You know what’s just as good as what the Yankees got in Tuesday’s midnight trade with the White Sox, the package of Todd Frazier, David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle?
What the Red Sox got as a result of that deal: Nada, zilch, bupkis.
It’s been a while since we’ve felt the adrenaline rush from a real-live arms race between these two bitter rivals. But with the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline creeping up on the horizon, Brian Cashman pulled off another classic swipe by netting Frazier — the third baseman coveted by Boston — as part of his primary goal to bolster the bullpen.
The Yankees’ general manager probably isn’t done, either. Too bad the Red Sox aren’t in the market for a starting pitcher, because that would make Cashman’s next target that much easier to identify. Cashman acted unfazed last December when the Red Sox were virtually unopposed in trading for Chris Sale, but that had to burn, sitting on the sidelines for a star pitcher tailor-made for the Bronx.
Nearly eight months later, after watching Sale morph into the second coming of Pedro Martinez for the Red Sox, the Yankees’ braintrust seems intent on not making the same mistake twice. Turns out, they were better than they even thought. Cashman won’t sell these Yankees short again, and that feeling came through in Wednesday’s trade debriefing.
“We’re now in a sprint,” Cashman said on a conference call, “and we want to be able to run the fastest, swiftest, most successful race we can and hopefully these three new additions can put ourselves in a position to do that.”
It was only a few days earlier, before the weekend series at Fenway Park, that Cashman talked about the Yankees being “careful buyers,” a slogan we interpreted to mean the top youngsters were staying put. But the GM left himself some wiggle room there, which is why Class A outfielder Blake Rutherford — the organization’s No. 3 prospect — was included in the four-player package shipped to the White Sox.
Charleston is a long way from the Bronx, however, and the recent impact of 22-year-old Clint Frazier these past two weeks — paired with Aaron Judge’s demolition of opposing pitchers — definitely gives Cashman a comfortable feeling about his outfield for years to come. Dealing Rutherford, along with Class A lefthander Ian Clarkin, did put a dent in the system. There was no way around that, not when you’re getting a pair of closer-quality arms for the bullpen and 30-homer bat in Frazier.
But Cashman still has more chips to deal without making it hurt, and as much as he reinforced the back end of the Yankees’ relief corps, the rotation remains this team’s Achilles heel. Rookie Jordan Montgomery has been a bright spot, but all it took for Wednesday’s 6-1 loss to the Twins was for him to briefly slip off the rails during a six-run second inning. Beyond that, the other scoreless five innings don’t really matter.
When Cashman announced Michael Pineda’s torn UCL last Friday, he talked about auditioning some of the Yankees’ internal candidates for that spot, like Bryan Mitchell, Luis Cessa, and perhaps eventually Chance Adams. Adding Robertson and Kahnle provides more of a safety net for the rotation, but the strongest of bullpens can’t erase damage that’s already happened. If the Yankees also are worried about wearing down Aroldis Chapman, who suddenly can’t miss bats in Season One of his five-year, $86-million contract, then part of what those new arms are going to do is preserve Chapman rather than be used in conjunction with him.
“We had a great bullpen on paper already,” Cashman said. “But for the last month it hasn’t been firing on all cylinders as you would expect.”
As difficult as it is to trade for a front-end starter with the deadline clock ticking, Cashman went overboard on the bullpen to compensate. He didn’t really need Frazier, who struck out Wednesday as a pinch hitter a few hours after getting off the plane from Chicago. And the GM didn’t provide a specific plan on how Frazier would be deployed.
But one thing is certain. The pull-happy Frazier won’t be taking aim at the Green Monster in a Red Sox uniform for the next two-plus months. And that’s a victory in itself.