When the Yankees shook hands with Gerrit Cole in a Newport Beach, Calif., hotel suite two winters ago, aiming to begin a nine-year relationship with the game’s top free agent target, general manager Brian Cashman made a promise. The Yanks would do everything possible to put a championship-caliber team on the field, and if there was ever a moment that they felt short, they would add more.
Cashman had said for weeks that he expected the Yankees to be buyers in advance of Friday's 4 p.m. ET Trade Deadline, despite underwhelming performances by a roster that was widely forecast as a postseason favorite. Managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner noted that he hadn’t even entertained the idea of a selloff, and the Yankees’ actions left no doubt that they intend to go for it in 2021.
“We have a two-month sprint now to try to push ourselves into the postseason and take a shot at the ultimate prize,” Cashman said.
It was one of the most entertaining Trade Deadlines in recent memory, and the Yankees were one of its stars, evidenced by the lineup that manager Aaron Boone scribbled out on Friday evening against the Marlins in Miami.
With Joey Gallo in the outfield and Anthony Rizzo at first base, Boone’s squad feels re-energized and ready to chase its mission of going deep into the postseason.
“When you get traded to the New York Yankees, you get to put this uniform on and go from one historic franchise to another,” Rizzo said. “It’s just an amazing feeling and opportunity for me to come in here and play for the Yankees, in this lineup, in New York City. You just can’t ask for more as a player.”
Trade Deadline recap
Traded: CF Kevin Alcántara (Cubs), SS Diego Castillo (Pirates), RHP Luis Cessa (Reds), SS Ezequiel Duran (Rangers), 2B Trevor Hauver (Rangers), RHP Janson Junk (Angels), RHP Glenn Otto (Rangers), SS Hoy Park (Pirates), RHP Elvis Peguero (Angels), 2B Josh Smith (Rangers), RHP Alexander Vizcaino (Cubs), LHP Justin Wilson (Reds).
By adding Gallo and Rizzo, the Yankees have corrected one of their most glaring flaws, offering left-handed balance to a lineup that did not seem equipped to take advantage of Yankee Stadium’s inviting right-field dimensions. Cashman said that he was trying to acquire Gallo during Spring Training, but a deal fell through.
“I’ve been hearing for some time that New York was in play for me,” Gallo said. “I grew up a huge Yankees fan. My family’s from New York, so it was pretty surreal that they told me I was going to the Yankees. Just walking into the locker room, looking at the nameplates -- it’s pretty amazing to be a part of a team like that.”
The Yanks’ most prominent left-handed hitters had been Brett Gardner and Rougned Odor; now they’ll wield Gallo and Rizzo, while adding first-base coverage for the injured Luke Voit. Gallo alone has been more productive this season (25 HRs in 388 plate appearances) than all of the Yankees’ left-handed hitters combined (22 HRs in 855 plate appearances).
“This is all about the 2021 effort,” Cashman said. “We haven’t really daydreamed into the future at all. The way this Trade Deadline was going, our intent was to give our team an improved opportunity to compete the rest of the way. That’s really been the focus.”
In Holmes and Rodríguez, Cashman moved to retool a bullpen that had appeared weathered in recent weeks. Heaney is expected to slot into the rotation, offering depth to a staff that is counting the weeks until right-handers Corey Kluber and Luis Severino return from the injured list.
“Heaney can play a number of different roles for us, to go along with the guys that have pitched for us in super high leverage,” Boone said. “I feel like we have a strong group, a group that’s capable. I’m excited to move forward with it now that today is past us. We feel like we’ve added some really impactful pieces that can help us get where we want to go.”
Perhaps most impressively, Cashman and the Yankees added players who should help them win now without mortgaging their future. While the Bombers parted with numerous prospects, none of them ranked within their top five according to MLB Pipeline's Top 30 prospects list.
“We were able to find common ground more this year, maybe because our talent pool that we’re operating from is deeper,” Cashman said.
The Yankees also received financial relief from all the clubs they dealt with, remaining underneath the $210 million Competitive Balance Tax threshold. Cashman said that while there are benefits to not exceeding that number, Steinbrenner was willing to do so.
The resulting moves earned praise within the Yankees’ clubhouse walls -- promises kept, at least in Cole’s eyes.
“I would say just generally, a big part of the reason why I'm here is because of the mentality of this organization,” Cole said. “I trust that they're going to do what's best for the organization and best to win every time they have an opportunity to do that. I just trusted that they're going to try to make us better, one way or another. And they did.”