By Chad Jennings
As the Yankees approach this year’s trade deadline, Brian Cashman has an obvious desire to improve in the short term, but also an acknowledged desire to protect assets for the long term. While the team has a reputation of continuously trading away young players to acquire aging veterans, there’s actually little evidence of that in the Yankees’ recent trade history. In the past five years, Cashman’s been far more likely to trade marginal pieces from the big league roster or acquire relatively young major league talent.
Here are the significant trades the Yankees have made the past five seasons. I’m not listing the many “cash considerations” trades that have brought multiple low-impact players into the fold. Instead, these are the player-for-player swaps Cashman has pulled off since 2010.
For this exercise, I’m counting “before the deadline” as anything that happened between the start of spring training and the trade deadline. Leading into the 2010 season, the Yankees actually made quite a few trades, including huge moves for Curtis Granderson, Javier Vazquez and Boone Logan (all of which cost the Yankees Austin Jackson, Ian Kennedy, Phil Coke, Melky Cabrera, Mike Dunn and Arodys Vizcaino). Jackson and Kennedy were the biggest names of that bunch, and they went in the deal for Granderson, who was still in his prime and under lengthy team control. Vizcaino was a pretty big prospect, but also extremely young when he was included in the Vazquez deal. That trade really didn’t work out very well for either team. Cabrera didn’t have his breakout season until he’d already left Atlanta for Kansas City.
At the deadline
Trade Mark Melancon and Jimmy Paredes to Houston for Lance Berkman
Trade Andrew Shive and Matt Cusick to Cleveland for Kerry Wood
Trade Zach McAllister to Cleveland for Austin Kearns
This was busy deadline for the Yankees, but not necessarily a good one. At the time, Melancon was a struggling, up-and-down reliever who had yet to live up to his hype and potential in the big leagues. Paredes was a thoroughly overshadowed infielder who wasn’t making much of an impression on the prospect radar. Melancon has since developed into a very good closer, and Paredes has become a pretty good hitter. The Yankees gave up on them in favor of Berkman, who didn’t do much during his brief Yankees stint (it was the next year that he revived his career in St. Louis). Of the three deadline additions in 2010, Wood was the best and wound up costing the least in terms of prospects. Kearns was probably the worst and cost a guy who’s had a decent big league career. Three trades. Only one was a good one for the Yankees.
In the offseason
Trade Juan Miranda to Arizona for Scottie Allen
Trade Adam Olbrychowski to Washington for Justin Maxwell
This was the winter when both Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera were free agents. It was the winter ownership stepped in to sign Rafael Soriano. It was the winter the Yankees’ scouting department found useful veterans in Bartolo Colon, Freddy Garcia, Andruw Jones and Eric Chavez. The offseason after 2010 was not a winter of trades for the Yankees. No real impact one way or another from these swaps. Just kind of shifting around some spare parts. Maxwell turned out to the best of the four players involved in these deals, but the Yankees never found a big league role for him.
At the end of spring training, the Yankees gave up an extra long man to add some depth in the outfield. Dickerson wound up playing in 60 big league games that season (and a handful of games the next season as well), while Mitre ultimately wound up right back with the Yankees in a cash trade. He pitched in four Yankees games that season and hasn’t been in the big leagues since. This is the kind of deal Cashman’s made quite a few times, giving up some big league redundancy to add depth elsewhere.
At the deadline
After the deadline, the Yankees made minor moves to purchase Scott Proctor and claim Raul Valdes and Aaron Laffey, but they were silent at the 2011 trade deadline. Derek Jeter and Phil Hughes came off the disabled list in early July, Rafael Soriano and Eric Chavez came off the DL just before the deadline, just days before Ivan Nova was recalled from Triple-A. Those were basically the Yankees’ deadline additions. In August, they’d take Alex Rodriguez off the disabled list in August, and Jesus Montero was called up in September. As for trades, those were pretty minor for quite a while until the 2011 season was over.
In the offseason
Trade Jesus Montero and Hector Noesi to Seattle for Michael Pineda and Vicente Campos
This had been a quiet winter until one day in late January when, within hours of one another, the Yankees signed Hiroki Kuroda and made their most significant trade in recent memory. Although Pineda had a year in the big leagues, this deal was built around prospect-for-prospect. Pineda was hardly a finished product, and he was still young with five years of team control. Montero seemed to be a sure thing at the plate, and one evaluator at the time said that Montero’s offense was the most reliable thing in the entire trade. It took several years for the trade to play out, but at this point, the deal looks pretty lopsided in the Yankees’ favor. Even Campos is healthy and back on the prospect radar.
Right as spring training was getting started, the Yankees finally found a way to dump Burnett’s contract. They shipped him to Pittsburgh for a pair of extremely low-level prospects. Cayones was shipped away roughly a year late, and Moreno actually wound up putting up numbers good enough to get some big league time this season (including last night). Ultimately, the deal was more about getting rid of Burnett and less about trying to acquire real talent. A month and a half later, at the very end of spring training, the Yankees traded depth to gain depth. Kontos has become a solid middle-innings reliever in San Francisco while Stewart has stuck around as a backup catcher in both New York and Pittsburgh.
At the deadline
Trade D.J. Mitchell and Danny Farquhar to Seattle for Ichiro Suzuki
Trade Chad Qualls to Pittsburgh for Casey McGehee
Farquhar had been claimed off waivers less than a month earlier. Qualls himself had been a minor trade addition in July. The Yankees used those two relievers, plus extra long man Mitchell, to plug holes in the outfield and the infield. McGehee was not good and wound up playing overseas the next season. Ichiro, on the other hand, was excellent in his first stint with any major league team other than Seattle. He brought a burst of energy, and the Yankees wound up giving him a two-year contract the following offseason (they perhaps should have quit while they were ahead). Ichiro was certainly a past-his-prime veteran, but the Yankees got him without sacrificing anything that resembled a high-end prospect.
