The Yanks made a major deal to try and get more power, resolve the first base situation for now, and straighten out the bullpen. I am going to try to analyze the deal, both good and bad and also what it may mean short AND long term.
In the deal, the Yanks get 1b/3b Todd Frazier, and relief pitchers David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle from the White Sox. They gave up Tyler Clippard and three prospects.
Frazier: 31, a 2x All Star. When he was a little kid, he and his Little League teammates lined up next to a Yankee at a Yankee game. Frazier got to line up next to Derek Jeter for the National Anthem. Now he is a Yankee. He is a free agent after this season. He is making $12 MM now. So a trial run to see if the Yanks want to keep him for 2018, and he wouldn’t interfere with Greg Bird for 2018 at 1B. Frazier is primarily a 3B, who has played 94 games at 1B in his career. We’ll see who plays 3B and who plays 1B between Headley and Frazier. Frazier has a little more experience there than Headley.
But… asssuming Bird ever becomes healthy, could the Yanks sign Frazier once he hits free agency, move him back to 3B in 2018, and then move Chase Headley? Headley has just 4 HR this year at what is supposed to be a power position in 3B. Headley is still signed for 2018, at $13MM. The Yanks would most likely have to eat a lot of Headley’s contract to get rid of him.
Pros? What I mentioned above. A corner IF of a healthy Bird at 1B and Frazier at 3B is an upgrade for 2018 if the Yanks can sign Frazier this offseason. The man has power. In his last three full seasons, 2014-2016, he hit 29, 35 and 40 HR. He has 16 HR so far this season. His 162 g. average is .247-30-87, OPS+ 111. If Frazier becomes your long term solution then, Headley and 3B prospect Miguel Andujar could be used as trade chips to upgrade elsewhere.
Cons? He is hitting just .207 this year. He hit .255 in 2015, .225 last season and is at .207 now. So that is a downward trend. We’ve seen another infielder with a lot of power, low batting average recently (Chris Carter). We know how that one worked out. Hopefully he ups the BA and keeps the power. Another thing is that he is a righty power hitter, as opposed to a lefty like Duda or Alonso, both who were rumored to be on the Yanks’ radar. Here is where losing Bird really hurt this year. Consider the righty power (Judge, Sanchez, Holliday, Todd Frazier (what was supposed to be in Carter), Clint Frazier vs. the lefty bats (Gardner, Ellsbury, Gregorius)…. you have switch hitters in Hicks who did well before his DL stint and Headley, and Headley hasn’t given power (4 HR). Neither has Ellsbury (4 HR). Gardner, though surprising, isn’t known for his power. There is an imbalance in the power between righty and lefty bats which the Bird injury really highlights. Getting the righty bat in Frazier didn’t solve that imbalance. You’d think with all that righty power that this was Boston and Fenway rather than the Yanks and Yankee Stadium. It’s the Yankees. With that short right field porch and Yankee history, the Yanks need a lefty power bat (think Ruth, Gehrig, Giambi Nettles, Jackson, Tino, O’Neill, Maris, the switch-hitters in Mantle, White, Tresh, Posada, Teixeira). Still, Frazier at 1B is an upgrade over a Choi/Cooper platoon.
Robertson: 32, RHP, signed through 2018. $12MM this year, $13MM next year. The most positive aspect of this deal, I believe. He has already been a Yankee, been a 1x All-Star, already been their closer. He replaces the beleaguered Tyler Clippard, who after a good two months this year, appeared to just lose it completely. That alone is good. Robertson’s prior NY experience should serve him well. Robertson has been doing well this year, 4-2, 2.70, 13 saves. I see just pros here, no cons. Let’s hope I am right. 162 g. average 5-4, 2.95, ERA+ 141, 16 saves. Between him, Betances and Chapman, should help shorten the game, and Green (see below) and Warren have been great and can move into the sixth. Definite upgrade here.
Kahnle: Was in the Yanks system years ago, getting up to AA. 27, RHP. 1-3, 2.50 this year. 162 g. average 1-3, 3.70, ERA+ 117. I don’t know where he slots in or how he plays against say a Holder, Heller, Gallegos, etc.
I don’t think the Yanks are done making moves. I really think they need a move for a starting pitcher (Sonny Gray?). To me, replacing Pineda with Mitchell or Cessa won’t get it done. Could the Yanks stretch out Chad Green and make him a starter (thus Kahnle replaces Green in the bullpen) or is another trade (like for Gray, Gerrit Cole) coming? I really think the Yanks need to get that starter and upgrade the rotation.
Now to who the Yanks gave up:
Clippard. A good two months followed by an awful month. 4.95 ERA. 1-5. Yanks lost confidence in him, justifiably so. A 13.06 ERA in his last twelve appearances, since June 12. A change here had to be made.
Ian Clarkin: 22, LHP, hasn’t made it to AA yet. 4-4. 2.61 at Tampa. 14-18 in his minor league career. Here is where depth of prospects helped make the deal. The Yanks have rookie lefty Jordan Montgomery in the rotation now. Justus Sheffield is at AA. Caleb Smith just made his MLB debut the other night. Dan Camarena is another lefty. Could Clarkin be better than say, Camarena? Yeah, maybe, but you do have to give to get.
Tito Polo: 23 soon. Righty hitting OF. Between High A/AA this year, .298-5-36, 25 SB. Yanks got him from the Pirates in the Nova deal last year. Seems like a nice prospect, just made it to AA, but with outfielders in front of him (esp. righty hitters Clint Frazier, Judge…)
Blake Rutherford: 20, Lefty hitting OF. 1st round pick last year (2016). .281-2-30 this year at Low A Charleston. The one guy that the White Sox probably wanted most. Losing him hurts but you have to give to get. A few years away, obviously. The Yanks do have guys like Billy McKinney, Jake Cave, Mason Williams, and the injured Dustin Fowler yet as lefty hitting outfielders, and still of course have Gardner and Ellsbury.
We’ll see about Todd Frazier. Power nice, needs to up that batting average, still a 1B upgrade. To me, getting D-Rob (aka Houdini) back is the big plus in this deal.
But the Yanks can’t stop here. Go get that starter.