Saturday, August 6, 2016

Is the Yankee Front Office Out of Its Collective Mind?

The Yankees seem determined to break the mold used by George Steinbrenner when he assembled eleven pennant-winning squads over the course of three decades. "The Boss" had a habit of sacrificing his top prospects to bring established stars to the Bronx. At the trade deadline this year, the new Yankee regime did exactly the opposite, parting with four cornerstone veterans to acquire a slew of untested players. GM Brian Cashman claims that the Yankees are trying to assemble an "uber team" resembling the one that attained dynastic status in the late-'90s. He also commented that the flurry of activity at the deadline is not a "white flag" for the 2016 campaign. But with most of the latest acquisitions being so far removed from major league action, it's hard to perceive it as anything else. 

A breakdown of the transactions is as follows:


Thirty-nine year old CARLOS BELTRAN is having one of his best seasons in ages. He was leading the team in multiple offensive categories and was on pace for a 30 homer/ 100 RBI campaign before he was dealt to the Rangers.

 A thirty-one year old veteran, ANDREW MILLER has quietly become one of the best relievers in baseball. Versatile and easygoing, he has filled multiple bullpen roles over the course of his career. His 1.39 ERA in 44 appearances with the Yankees earned him his first All-Star selection this year. He was averaging over 15 strikeouts per nine innings when the Yankees sent him to Cleveland.

 Personal issues aside, AROLDIS CHAPMAN is one of the premier closers in the majors. Regularly hitting 100 mph on the radar gun, he has been clocked as high as 105. With the Yankees this year, he converted 20 save opportunities and posted an ERA of 2.01 in 31 appearances. He is now property of the Cubs.  

 Right-hander IVAN NOVA has been an inconsistent and enigmatic performer for the Yankees. When he is good, he is very good. But at times, he has looked flustered and unfocused on the mound. He began the 2016 season in the bullpen, but was promoted to a starting role due to injuries and ineffectiveness in the Yankee rotation. He managed just 4 quality starts in 15 outings. In spite of that fact, he was one of the Yankees' most versatile hurlers. He will presumably finish out the 2016 slate with the Pirates.

In a trade that was little more than a back story, the Yankees also parted with pitching prospect VICENTE CAMPOS, who was sent to Arizona. A veteran of seven minor league seasons, the big right-hander (6-foot-3, 230 pounds) has played for four clubs so far this year, posting a 10-3 record with a 3.07 ERA. He currently resides at the Double-A level.


 In exchange for CHAPMAN, the Cubs sent veteran pitcher Adam Warren to New York along with  minor league prospects Gleyber Torres (a shortstop), Billy McKinley (an outfielder) and Rashad Crawford (an outfielder). Born in Venezuela, Torres was considered to be the Cubs' hottest prospect with a rating of #28. Prior to 2016, McKinley had a rating of #88. He is off to a .186 start at the plate this year. Crawford has some speed and covers a lot of ground defensively, but has a lot of growing to do. Warren compiled a dismal 5.91 ERA in 29 games with the Cubs. 

For BELTRAN, the Yankees added a trio of minor league pitching prospects to their farm system. Right-hander Dillon Tate was a first round pick in 2015. He is having a rough year in the South Atlantic League with a 3-3 record and 5.12 ERA. Right-hander Erik Swanson was the Rangers' eighth round pick in 2014. He is progressing nicely in the low-minors so far. Twenty-one year old Nick Green is still several years away from throwing his first major league pitch (assuming he ever gets there).  

For MILLER, the Yankees picked up four minor league prospects.One of them, a twenty-one year old outfielder named Clint Frazier, has been described as "an outgoing and fun young man from a good Georgia family." Assigned to Scranton, Wilkes-Barre, he may be ready for a call-up in September. The other three prospects are pitchers. Left-hander Justus Sheffield was the Indians' first round pick in 2014. In three minor league seasons, he has averaged close to 10 strikeouts per nine innings as a starter. Right-hander Ben Heller ascended to the Triple-A level in his fourth professional season. A reliever, he has compiled a 1.64 ERA so far this year. Another right-handed reliever, J.P. Feyereisen has assembled an 8-4 record with a 1.77 earned run average in 95 minor league games so far. He is currently at the Double-A level. 

For Nova, the Yankees will receive two players to be named later.

For Campos, the Yankees got reliever Tyler Clippard. Originally drafted by the Yankees in 2003, he has a pair of All-Star appearances on his resume. He has served as a closer, set-up man and middle reliever. 


Anyone who follows the careers of minor leaguers knows that most of them don't pan out. A 2013 Baseball America article claimed that only 17 percent of all draft picks make it to the majors. Of those, less than half have long and successful major league careers. Using those numbers as a guide post, the Yankees can reasonably expect two or maybe three of their latest acquisitions to become significant contributors in the Bronx. Neither Clippard nor Warren are high impact players so--on the surface at least--the Yankees' trade deadline moves seem desperate and ill-advised. With a revitalized farm system, however, the Bombers now have the luxury of bartering their top prospects for a crop of marquis veterans in the tradition of George Steinbrenner. Perhaps that's what they had in mind all along.     

Only time will tell.    


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