The New York Yankees were unable to win a World Series throughout the 2010s, but they did make a number of impactful trades.
Since 1998, Brian Cashman has been the general manager of the New York Yankees. This past week, he announced the signing of Gerrit Cole, a generational talent and arguably the best pitcher in baseball right now. During his tenure with the Yankees, Cashman has made some brilliant moves to improve the team. With the 2010s coming to a close next week, today we’ll examine Cashman’s top 5 trades of the decade.
#5 – December 11, 2017 Acquisition of Giancarlo Stanton
Before I get into it, I acknowledge that this will be a controversial entry. In fact, I’m sure it will be the most controversial entry, which is why it’s only ranked fifth. Stanton is a polarizing figure among Yankees fans, but his performance as a Yankee isn’t why I appreciate the trade. First, let’s recap the terms:
MIA gets: RHP Jorge Guzman, SS Jose Devers, 2B Starlin Castro
NYY gets: OF Giancarlo Stanton, cash
So, who are these prospects? At the time, the 21-year-old Guzman was the Yankees’ 9th ranked prospect, and had never played above Low A. Devers, the cousin of Red Sox third baseman Rafael Devers, was unranked. He was 18 and had only played at rookie level, the lowest level of the minor league system.
Castro, on the other hand, was the Yankees’ starting second baseman. He hit for average, batting .300 over 112 games in 2017, and is a slightly below average defender. He was a nice piece for the Yankees, but Cashman knew he had a younger, cheaper middle infielder with a higher ceiling in Gleyber Torres waiting in the wings, making Castro expendable.
The reason this was such a good trade is that Cashman was able to acquire the reigning National League MVP, and he underpaid for him. He even got the Marlins to agree to pay $30 million of Stanton’s remaining contract. Though Stanton has not lived up to his 2017 statistics to this point, he is a commanding presence in a stacked lineup, and is always a major threat to opposing pitchers. Here’s to hoping he bounces back from an injury-plagued 2019.
#4 – July 29, 2018 Acquisition of Luke Voit
Louis Linwood Voit III. You would think that’s the name of a British knight or an archduke of somewhere, but it turns out he’s a baseball-destroying monster and the very definition of a savage. No one had ever heard of Luke Voit before July 29, 2018. Well, no one except for Brian Cashman. Let’s look at the terms of the deal:
STL gets: RHP Giovanny Gallegos, LHP Chasen Shreve
NYY gets: 1B Luke Voit, international bonus slot money
Both pitchers were relievers for the Yanks. Gallegos had only played in a handful of Major League games, but Shreve was an established reliever. Neither were particularly impressive nor highly regarded in the organization. For what it’s worth, Gallegos pitched well for the Cardinals in 2019, to the tune of a 2.31 ERA in 66 relief appearances.
In contrast, Voit quickly endeared himself to Yankees fans, slashing .333/.405/.689 with 14 homers in 39 games with the club to close out 2018. He continued to impress in the first half of 2019, before suffering a groin injury during the London Series. If he manages to fully recover this offseason, he should be poised for a monster season.
#3 – November 11, 2015 Acquisition of Aaron Hicks
For anyone down on Aaron Hicks, I’ll just leave this here:
Here’s the trade that made him a Yankee:
MIN gets: C John Ryan Murphy
NYY gets: OF Aaron Hicks
Murphy was a promising young catcher at the time of the trade. Hicks was…unspectacular. Cashman saw something in Hicks that no one else could because four years later, Murphy has had virtually no success at the major league level, while Hicks has become one of the better center fielders in the game.
Hicks has not been without his struggles, but when he’s healthy, he’s an elite defender and a switch-hitter with decent power. Perhaps his greatest contribution to the Yankees’ stacked lineup is his patient approach at the plate. He typically sees a lot of pitches and exhibits superb plate discipline, resulting in a high walk rate—15.5% in 2018 compared to the league average of 8.3%.
#2 – December 5, 2014 Acquisition of Didi Gregorius
I’ll be honest, it stings a little writing about Didi right now, but I’ll power through it just for you. Here’s a look at the 3-team trade that brought him to the Bronx:
ARI gets: IF Domingo Leyba, LHP Robbie Ray (both from DET)
DET gets: RHP Shane Greene (from NYY)
NYY gets: SS Didi Gregorius (from ARI)
Essentially, the trade was Shane Greene for Didi. Greene pitched to a 3.78 ERA in 15 games (14 as a starter) as a rookie in 2014. He struggled mightily in Detroit the following season and was demoted to the bullpen in 2016. Since then, he’s been inconsistent at best.
Didi was given the tall task of replacing one of the most revered Yankees of all time, and he did it better than anyone could have asked or imagined. I remember Yankees fans outrageously booing him every time he made an error in 2015. Didi didn’t shy away; he embraced the culture. He was a solid defensive shortstop, and before his Tommy John surgery after the 2018 postseason, one of the better hitters on the team. More importantly, he was a leader in the clubhouse. His tweets weren’t bad either.
Didi. The Knight. Not the hero we deserved, but the one we needed.
#1 – July 25, 2016 Acquisition of Gleyber Torres
This is it. This is Cashman’s crown jewel, his masterpiece, his Pieta. This move consisted of two separate transactions; first the trade:
CHC gets: RHP Aroldis Chapman
NYY gets: SS Gleyber Torres, RHP Adam Warren, OF Billy McKinney, OF Rashad Crawford
And then, Cashman re-signed Chapman 5 months later on December 15th. Wow. What just happened?
In 2016, Cashman was in a tough spot. He knew the team was middling at best, and he needed to build up a farm system that was in disrepair. The Yankees, however, were playing well; they were 51-48 and in playoff contention. Cashman could have brought in reinforcements to gear up for a postseason run before the trade deadline. He realized that the future was brighter than the present and seized an opportunity to trade his most valuable asset, closer Aroldis Chapman.
We all know what happens next. The centerpiece of the deal, shortstop Gleyber Torres, has become a vital part of the young talented core that includes Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez. And the best—ok, second-best—part? Cashman turned around and re-signed Chapman that offseason. Basically, the Yankees acquired their shortstop and face of the future for a three-month rental of Chapman. Cashman should be arrested for grand larceny; I don’t know how this man is not in jail.