When building a competitive team, an organization will frequently target talent on the rosters of opposing teams. My colleague, Jeff Long, and I will take a look at the best player acquired by the Yankees from each team.
I will start the list off looking at the National League.
Surprisingly, there have not been many trades between the two franchises. Perhaps the biggest trade was in 2009 when the Yankees acquired pitchers Javier Vazquez and Boone Logan for Melky Cabrera, Mike Dunn and Arodys Vizcaino. The Yankees were looking to add some depth behind C.C. Sabathia and A.J. Burnett but the reunion with Vazquez would be disastrous. He only lasted one season in the Bronx and pitched to a 5.32 ERA. Meanwhile, Melky slashed .255 in his only season with the Braves.
Despite being a relatively young franchise, the Yankees and Marlins have made a decent number of trades. In the past, the Yankees have sent the likes of Mike Lowell, David Phelps and Martin Prado to South Beach while acquiring Al Leiter, Nathan Eovaldi and Domingo German. However, the biggest trade is still critical to the Yankees success in 2021. Of course I am talking about the 2017 swap that sent MVP Giancarlo Stanton to the Bronx. After a slightly underwhelming first season, Stanton has struggled to stay on the field. However, as we saw in the 2020 postseason, a healthy Stanton is almost unstoppable. Meanwhile, Starlin Castro lasted one year in Miami while Jose Devers is still a few years away from the majors.
New York Mets
During the 2000 season, the Yankees brought in Cleveland outfielders, David Justice, with the hopes of shoring up the outfield. While Justice was fantastic in the 2000 ALCS, his injuries and attitude led to his departure from the Bronx in 2001. Meanwhile, the retirement of Scott Brosius left the Yankees with a hole at third base. The Yankees would swap Justice to Queens in return for Robin Ventura. Ventura performed well for the Yankees in 2002 when he his 27 home runs and made the All-Star team. However, the Yankees would move him in 2003 to the Dodgers. Meanwhile, Justice lasted one week before being sent to Oakland in a deal outlined in Moneyball.
In 2006, the Yankees were once again headed towards winning the American League East. Looking to bolster their outfield, the Yankees added slugger Bobby Abreu. Abreu was one of the faces of the Phillies and the Yankees hoped would help lead the team to a World Series. Abreu not only lasted two seasons in the Bronx but did hit .291 while missing fewer than 10 games. Meanwhile, the Yankees also acquired Cory Lidle who would tragically pass away in a plane crash after the 2006 season. For the Phillies, only Matt Smith would appear in the majors with the club and was out of baseball by 2009.
Fun fact: Abreu had the last stolen base in the old Yankee Stadium.
Washington Nationals/Montreal Expos
In 2003, the Yankees were looking to add starting pitching. Meanwhile, Montreal was in the middle of an ownership change and looking to shed payroll. The Yankees acquired Javier Vazquez in exchange for Juan Rivera, Randy Choate and Nick Johnson. Vazquez started off his Bronx tenure on fire and was an All-Star during the 2004 season. However a second half dive and dreadful postseason would end his first stint with the Yankees. Meanwhile, Nick Johnson couldn’t stay healthy while Rivera would last only one season north of the border.
The biggest trade between the two franchises came back in 2016, when surprisingly the Cubs were the contender and the Yankees were rebuilding. Looking to improve their bullpen, the Cubs sent prospects Gleyber Torres and Billy McKinney in addition to reliever Adam Warren for star closer Aroldis Chapman. The Cubs would win their first World Series in over 100 years thanks in large part to Chapman, despite his World Series struggles. Meanwhile, Gleyber Torres is still the future of the Yankees and one of the more exciting young players in the game. Meanwhile, McKinney was the main part of the JA Happ deal while Chapman re-signed with the Yankees following the 2016 season.
Surprisingly there have been very few trades between the Yankees and Brewers. The only somewhat noteworthy trade was in 1996 when the Yankees sent Bob Wickman and Gerald Williams to Milwaukee for Graeme Lloyd. Lloyd played a big role out of the bullpen during the Yankees’ 1996 championship run.
