By Chad Jennings
Cleveland Indians relief pitcher Andrew Miller delivers in Game 3 of baseball’s American League Division Series, Monday, Oct. 10, 2016, in Boston.
Baseball’s postseason has served as a reminder of many things we already knew.
It’s helped cement Clayton Kershaw as a generational talent, further established Francisco Lindor as one of the game’s elite young players, showcased the defensive wonder of Javier Baez, and given the Blue Jays another opportunity to complain about the many boogiemen out to get them.
And for those of us who spent the year focused on the Yankees, it’s been a reminder of the electricity of Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller.
Chapman saved all three wins of the Cubs’ division series, and he was an Adrian Gonzalez single away from escaping a next-to-impossible jam with no outs and the bases loaded in Game 1 of the NLCS. Chapman’s been flawed, but man, he’s been fun to watch and a potent late-inning weapon.
Miller, of course, has been the secret weapon for an Indians pitching staff that lost key starters to late-season injuries. Playing a fireman role — Terry Francona basically uses Miller to get the game’s most important middle-innings outs as early as the fifth — Miller has pitched 7.2 innings with three hits, two walks and 17 strikeouts. Seventeen!
For the Yankees, it’s all too familiar.
“I want the teams that stepped up and made those trades to be rewarded for doing so,” Brian Cashman told John Harper. “It would justify the action they took. I have absolutely no regrets about the deals we made — other than being in the position we were in. We did what we had to do, and hopefully everybody wins.”
Should Cashman have any regrets about those trades?
In the end, the Yankees finished five games out of the second wild card, needing to pass four teams to get there. Hard to definitively say Miller and Chapman would have made up that ground. After the trade deadline, the Yankees were held to one run or less 12 times (and they won one of those games). Replacement relievers Tyler Clippard, Adam Warren and Tommy Phelps each pitched pretty well (though, obviously, not nearly at the level of Chapman and Miller). Would the late-season collapse of Dellin Betances have happened or been as devastating if he were in the seventh inning? Would the Yankees have even tried Luis Severino in the bullpen if Miller and Chapman were still on the roster?
Ultimately, uncertainty was at the root of the Yankees’ deadline deals. The Yankees knew the talent they were giving up, but they also knew they’d dug a deep hole with little chance of escape. With little reason to believe they could make a real postseason run, the Yankees gave up two sure things to add some potential for the future. Check out Harper’s story for Cashman’s explanation of the leg work that went into setting high standards for the Miller and Chapman trades.
What will ultimately determine the success of those trades will be the performance beyond this season.
In Gleyber Torres and Justus Sheffield, the Yankees got two of the youngest players in the Carolina League (and two of the league’s top performers). In Clint Frazier, the Yankees gotarguably the top prospect in their entire farm system. In Ben Heller, J.P. Feyereisen, Billy McKinney and Rashad Crawford the Yankees added depth in their long-term bullpen and outfield with players who could have an impact as early as next season.
Seeing Chapman and Miller continue to perform in October really has no impact on the Yankees. The value of those trades will depend far more on the added prospects than the lost relievers.