The New York Yankees bullpen has certainly played a role in the team’s recent struggles, but as of today that might be changing. Yankees GM Brian Cashman, under pressure from the team’s fan base and ownership to make a deal, acquired two relievers and a corner infielder from the Chicago White Sox on Tuesday evening.
A Look at the New and Improved Yankees Bullpen, and Todd Frazier
In a rather unexpected turn of events, the Yankees swooped in and acquired David Robertson, Tommy Kahnle, and Frazier. In return, the Yanks will send prospects Blake Rutherford, Ian Clarkin and Tito Polo, along with veteran reliever Tyler Clippard to the south side of Chicago.
Is Todd Frazier the Answer at First?
If the season ended today, Frazier, the aging former Home Run Derby champion, would have the lowest batting average of his career.
Frazier will likely have the lowest impact of the three players acquired, if his numbers through roughly 80 games hold serve. His power will play at Yankees Stadium, as would that of any power hitter.
Frazier offers a more experienced alternative than Garrett Cooper and Ji-Man Choi, but from afar appears to be a slightly improved version of Chris Carter. He strikes out less than Carter did and has been more productive as a power hitter, but at 31 years of age, it appears his best days are behind him.
Frazier is likely a rental in every sense of the word, as his contract expires at the conclusion of this season. Interestingly enough, Frazier’s average has slumped since his memorable Home Run Derby victory in 2015.
In two of his three prior seasons, Frazier batted over .270. In the two seasons since the Derby, he has batted below .230. If there is one glimmer of hope for the Bronx faithful, Frazier has inexplicably hitt .267 on the road this season. Therefore, the old adage that he “needed a change of scenery” might prove true and revitalize this aging slugger’s career.
Nevertheless, why exactly Frazier was the target to help fix the corner infield issues, primarily at first base, is perplexing to say the least. One could assume that, prior to this deal, the Yanks inquired on players like Eric Hosmer and Yonder Alonso and balked at the asking price. Then again, the motivating factor of this deal could have also been the two above-average relievers included in it.
A Familiar Face Returns to the Yankees Bullpen
David Robertson, also known as the Dellin Betances before Dellin Betances, will be making his return to pinstripes. Robertson is 4-2 with a 2.70 ERA this season. He’s also converted 13 of 14 save chances.
Robertson is a similar pitcher to who he was during his first stint in the Big Apple. His HR/9 is slightly up, but otherwise he’s the same as always.
Robertson is coming up on the back-end of a four-year, $46 million contract. After this season, he’ll have one year remaining, with a salary of $13 million.
He will likely help platoon the seventh with Adam Warren and Chad Green, while pitching in occasional eighth innings to stagger a struggling Betances. The acquisition of Robertson means more for depth than anything else.
Robertson can pitch in the 7th, 8th, or even 9th, if need be. This versatility is pivotal, especially considering how fatigued the team’s bullpen is after the lengthy weekend in Boston.
Overlooked but Not Undervalued
The most interesting piece in this trade deal, however, is arguably the man with the least name recognition, Tommy Kahnle. Kahnle, a New Yorker and former Yankees draft pick, will not hit unrestricted free agency until 2021.
This is a big deal, considering that Warren will be reaching free agency in 2019 and Betances in 2020. The presence of Kahnle, a legitimate middle- or late-reliever, could allow the team to let one or both test the free agency waters.
Additionally, with another $65 million and four years committed to closer Aroldis Chapman, the team might grow weary of paying all of their relievers what the market dictates – like they did previously with Robertson.
Kahnle will likely add to the 7th inning platoon, while also filling in at times in the 6th or earlier, if need be. He may find himself pitching the 8th once in a blue moon, but this will likely only occur when the ‘pen is heavily taxed.
The Yankees currently have one of the league’s worst records in one run games, which is due in part to the injury of Chapman in May. This trade will give the oft-maligned Joe Girardi even more tools to try and secure the close games.
Was it a Good Deal?
Whether or not this deal was good for the Yanks is up in the air. They gave up three prospects, albeit only one currently being semi-highly touted, to acquire to two vets and a solid reliever.
The trade, from the White Sox end, was profitable. But, if this deal does help the Bronx Bombers reach the postseason, it very well might be considered a success by fans.
Cashman has been vocal about his willingness to make deals, as long as they do not require him to leverage much of the future for the present. This deal appears to at least border upon doing just that, but with a crowded outfield as-is, the team could stand to part with yet another outfield prospect.