MINNEAPOLIS — Brian Cashman went 2-for-2: He made a significant deal that, on the surface at least, very much improved his team, perhaps making it a contender a year ahead of schedule. And the Yankees’ general manager did it without sacrificing any of his organization’s top prospects.
“We want to maximize the present, but not at the expense of the future,” Cashman said Wednesday. “We want to make sure that our future is as bright as we think it can be and it remains that way.”
Cashman completed a seven-player deal late Tuesday night, acquiring top relievers David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle and third baseman Todd Frazier, who also can play first. The Yankees sent reliever Tyler Clippard to the White Sox along with outfielder Blake Rutherford, the Yankees’ first-round pick in 2016, lefty Ian Clarkin, a No. 1 pick in 2013, and minor-league outfielder Tito Polo.
Cashman continues to engage the marketplace for starting pitching, but is taking the same approach regarding prospects.
“I still think we want to be careful buyers as we walk this line of trying to maximize the present as well as protect the future,” he said.
Only Rutherford is considered a high-end prospect, and many talent evaluators, including some with the Yankees, see Estevan Florial as a better one.
For the immediate future, Cashman thought he addressed two areas of weakness: the bullpen, which has struggled for the past month, and first base, a black hole pretty much all season. After Wednesday’s 6-1 loss to the Twins, Joe Girardi said he’s going to try to fix that hole with Chase Headley, who he said will get “a crash course” at the position. The switch-hitting Headley, 34, has started six games in his career at first base, compared to 1,076 at third.
Asked how long it will take him to adjust, Headley said: “I don’t know, we’ll find out. I’ve been over there before. It’s still the infield. I’ll do the best I can.”
Was he disappointed?
“I’m glad that our team’s better,” Headley said. “Do I think I can still play third? Of course I do, but if this makes our team better, I’m happy to do it.”
Frazier, a 31-year-old native of Point Pleasant, New Jersey, still talks of going to games at the old Stadium as a kid. He has started 719 games at third and 82 games at first. He has a .207/.328/.432 slash line with 16 homers and 44 RBIs this season.
“That’s where I feel natural,” Frazier said of third. “I wouldn’t mind first at all, too, but I’ll play wherever. They traded for me for a reason. But third base is definitely my first choice.”
Girardi said how he slots his relievers is still up in the air, but it seems the bullpen is now an embarrassment of riches.
Robertson, 32, saved 39 games after taking over for the retired Mariano Rivera in 2014, then signed a four-year, $46-million deal with the White Sox. He has 13 saves and a 2.70 ERA this season. The Yankees drafted Kahnle, 27, in the fifth round in 2010 but lost him to the Rockies in the 2013 Rule 5 draft. He has a 2.50 ERA in 37 games, with 60 strikeouts and seven walks.
Each player talked about the thrill of joining a contender.
“I’ve been here and I’ve won before, I want to win here again,” said Robertson, a Yankee from 2008-14. “That’s all there is.”
Cashman, though it appears he’s built a super bullpen, knows better than to assume anything.
“Hopefully, we’re in a better position today than we were yesterday,” he said. “We think we are, but I’m not going to promise anybody anything. I’m just going to promise that we’re going to continue to try and improve this team. The effort we completed last night is one example of that, but it doesn’t matter what I say, it matters what we do.”