With the Major League Baseball trade deadline less than a week away, rumors are flying around like crazy. The Yankees are reportedly working hard to land pitcher Sonny Gray and first baseman Yonder Alonso from Oakland. Last season was the Yankees’ “Year of the Sell”, but it will be some time before we know if the 2016 deals that brought prospects Clint Frazier, Gleyber Torres, Justus Sheffield, and others will pan out. This year, the Yankees are buyers looking not to overspend as they make a strong push towards the postseason.
With that in mind, here are the five best deadline deals in Yankees’ history.
5. The Yankees Are Going to the World Series
Sometimes a deadline deal turns out great because of one game or simply one at-bat. That was the case in 2003 when the Yankees dealt pitchers Brandon Claussen and Charlie Manning (the two combined for 115 career Major League games) to the Cincinnati Reds for third baseman Aaron Boone. The Yankees felt the deal was necessary because third baseman Robin Ventura was having a less than stellar year. To make room for Boone, the Yankees shipped Ventura to the LA Dodgers for Scott Proctor and Bubba Crosby.
Boone arrived in the Bronx with 18 HR, 65 RBI, 15 steals and an .808 OPS. The remainder of his season, which was the first time in his career that he regularly faced AL pitching, was pretty average. Although he drove in 31 runs in 54 games, his splits as a Yankee were .254/.302/.418 and he hit just six more home runs.
Unfortunately, things got much worse for Boone once the post-season started. He was 3-15 (.200) in the ALDS win over the Twins and was just 2-16 (.125) after the first six games against Boston in the ALCS. Boone sat on the bench to start the seventh and decisive game. The Yankees rallied late from a 5-2 deficit and sent the game into extra innings.
In the bottom of the 11th, Boone, who had entered the game in the 8th as a pinch-runner, led off against knuckleballer Tim Wakefield. The Boston veteran had retired the side in order in the 10th but threw just one pitch in the 11th. Boone swung at a hanging Wakefield knuckleball and crushed it high into the night and into the left field seats.
While Mariano Rivera laughed and cried as he laid down on the mound, Boone rounded the bases and was met at home plate by a crush of his jubilant teammates. At the time, it was another chapter delivered by the Yankees to the Red Sox book of misery.
Unfortunately, Boone did not have a good World Series as the Yankees fell in six games to the Marlins. Then during the offseason, he tore up his knee playing pickup basketball and missed the 2004 season. All of this led to the acquisition of Alex Rodriguez from Texas and the departure of Alfonso Soriano.
But, Boone will forever be a hero to Yankees fans and will forever share a nickname in Boston with Bucky “bleeping” Dent.
4. The Kids Are All Right
Okay, the 2016 deadline has to be included even though the majority of the players acquired for Andrew Miller, Aroldis Chapman, and Carlos Beltran haven’t stepped out onto a Major League field as of yet. But, you can’t help but smile when you look toward the future and think about what the prospects could mean for the success of the ball club.
Clint Frazier, acquired in the Miller deal with the Indians, is already having an impact on this season’s pennant race. “Red Thunder” has played both corner outfield positions and has shown tremendous bat and foot speed. Entering Wednesday’s play, Frazier had put together a slash line of .277/.284/.569 in 17 games. 11 of his 18 hits have gone for extra bases. A major deficiency in his game has been the sole walk he has taken in 67 plate appearances.
Gleyber Torres, ranked as the No. 1 or No. 2 prospect in baseball, had his season cut short when he tore the rotator cuff in his non-throwing shoulder while making a head-first slide. Prior to the injury, the only thing he was tearing up was the baseball. He had an identical .863 OPS in both Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton.
Starter Justus Sheffield, who also came over from Cleveland, is currently on the disabled list with an oblique strain. But, in his first full year in Double-A, Sheffield has continued to show plenty of promise. The righty has averaged 7.9 K/9 IP and has given up less than a hit per innings pitched. When he returns from the DL, Sheffield needs to cut down on his walks and home runs allowed.
Pitcher Dillon Tate, over from Texas in the Beltran deal, had his season delayed due to a shoulder injury. Since his return to Single-A Tampa, Tate has displayed some of the talent that made him the 4th overall pick in the 2015 MLB Amateur Draft. In his seven starts, Tate has a 3.16 ERA and a 1.148 WHIP. He’s also averaged 7.4 K/9 IP and walked less than 3 batters /9 IP. If he continues to excel, Tate could find himself in Trenton before season’s end.
The prospects acquired last year will triumph or fail, remain with the Yankees or be used to acquire veterans. Either way, it will make for some interesting trade deadlines in the future.
3. Here Comes Big Daddy
The Yankees’ 1996 offense relied upon on-base percentage, hit and runs, and stolen bases to score runs. That is, until the signing of Darryl Strawberry from an independent team in June and a deadline trade for Cecil Fielder morphed them into a team with power.
Ruben Sierra, whose best days were behind him, was sent along with pitching prospect Matt Drews to Detroit for “Big Daddy”. Fielder had belted 26 home runs and driven in 80 runs in 107 games at the time of the trade. His acquisition meant more depth to the lineup, more power at the DH spot (Sierra had 11 HR, 58 RBI with the Yankees), and a right-handed bat to play first base over Tino Martinez when a left-hander started for the opposition.
Fielder hit 13 home runs and added 37 RBI in 57 games with New York. Though his on-base percentage dipped slightly, Fielder’s OPS was basically the same (.853 w/Detroit vs. .857) after the trade and his batting average was 12 points higher (.248 to .260).
