This is the third installment of a series looking at Cashman’s starting pitching moves since 2000. (Check out part 1 here.) Part 2 ended with the aging, pathetic Yankees teams of 2013-2016. Cashman began rebuilding at the ’16 deadline, dealing away veterans Aroldis Chapman, Andrew Miller and Carlos Beltran for prospects. Then the unexpected happened: the 2017 Yankees were good. With a team that had it sights set on the postseason, Cashman hit the trade market to add another starting pitcher.
2017 Trade Deadline: Traded for Sonny Gray, Astros Get Justin Verlander
This one made me nauseous to type out. Gray was a disaster in the Bronx. Conversely, Verlander dominated the Yanks, earning ALCS MVP honors in 2017. Gray was decent down the stretch in ’17, pitching to a 3.72 ERA. He failed to make it out of the fourth inning in ALDS Game 1 in Cleveland. Gray kept the Bombers close in ALCS Game 4 before their famous 8th inning rally to win it.
A big reason Cashman targeted Sonny was because of his contract control. But he was awful in 2018, pitching to an ERA just under 5 and losing his rotation spot. Given the amount of prospects the Yankees traded for him (none of whom have panned out yet, but still had a lot of value at the time) and the fact that the 2017 and ’18 teams really needed another front-line starter, Gray over Verlander is a decision that will haunt Yankee fans like myself for years to come.
2017-18 Offseason: Gerrit Cole Traded to Astros
The Yankees and Astros both attempted to pry Cole from Pittsburgh prior to 2018. Cashman decided he was unwilling to part with Miguel Andujar in a potential deal. Cole was dominant in his two seasons in Houston, going 15-5 with a 2.88 ERA in 2018 and 20-5 with a 2.50 ERA in 2019, making the All-Star team, and finishing top-5 in Cy Young Award voting both years. Cole’s dominant Game 3 permanently swung the 2019 ALCS in the Astros’ favor, similar to Cliff Lee in 2010. Unlike with Lee, the Yankees were able to sign Cole in the offseason, which I’ll get to in a minute.
2018 Trade Deadline: Traded for J.A. Happ, Red Sox Get Eovaldi
Happ was actually great after the Yankees acquired him at the 2018 trade deadline, going 7-0 with a 2.69 ERA. He flopped in ALDS Game 1 though, lasting just two innings while allowing five runs, including a first inning three-run homer to J.D. Martinez. 2019 was a rough year for Happ despite his 12-8 record.
To add insult to injury, the Red Sox acquired Eovaldi, who would dominate the Yankees down the stretch. He let up just one run in 16 innings against the Yanks before tossing seven innings of one-run ball at Yankee Stadium in ALDS Game 3.
2018-19 Offseason: Traded for James Paxton
Paxton had an up-and-down first season as a Yankee. He started strong with a dominant April outing against the Red Sox, before hitting a rough patch of first-inning woes. He began a streak of ten straight starts won with another great outing against the Red Sox on August 2nd. Paxton’s first two playoff starts were underwhelming. He failed to get out of the third inning of ALCS Game 2. But Paxton tossed his most important start in pinstripes with the Yankees facing elimination in ALCS Game 5, keeping their hopes alive.
After being unsuccessful in his attempts to draft and trade for Cole, Cashman finally got his white whale. He signed Cole to a record-breaking 9-year, $324 million contract. Ten years from now, hopefully we’ll all agree that Cole was the best move Cashman made.
I trust Brian Cashman. However, even his biggest supporters can agree that his track record with starting pitchers is suspect at best. The 2001-07, 2010-12, and 2017-19 Yankee teams could’ve won multiple championships with the right pitching. The current version of the Yankees are in a great position to win #28. Let’s just hope Cashman’s done enough to get them over the hump.