The New York Yankees, after a strong start to the 2017 season, scuffled into the All-Star break. Things haven’t gotten much better in the days since then. Holes at first, third, in the rotation, and in the bullpen made winning a tough proposition. On Tuesday, New York addressed two of those holes in a trade with the Chicago White Sox. The Yankees received third baseman Todd Frazier and relievers David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle from Chicago, in exchange for at least three players (a fourth could be included). Frazier will probably slot at third in an everyday capacity.
The Yankees are the team closest to getting a deal done with Chicago Wh Sox Robertson-Frazier and Kahnle going if deal completed
— Bruce Levine (@MLBBruceLevine) July 19, 2017
Yankees Acquire Todd Frazier, David Robertson, Tommy Kahnle from White Sox
What Frazier Means
Frazier’s presence likely means that Chase Headley‘s time in New York is at an end. Headley is a below-average fielder, while Frazier does solid, slightly-above-average glove work. While Frazier’s bat has been unimpressive, he still provides more of a spark than Headley, who has just four homers and 37 RBI on the year.
Alternatively, the Yankees could try moving Frazier to first base, but that seems unlikely. Garrett Cooper, also recently acquired via trade, has been solid offensively in limited action, and is a fine fielder. The Yankees probably won’t move on from him just yet.
Frazier’s OPS (.760) is alarmingly low for a guy who has his kind of power, and his OPS+ is barely above average. He’s batting a paltry .207 on the year, which is somehow worse than the .225 figure he recorded last season. While batting average isn’t everything, he’s also struck out 71 times and walked just 48. Yankee Stadium could play well with his swing, but he’s a career .247 batter and has actually finished a single season with an average lower than that in three of his six seasons, and he’s on pace for four in seven. Then again, maybe he just needs a change of scenery.
2016-17 road stats: frazier .849 ops, 35 HR, 84 RBI; arenado .848 ops, 26 HR, 80 RBI
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) July 19, 2017
Either way, he comes at a low cost, he’s arguably an upgrade over Headley, and his power will be a welcomed addition, when he flashes it. Overall, this is a decent, necessary move for the Yankees. However, in the end, Frazier is probably just a stopgap until Gleyber Torres is ready.
Robertson’s Return, and Kahnle’s Role
Robertson will bring much-needed help to New York’s beleaguered bullpen. The unit has struggled all season, and that includes former All-Star closer Aroldis Chapman. Robertson should slot in as the new set-up man right away. and could close if needed
A veteran of nine MLB campaigns, the 32-year-old has served in many capacities for the White Sox and New York Yankees. He owns 131 saves and 116 holds in his career, and has put up exemplary numbers for Chicago this season. He’s besting his career-2.93 ERA in 2017, with a 2.70 figure at the moment. His 0.96 WHIP stands out, as do his 47 strikeouts against just 11 walks. While most will focus on the acquisition of Frazier, Robertson may be the true prize here. He’s also under contract through the 2018 season, meaning he’s more than just the rental that Frazier appears to be.
Robertson pitched for the Yankees from 2008-2014, and saved 39 games in his final season in pinstripes. If Chapman’s struggles fail to abate, Robertson could resume the closer’s role in 2018, and possibly beyond if signed long-term.
Kahnle, 27, is in just his fourth season, and put up strong numbers with Chicago. He racked up 60 strikeouts, against just seven walks, in 36 innings. He also owns a 2.50 ERA and a 0.97 WHIP. He and Robertson immediately shore up one of New York’s most glaring weaknesses: its bullpen. If the Yankees intend to make any sort of run this season, this move was absolutely necessary.
Windy City Bound
Chicago is in the midst of a massive rebuild and has been stockpiling prospects to aid that purpose. In return for their major leaguers, the White Sox received Blake Rutherford, the Yankees 2016 first round pick, pitcher Ian Clarkin, and pitcher Tyler Clippard.
— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) July 19, 2017
Clarkin, 22, was drafted by New York in the first round (33rd overall) of the 2013 MLB Draft. The righty made it to High-A ball last season after injuries slowed his development. This year, he recorded a 2.61 ERA and 57 strikeouts in 72.1 innings. If he can cut down on the walks (he’s issued 25 already), he could be a solid major league arm one day.
Clippard, 32, is an experienced righty who can help alleviate the loss of Kahnle and Robertson in the short-term. The 10-year veteran came up with the Yankees in 2007, spent seven solid years with the Washington Nationals, and then bounced around between the Oakland A’s, New York Mets, and Arizona Diamondbacks before returning to the Yankees. While he owns a very serviceable 3.06 career ERA, he’s struggled mightily this year, particularly with his control. His 19 walks have led to an inflated WHIP (1.29) and have contributed to his 20 earned runs allowed in 36.1 innings. Clippard is below replacement level at this point, and was someone the Yankees were looking to offload.
Rutherford, Chicago’s true catch in this deal, had been playing for the Yankees Class-A affiliate, and owned solid numbers. The 20-year-old outfielder, MLB’s 30th-ranked prospect, has a .281/.342/.391 slash line, with two home runs and nine steals. However, the Yankees outfield is packed with young talent at the moment, making Rutherford expendable.
While he won’t be ready for major league action any time soon, he now joins the White Sox impressive stockpile of top prospects. The rebuild is going swimmingly so far, and the front office has to be pleased with itself.
The fourth player headed to Chicago in this deal is outfield prospect Tito Polo. The 22-year-old was hitting .283 with a .770 OPS in 59 games at High-A ball this season. He also stole 19 bases before being promoted to Double-A. Since the promotion, he has a .950 OPS and six steal in 13 games. The speed and on-base ability are real. If his development continues, he could be a nice addition to the White Sox organization.