In the offseason
This was the winter of re-signing Andy Pettitte, Mariano Rivera, Hiroki Kuroda and Ichiro. It was the winter Kevin Youkilis and Travis Hafner became Yankees (not that we’ll ever remember much about their tenures). This was a winter of many incredibly small moves — Juan Rivera, Matt Diaz, Eli Whiteside — that never turned into anything. It was a winter of plugging short-term holes and making no long-term commitments. This was a time when the Yankees were mostly frozen by current commitments, aging players and a lack of valuable prospects in the upper levels of the minor league system. Within a few months, they would draft Aaron Judge and Ian Clarkin as compensation for letting Nick Swisher and Rafael Soriano leave via free agency.
At the very beginning of spring training, the Yankees swapped some minor league outfield depth to add a surprisingly valuable piece of the bullpen (and eventually, they’d swap Kelley to add a prospect reliever). Near the end of spring training — after injuries left them thin — the Yankees gave up two forgotten prospects to take on a salary dump in Wells. Along the way that season, the Yankees gave up cash considerations to acquire a bunch of players — mostly light-hitting utility infielders like Reid Brignac and Chris Nelson — but just as they’d done in the offseason, they stayed away from significant trades involving big name prospects or big leaguers.
At the deadline
Trade Corey Black to Chicago for Alfonso Soriano
After staying away from big trades for a while, the Yankees finally made this move. They were hesitant to give up Black — he’s now putting up good strikeout numbers in the Cubs’ Double-A bullpen — but they needed a bat, and in the short-term, Soriano was an incredible addition. If his return to the Yankees had lasted only that second half of 2013, it would have been an overwhelming success. Instead, he fell so flat in 2014 that he wound up released before the All-Star break. In the short-term, Soriano was exactly what the Yankees wanted. In the long-term, he fizzled. If the Yankees had kept Black, he would probably be just another name on the Yankees’ long list of on-the-verge relievers. After the 2013 trade deadline, the Yankees made a tiny end-of-season swap for Brendan Ryan just to give themselves a shortstop after Derek Jeter was shut down at the very end of the year. That offseason, Ryan was re-signed to his current contract.
In the offseason
Trade Ben Paullus to San Diego for Dean Anna
Trade Chris Stewart to Pittsburgh for Kyle Haynes
Really, if the Yankees have a recent pattern in their trade history, it’s the tendency to make relatively minor swaps to either add a little depth or get rid of redundant pieces. The Yankees acquired Anna to help add some much-needed middle infield depth, and Anna wound up getting some big league time while Ryan was hurt early in the 2014 season. The Yankees got rid of Stewart in an effort to open the catching situation for Francisco Cervelli and newly acquired Brian McCann. Anna was depth at a position of need. Stewart was depth at a position of excess.
Essentially, I tried to limit “at the deadline” moves to anything that happened within a week of July 31. The McCarthy deal happened in early July as a quick-strike attempt to add some much-needed rotation depth as the Yankees kept sending starters to the disabled list. Again, the Yankees made the swap by taking on money and getting rid of an unnecessary part of the big league roster. In trading away Nunez at the end of spring training, the Yankees basically dumped a utility guy who had been replaced by the emergence of Yangervis Solarte. Again, they traded away an extra piece of the big league roster but held onto key prospects.
At the deadline
Trade Yangervis Solarte and Rafael De Paula to San Diego for Chase Headley
Trade Kelly Johnson to Boston for Stephen Drew
Trade Peter O’Brien to the Arizona for Martin Prado
Claim Esmil Rogers off waivers
I’m including the Rogers claim because it really did feel like a small part of the trade deadline. It was a way to add a fresh long man without giving up a young player. In order to drastically remake their infield, the Yankees traded away four players, only one of whom was considered much of a prospect. Johnson was a veteran, Solarte had been a minor league free agent the previous offseason, and De Paula’s prospect stock had thoroughly disappeared. The one true prospect shipped away at last year’s trade deadline was O’Brien, the raw power hitter without a position. The Yankees seemed unconvinced that he could stick at catcher, and the Diamondbacks have mostly used him in the outfield (he’s hit a bunch of home runs no matter where he’s played).
In the offseason
Trade Francisco Cervelli to Pittsburgh for Justin Wilson
Trade Shane Green in three-team deal for Didi Gregorius
Trade David Phelps and Martin Prado to Miami for Nathan Eovaldi, Garrett Jones and Domingo German
Trade Shawn Kelley to San Diego for Johnny Barbato
Trade Manny Banuelos to Atlanta for David Carpenter and Chasen Shreve
This was the winter of wheeling and dealing. The Yankees made five significant trades, each of which had an immediate impact on the big league roster. Along the way, Cashman gave up one minor leaguer (Banuelos) and acquired three (one of whom made the big league roster out of spring training). Most of what the Yankees surrendered were major league players who were seen as replaceable. Cervelli was ultimately replaced by John Ryan Murphy. Greene was ultimately replaced by Eovaldi. Prado was replaced by Stephen Drew. Kelley was replaced by Carpenter and Shreve. Phelps’ role was basically taken by Adam Warren. Since this season started, the Yankees only player-for-player swap has been dealing Carpenter for second base prospect in Tony Renda.