Just when the offseason appeared to be over, Brian Cashman swung one more trade on Saturday sending reliever Albert Abreu and prospect Robby Ahlstrom to the Rangers for catcher Jose Trevino. This isn’t exactly on the scale of Alfonso Soriano for Álex Rodríguez, but it’s a fascinating transaction nevertheless.
Before we even dig into who’s coming and going, it’s worth noting that Trevino became expendable because Texas traded for Mitch Garver, sending Isiah Kiner-Falefa to Minnesota, who was flipped to the Yankees the next day. In fact, all three of those trades almost make more sense viewed as one protracted three-team deal:
New York Gets:
- 3B Josh Donaldson (MIN)
- SS Isiah Kiner-Falefa (TEX)
- C Ben Rortvedt (MIN)
- C Jose Trevino (TEX)
- C Gary Sánchez (NYY)
- 3B Gio Urshela (NYY)
- P Ronny Henriquez (TEX, minors)
- P Albert Abreu (NYY)
- C Mitch Garver (MIN)
- P Robby Ahlstrom (NYY, minors)
Of course, Minnesota also signed Carlos Correa and Texas signed Corey Seager and Marcus Semien, but that’s a whole different story.
Trevino is a 29-year-old defense-first catcher whose role has increased ever since he debuted in 2018. He’s a right-handed hitter, but the title of “hitter” is purely honorary. In 302 plate appearances last season, he slashed .239/.267/.340. His career .270 on-base percentage is actually 36 points higher than Kyle Higashioka‘s, but he lacks Higgy’s power.
The catcher position has become an automatic out for the Yankees and Trevino does little to alleviate that, but he is without question one of the best defensive backstops in the game. In 2021, he finished third in MLB in Baseball Prospectus’s catcher defensive adjustment (14.7), tied for third in FanGraphs’s framing runs (8.8), and 96th percentile in framing on Statcast.
Given that Rortvedt is still young and unproven, in addition to being sidelined with a strained oblique, the acquisition of Trevino significantly lengthens their catching depth chart. Prior to the trade, it looked like Rob Brantly would have to start the year as the backup catcher. Now the Yankees can begin the season with two MLB-caliber players sharing time while Rortvedt works on his offense and his health in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
Who the Yankees Gave Up
We all know Abreu has outstanding stuff. He throws a high-90s fastball with a biting slider, which made him the biggest return piece in the Brian McCann trade way back in 2016. It also placed him on a few top 100 prospect lists prior to 2017 and 2018. Now that he’s 26, he’s no longer a prospect and he has never been able to throw enough strikes to make his stuff work, even in a relief role.
It’s very possible he learns to locate his pitches better and becomes a shutdown reliever, but the Yankees don’t have the roster spot or the available innings to let him figure it out at the big-league level. Given that he is out of minor-league options, the team faced a dilemma. They couldn’t send him down without exposing him to waivers where he would surely be claimed by another team. Sending him to a sub-.500 club like Texas makes the most sense, especially given that they received a useful player in return.
Robby Ahlstrom is a left-handed pitcher who the Yankees selected in the seventh round of the 2021 draft. He has yet to make his professional pitching debut. Prospects 1500 did not include him on their top 50 Yankees prospects list in January. Given that he learned about the trade from a random post on Instagram, it’s clear that both the Yankees and Rangers need to work on their communication priorities:
— Benji Goldstein (@yankeesgiantsa1) April 2, 2022
Yikes. If a player is traded, no matter where they stand in the organizational pecking order, they deserve a phone call at the very least. This doesn’t reflect well on either franchise, even if he is just a throw-in.