The Yankees faced Texas in the first-round division series and held a 2-1 lead in games. Texas jumped out to an early 4-0 lead at home in Game 4, but the Yankees rallied behind Fielder and a pair of Bernie Williams home runs. With runners on the corners and no one out in the top of the 4th inning, Fielder lined a single to center to get the Yankees on the board. Mariano Duncan and Derek Jeter each added an RBI in the inning to cut the lead to 4-3.
Fielder stepped up against right-hander Roger Pavlik with two on and two out in the 7th and delivered a go-ahead RBI single. Williams second home run of the game added insurance in the 9th and the Yankees closed out the ALDS in four games.
Though he had just three hits in 18 ALCS at-bats, Fielder hit a pair of home runs and drove in eight runs in the five-game victory over Baltimore. Then Fielder got hot in the World Series vs. Atlanta. In helping the Yankees to their first title in 18 years, Fielder hit .391 (9-23) with two doubles, two walks, two RBI, and a .918 OPS.
Sierra left New York and manager Joe Torre on bad terms, but he returned to the team for 2+ seasons (2003-2005). He played his final game in July 2006 with the Twins, his 20th year in the big leagues. He played for eight organizations and was with Texas on three separate occasions. He hit just one home run in 46 games with the 1996 Tigers.
After a great start in the Yankees organization and being ranked as the #3 prospect in the organization (Jeter was #1), Drews struggled with his control. He never made it to the Major Leagues.
2. And Justice For All
Outfielder David Justice was raking the ball for the Cleveland Indians when the Yankees came calling at the 2000 trade deadline. At the time of the deal, Justice had 21 HR and 58 RBI in 68 games played. His splits before the trade were .265/.361/.582 – after the deal, he put up a .305/.391/.585 split with the Yankees.
The Yankees sent pitchers Zach Day, Jake Westbrook, and outfielder Ricky Ledee to the Indians on June 29 (a little earlier than the actual deadline date but it still qualifies). Justice was just as hot after the deal. In 78 game with the Yankees, Justice smacked another 21 home runs and knocked in 60 runs.
Despite his numbers (41 HR, 118 RBI, .961 OPS), he finished just 13th in the AL MVP voting that year. Justice’s year got even better in the postseason. After the Yankees dispatched the A’s in a wild five-game division series, the Bombers went head-to-head with the Seattle Mariners.
The Yankees held a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series, but the Mariners grabbed an early 4-0 lead in Game 6. With the lead cut to 4-3, New York put two men aboard with one out in the bottom of the 7th inning. Lefty specialist Arthur Rhodes was called upon to face Justice and justice prevailed.
The Yankees’ left fielder jumped on a 3-1 Rhodes’ pitch and drilled it into the upper deck for a 6-4 Yankees’ lead. The Bombers went on to a 9-7 victory to close out the ALCS in six games, en route to a five-game defeat of the Mets in the Subway Series.
Westbrook had a serviceable 13-year career with the Indians and Cardinals and was on the Cardinals 2011 World Series winner. Day was dealt the following season to the Expos for Milton Bradley and spent eight seasons with the Expos/Nationals and Rockies. Ledee spent 10 seasons with seven different teams and, of course, won a World Series ring with the 1998 and 1999 Yankees squads.
1. The Hired Cone
David Cone was a fixture on the New York Mets pitching staff of the late 1980’s. Having just missed out on the Mets’ 1986 World Series championship, Cone was acquired/stolen from the Kansas City Royals shortly before the 1987 regular season. The right-hander won 20 games in 1988, but the Los Angeles Dodgers surprised the Mets in the NLCS and topped the A’s in the World Series. With free agency looming, the Mets sent Cone to the Blue Jays in August 1992. Cone earned a World Series ring and then signed a free-agent deal with the Royals, his original organization.
“Coney” won the 1994 AL Cy Young Award, but the Royals dealt him to the Blue Jays in April 1995. The Royals got back Christ Stynes and two minor leaguers. For those of you counting at home, that was the second steal to get Cone. Number three came at the ’95 deadline when the Blue Jays moved Cone to the Yankees for Marty Janzen and two minor leaguers.
Janzen pitched in 27 games over the 1996-1997 seasons, while Cone once again became a star in the tri-state area. Though the Yankees fell in a heartbreaking five-game series to Seattle in the 1995 ALDS, Cone’s Yankees days had just begun.
The right-hander suffered an aneurysm in his shoulder early in the 1996 season but came back late in the year and toughed his way to a six-inning victory over the Braves in the 1996 World Series. Two years later, Cone won 20 games for the second time in his career as the Yankees won 114 regular season games and beat San Diego in the World Series.
On July 18, 1999, Cone threw a perfect game against the Montreal Expos on Yogi Berra Day. He battled control issues in his World Series start but limited the Braves to one hit over seven innings as the Yankees won back-to-back titles.
By 2000, Cone’s arm was feeling the wear and tear of all those innings and pitches thrown. It was by far his worst season in the Majors. Torre still relied on him, however, to get out Mets’ catcher Mike Piazza in a key spot in Game 4 of the World Series.
Cone won 61.5% of the regular season games he started as a Yankee and helped mentor his colleagues. He was tough as nails out on the mound and meant so much more to the team than just a hired gun.
The clock is ticking on the non-waiver deadline. Who will come to or depart the Yankees? Stay tuned.