In 1992, the Yankees had a decision to make with outfielder Roberto Kelly. The Yankees had long viewed Kelly as a critical piece of their future; however, at 27 he was approaching free agency and had only made one All Star game in six seasons. Looking to add a lefty bat, the Yankees sent Kelly to the Reds in exchange for Paul O’Neill. Kelly was decent in his first season in Cincinnati but attitude problems and declining play saw him play for eight teams over the next 10 years. Meanwhile, O’Neill would become one of the most beloved Yankees of the late 90s dynasty and can still be heard calling most Yankees games on YES.
St. Louis Cardinals
The trade history between the Yankees and the Cardinals is pretty sparse. The biggest trade between the two clubs came in recent years with the Yankees swapping Chasen Shreve and Giovanny Gallegos for first baseman Luke Voit. The Cardinals had a logjam at first base with Jose Martinez, Matt Adams and Voit. Looking to bolster their bullpen they traded Voit to New York in exchange for big leaguer Chasen Shreve who had fallen out of favor. While Shreve would only last a year in St. Louis, Gallegos would have a breakout 2019 before coming back to Earth in 2020. Meanwhile, Voit led baseball in home runs in 2020 and has been a fixture in the top/middle of the Yankees lineup.
The Yankees and Pirates have had a few trades over the years including A.J Burnett, Shawn Chacon and Lee Mazzilli. However, one interesting player traded between the two teams was reliever Damaso Marte. In 2001, Marte was a minor leaguer in the Yankees system when he was swapped for middle infielder Enrique Wilson. Wilson would serve as an important depth piece for the Yankees over the next few seasons. Meanwhile, Marte was flipped to the White Sox before making his way back to Pittsburgh. In 2008, Marte and Xavier Nady were sent to the Bronx for mainly Ross Ohlendorf and Jose Tabata. While everyone from the trade would be out of baseball by 2016, Marte was huge during the 2009 World Series. Against the Phillies, he pitched in four games without allowing a run.
Los Angeles Dodgers
Perhaps the most important trade the Yankees ever made with the Dodgers had a bigger impact off the field than on it. In 1967, the Yankees sent cash to the Dodgers in exchange for shortstop Gene “Stick” Michael. Michael would play in New York from 1968-1974 but after his career he joined the Yankees coaching staff. Due to a rocky relationship with owner George Steinbrenner, Michael was fired as manager after only a season and a half. However, like so many Yankees managers, Steinbrenner still thought highly of Michael and would keep him with the organization. Eventually, Michael became the Yankees general manager in 1991 until 1995 and is credited with building the core four, trading for Paul O’Neill and building the most recent Yankees dynasty. Without that 1967 cash swap, it’s impossible to know if Michael would have joined the Yankees organization.
In the mid-1970s, George Steinbrenner was looking to make the Yankees a contender after the rough CBS-owned stretch. Wanting to bring in star players, the Yankees acquired Bobby Bonds from the Giants. In exchange, they gave up on Bobby Murcer, who was once viewed as the next Yankee legend. Murcer was a solid player for the Giants while Bonds would only stay one year in the Bronx. Despite making an All Star appearance, the Yankees would send Bonds to the Angels the following season.
San Diego Padres
Despite a fair number of trades, there have been no real noteworthy transactions between the two clubs. The two sides did trade Chase Headley to one another in the mid-2010s. Headley was always one of those players who was viewed as a potential breakout star who unfortunately never really broke out despite one really good season. The teams also had trades involving Jim Leyritz, Paul Quantrill and Graig Nettles.
While the trade history between the two clubs is fairly limited, one trade stands out as having a major impact for the Yankees. After the 1995 season, the Yankees sent minor league reliever Mike DeJean to Colorado for catcher Joe Girardi. Girardi would spend four seasons in the Bronx, winning three World Series championships before returning as a coach in 2008. As a manager, he led the team to the 2009 World Series. Meanwhile, DeJean would have a solid 10-year career.
Arizona has been a frequent trade partner for the Yankees; including deals involving Didi Gregorius, Martin Prado and Brandon McCarthy. However it was in 2005 that the biggest trade between the two franchises occurred. The Yankees acquired four time Cy Young Winner Randy Johnson in exchange for Javier Vazquez, Dioner Navarro and Brad Halsey. While the trade looked great for the Yankees on paper, Johnson struggled over two seasons in the Bronx before being sent back to Arizona.
Trading is a critical part of building an MLB franchise. The current Yankees’ roster includes some of the more important recent trades, including Luke Voit, Gleyber Torres and Clint Frazier. This offseason, it will be interesting to see who the Yankees add from the other organizations around the league.