a massive trade with the Chicago White Sox, one which netted the Yankees Todd Frazier, Tommy Kahnle, and David Robertson. Still, the gap in the starting rotation still loomed large.
The Yankees addressed their rotation in a big way though, making two separate trades. First, they traded prospect pitchers Zack Littell and Dietrich Enns to Minnesota for veteran southpaw Jaime Garcia and cash. Then, in the blockbuster move of the Trade Deadline, the Yankees pulled the trigger and acquired talented young righthander Sonny Gray from the Oakland Athletics in exchange for three good prospects in Jorge Mateo, Dustin Fowler, and James Kaprielian.
While these trades saw the Yankees bid goodbye to some high-upside prospects, both trades were undoubtedly wins for the Yankees and GM Brian Cashman, who fleeced opposing GMs once again. Let’s break down what these two trades both mean for the Yankees for both 2017 and beyond.
Trade 1: Yankees acquire LHP Jaime Garcia and cash from Minnesota Twins in exchange for RHP Zack Littell and LHP Dietrich Enns
The first Yankee deadline trade actually was made early Sunday morning, a day the Yankees entered with only four starting pitchers on the roster for five spots. Garcia was seemingly a perfect fit for the job, a veteran lefthander who has played a big role in the St. Louis Cardinals’ postseason runs of the past, which included a 2011 World Series ring.
Garcia pitched for the Redbirds for 8 seasons as one of the club’s most reliable starters. He struggled with left (throwing) shoulder injuries for part of his tenure with the club, but has since bounced back. He made 30 starts and pitched over 170 innings for the Cardinals last season, and hasn’t missed any starts this year.
Garcia has just a 5-7 record and a 4.29 ERA in 19 starts this season for both the Atlanta Braves and Minnesota Twins, but he is generally regarded as a dependable fifth starter. His numbers are not eye-popping, but they are better than what the Yankees were getting out of Caleb Smith, Luis Cessa, and Bryan Mitchell.
Garcia essentially takes the place of Michael Pineda, whose Tommy John Surgery puts him out of commission for the rest of this season. With the Yankees in need of a veteran innings-eater, Garcia certainly fit the bill.
He didn’t cost much either, as the prospects the Yankees gave up were certainly expendable. Enns was merely AAA depth that can be made up internally, and while Littell was impressing at AA Trenton, he was never thought of as a top prospect. Additionally, the cash the Twins sent over will cover the balance of Garcia’s contract, so the Yankees will not have to pay Garica anything more than the league minimum.
It wasn’t a flashy trade at all, but the addition of Garcia gives the Yankees another veteran that can provide depth in case of injury and give the club a reliable fifth starter.
Trade 2: Yankees acquire RHP Sonny Gray for SS Jorge Mateo, OF Dustin Fowler, and RHP James Kaprielian
The only move the Yankees made on the actual day of the Trade Deadline sure was the biggest. In a deal that had been rumored for weeks and speculated upon for months, both the Yankees and A’s finally worked out a trade centered around Sonny Gray.
Gray instantly improves the Yankee rotation for years to come. A young, hard-throwing righty, Gray is signed for the rest of this season and two more years, which is a huge bonus for the Yankees. With uncertainty surrounding the futures of Masahiro Tanaka, CC Sabathia, and Michael Pineda, the Yankees needed someone they could count on for the next few seasons in the rotation, and Gray can certainly be that guy.
Gray has the profile of an ace. He throws five pitches, has won big games before, and can throw 200 innings. He has had minor injuries to his right trapezius, forearm, and shoulder, but has excelled this season on the rubber. In fact, Gray’s last 10 starts may have been his best stretch of starts since his All-Star 2015 season. Aside from a random off year in 2016, Gray has been a stud for the better part of five years.
Gray is still only 27 and is signed until he turns 30, which ensures the Yankees will be getting his best years. He can partner with Luis Severino atop the Yankee rotation as Tanaka and Sabathia grow older, and will be relied upon in the present down the 2017 playoff stretch run.
Of course, to acquire a player with as much value as Gray, you’ve got to give up something of value. The A’s had their sights set on Gleyber Torres or Clint Frazier, but the Yankees held steady and were adamant that those players were untouchable. They ended up giving away Jorge Mateo, a former top prospect who has lost a little bit of his luster but is currently raking at AA, and two more prospects with bright futures that are clouded by injury in Dustin Fowler and James Kaprielian.
It definitely hurts losing all three of those prospects, but with Mateo’s path to the MLB blocked by Torres and the Yankees’ current core of Didi Gregorius and Starlin Castro, he was expendable for sure. And as for Fowler and Kaprielian? We know how good those players can be. But with major knee and elbow injuries taking them out for the year, their luster has been scattered a bit. I am pretty sure that Fowler in particular can bounce back soon, while Kaprielian’s recovery may take significantly longer.
Similar trades, such as the ones involving Yu Darvish, Chris Sale, and even the Yankees’ own Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller trades all show that a player of Gray’s value usually costs much more on the trade market. Somehow though, Cashman was able to sell Mateo, Fowler, and Kaprielian to the A’s in place of taking any of the club’s best prospects. It is a clear win for the Yankees, who got yet another young building block to build around.
The Yankees made two trades that absolutely make them a better club both today and for the future. They didn’t give up too much for either Garcia or Gray, and now have a stacked rotation to go with their deep bullpen and threatening lineup. For a club that looked like a possible wild card team coming into the season if everything broke just the right way, now anything less than the division crown will be a disappointment for the Yankees.