The Yankees brought three valuable pieces to the Bronx in a 2017 trade with the White Sox, but what happened to the prospects Chicago received in that deal?
The 2017 Yankees were seen as a rebuilding team at the start of the season, but as they stayed right in the AL East and Wild Card races as the calendar turned to summer, the team began looking at their holes that needed to be filled as they continued their playoff push. With Chase Headley serving as the starting third baseman and a revolving door of players such as Chris Carter, Tyler Austin, Ji-Man Choi and Garrett Cooper struggling to hold down the fort at first base until Greg Bird returned from injury, it was clear that an upgrade was needed at the corner infield positions.
The team’s bullpen was bolstered by Aroldis Chapman, Dellin Betances, and breakout star Chad Green in the first half, but beyond those three much was left to be desired. Chapman and Betances would go on to struggle in the second half of that season, which made it all the more crucial that GM Brian Cashman made it a priority to address the team’s relief corps. Cashman filled these holes in a July trade with the White Sox when he reeled in third baseman Todd Frazier as well as relievers David Robertson, who was a member of the Yankees when they won the 2009 World Series, and Tommy Kahnle.
In exchange for these three pieces, Cashman shipped reliever Tyler Clippard and a package of prospects highlighted by outfielder Blake Rutherford and LHP Ian Clarkin to the South Siders. As we approach three years since Cashman pulled off this deal for a trio of players who ended up being critical to the Yankees’ deep playoff run that season, let’s take a look at where the prospects who were the main components of Chicago’s return are now.
Seen at the time as the centerpiece of the package that went back to Chicago, Rutherford was very highly regarded as a prospect, as he was only a year removed from being selected by the Yankees with the 18th overall pick of the 2016 MLB Draft. The left-handed-hitting outfielder started off 2016 with the Gulf Coast Yankees before being promoted to the Pulaski Yankees, slashing an impressive .351/.415/.570 with 15 extra-base hits and 12 RBIs in 33 games across the two levels. He was assigned to the Yankees’ A-level Charleston RiverDogs to start the 2017 season, and at the time of the trade with the White Sox, he had posted a .281/.342/.391 slash line with 20 doubles and 30 RBIs in 71 games.
He reported to the A-level Kannapolis Intimidators after the trade and had a disappointing end to the season, as he slashed a mere .213/.289/.254 with only five extra-base hits (all doubles) and five RBIs in 30 games. He made major strides in 2018 with the High-A ball Winston-Salem Dash of the Carolina League, as he appeared in 115 games and slashed .293/.345/.436 with 41 extra-base hits and career highs of 78 RBIs, seven home runs, nine triples, 131 hits, and 67 runs. He was promoted to the AA Birmingham Barons for the 2019 season, where he slashed a respectable .265/.319/.365 with 49 RBIs and 27 extra-base hits in 118 games. In the offseason, he was added to Chicago’s 40-man roster and played with the Glendale Desert Dogs in the Arizona Fall League.
While Rutherford has not quite lived up to the hype of being a first-round pick, he is still only 23 and has made solid strides in recent years. Currently listed as Chicago’s 8th best prospect, keep an eye out for Rutherford to continue to build on his recent success in 2020 and be a candidate for a September call-up. With that being said, the ChiSox boast an impressive group of young outfielders that includes top prospects Luis Robert and Eloy Jimenez, so don’t be surprised if Rutherford is the odd man out and ends up breaking through elsewhere.
The Yankees held the 32nd and 33rd picks of the 2013 MLB Draft, selections that they received in the compensatory round due to losing outfielder Nick Swisher and reliever Rafael Soriano in free agency. The Yankees used the first of those two picks on some outfielder named Aaron Judge, then nabbed Clarkin 33rd overall. The southpaw left a tough first impression on Yankees fans just moments after being drafted, as his draft montage that aired right after New York selected him showed clips of him speaking of his disdain for the Yankees, going as far as to say that he cried tears of joy when the Diamondbacks won Game 7 of the 2001 World Series over the Bombers. He apologized for these comments on a conference call with reporters the next day, insisting that he was leaving them in the past as he contemplated whether to sign with the team.
He ultimately decided to sign, and after struggling in three appearances with the GCL Yankees in 2013, he put together a really nice season in 2014. In his 17 appearances (16 starts) in 2014 that came mostly with Charleston, Clarkin went 4-3 but pitched to a 3.12 ERA with 75 strikeouts and 23 walks in 75 innings pitched, so his record was misleading from his overall success. After being promoted to the High-A Tampa Yankees at the end of 2014, Clarkin missed the whole 2015 season with elbow inflammation but returned to pitch in the Arizona Fall League and then started 2016 with Tampa.
In his 18 starts with Tampa, Clarkin’s record again didn’t tell the story of his season, as he went just 6-9 but posted a 3.31 ERA, pitching two complete games and striking out 72 and walking 30 in 98 innings pitched. Clarkin was well on his way to another solid season with Tampa at the time of the trade in 2017, as he went 4-5 in 15 appearances (14 starts) with a 2.62 ERA, 58 strikeouts and 25 walks. After being dealt to Chicago, he reported to Winston-Salem and started three games there, allowing three earned runs in 11 innings pitched but not recording any decisions. The White Sox added him to their 40-man roster after the season and promoted him to Birmingham for 2018.
He spent most of his time with the Barons in 2018, but his struggles at the start of the season led to him getting demoted to the Arizona League White Sox before he worked his way up to Charleston and eventually back to Birmingham. These teams experimented with using Clarkin as a reliever for much of the second half of the season, and he appeared in 13 of his 25 games that year out of the bullpen. While his numbers did improve after his move to the pen, he still posted an overall disappointing 4.76 ERA, punching out only 50 batters and walking 37 in 85 innings pitched.
Chicago designated Clarkin for assignment in January of 2019, and he was claimed by the Cubs, who assigned him to the Double-A Tennessee Smokies. Clarkin pitched in 10 games out of the bullpen for the Smokies, allowing five earned runs in 13.1 innings pitched, striking out just five batters and walking nine before the Cubs released him in June. He signed a minor-league deal with the Padres in March and will look to get his career back on the right path as he joins his fourth organization.