CHICAGO -- This is how you do it. On both ends of a trade.Look at the Yankees. Those fellows are in it to win it. They may be ahead of schedule in their quote-unquote "rebuild," but they're going for it, and who knows how it will end?Maybe with a down-to-the-wire
CHICAGO -- This is how you do it. On both ends of a trade.
Look at the Yankees. Those fellows are in it to win it. They may be ahead of schedule in their quote-unquote "rebuild," but they're going for it, and who knows how it will end?
Maybe with a down-to-the-wire race for their first American League East title since 2012, possibly against the rival Red Sox. Maybe even a return to the World Series behind an AL Rookie of the Year Award and AL MVP Award candidate in Aaron Judge.
It's possible. It really is.
Almost exactly a year after the Yankees traded Albertin Chapman and Andrew Miller, they shifted gears and made a major tomorrow-for-today deal with the White Sox, acquiring power-hitting third baseman Todd Frazier and relievers Tommy Kahnle and Player Page for David Robertson.
It was a gut punch to other contenders, but the team sacrificing proven talent might feel even better than the one getting it.
This looks likes a move that will work well for both teams, like the trade White Sox general manager Rick Hahn made to send Jose Quintana to the Cubs last Thursday. The Sox piled up more pieces for a championship run in the early 2020s, with the Yanks paying heavily.
The price was 20-year-old center fielder Blake Rutherford -- who the White Sox compare to high-end prospects Yoan Moncada, Eloy Jimenez and Luis Robert -- as well as 22-year-old lefty Ian Clarkin, 22-year-old center fielder Tito Polo and veteran reliever Tyler Clippard. They now hold 10 of the top 68 prospects in baseball, according to MLBPipeline.
Did the return in this deal include a premium to keep Hahn from sending Frazier and others to the Red Sox?
This might not have quite the "Evil Empire" intrigue that was the Red Sox-Yankees bidding war for Jose Contreras, but it would be fascinating to see the call logs of Hahn, Yanks GM Brian Cashman and Red Sox president Dave Dombrowski over the past few days.
"We had a lot of conversations, a lot of different clubs,'' Hahn said, without confirming Boston's interest. "We had conversations about these players individually, individually involving cash as well as incentives, and even a couple of similar-type bundle situations with various clubs throughout the league. In the end, putting all three in the same deal wound up netting us the most impactful result.''
However it came down, credit Cashman for adding a badly needed corner infielder and building bullpen depth after losing Michael Pineda to a Tommy John diagnosis. Not that the Yankees really needed more relievers.
Since re-signing Chapman last offseason, they've built their version of the bullpen that helped the Indians reach the World Series last year. Anchored by Dellin Betances and Chapman, it ranks third in the AL in ERA and has limited opponents to a .215 batting average, the lowest in the league.
The Yanks may still find a way to add another starter. But if they can't find the quality they want at a price they can swallow, they can trust that they now have the pieces they need to overtake the Red Sox or survive the traffic jam that is the AL Wild Card race.
Frazier fills a major hole at third base. With Chase Headley and Ronald Torreyes there, the Yankees' third basemen compiled a .606 OPS, ranking 29th in the Majors. They have hit only four home runs, last in the Majors.
Either Frazier or Headley could wind up playing some first base, which has been a black hole. Ten players have combined to bat .205 with a .678 OPS, which also ranks 29th in the Majors.
Frazier is hitting only .207, but he has 16 homers this season and 91 since the start of 2015. He was bothered by an illness that caused him to lose weight early in the season, but he has an .872 OPS in his past 41 games. If he goes on a tear, he'll own the Bronx by Labor Day.
And that bullpen?
Between them, Chapman, Betances, Robertson and Kahnle have worked 122 1/3 innings this season. They've held opponents to 86 hits while striking out 199 batters -- an average of 14.6 strikeouts per nine innings.
That's power at the end of games, and we didn't even factor in the emerging Chad Green, who has struck out 49 in 36 innings. Toss in Adam Warren and lefty Chasen Shreve, and Yankees manager Joe Girardi will have so many options that he might need another clipboard.
Kahnle, the latest Don Cooper success story (see Bobby Jenks, Matt Thornton, Quintana and many others), is about as subtle as a hammer. He challenges hitters with a fastball that has ticked up in velocity this season (to an average of 98.4 mph), and when he's throwing strikes, he's deadly. He walked 20 in 27 1/3 innings for the White Sox last year, but as scouts noticed, Kahnle has turned himself into a late-inning weapon, perhaps more than even Robertson, who was 13-for-14 in save situations. He was essential to the deal.
"This deal doesn't get done without Tommy Kahnle," Hahn said. "We weren't looking to move him. He was certainly very popular over the past few weeks, and we had a decent sense he had this kind of value. Until we started pushing on the value with certain clubs, we weren't certain we were going to move him."
Frazier can be a free agent after this season and Robertson has one year left on the four-year contract he signed before 2015. Kahnle will be three years from free agency at the end of this season.
Kahnle has compiled many impressive stats in his 37 appearances, but the most impressive is this: his 60/7 strikeout-walk ratio over 36 innings. That's 15 strikeouts per nine innings, otherwise known as Edwin Diaz territory.
Pretty nice piece to pick up in a deal that could turn out to be a difference-maker.
Phil Rogers is a columnist for MLB.com.