Rangers Get: RHP Glenn Otto, 2B Ezequiel Duran, SS Josh Smith, RHP Randy Vasquez, OF Everson Pereira, and 2B Trevor Hauver
(Update again: We in fact do not know the final package, as Jack Curry reported late last night that it didn’t include Vasquez and Duran, nor did it include John King but Joely Rodriguez. At this point, given the lack of official confirmation, we’re leaving this analysis up and will edit as needed later today.)
Okay, there is a lot to unpack here. A lot a lot a lot. Most of it good, though. The Yankees got potentially the biggest impact bat on the market for a lot of mid-level prospects who broke out in 2021. That is a pure upgrade for the team. It’s hard not to love that. It is also a Brian Cashman special, as the team unloaded a ton of depth (more on that later) without sacrificing any MLB talent or top-tier prospects. It’s why I can’t accept any proposals about moving beyond Cashman as serious. He is probably the best trader in the business.
Anyway, I think it makes sense to break this down piece-by-piece, starting with the two players the Yankees got in the trade, moving to the pieces they surrendered, and then an overall look at the move. Let’s get to it, shall we?
Good morning all. If you’re like me, you woke up to a somewhat surprising move from the Yankees today. About an hour or so after last night’s win, the team announced that they traded relievers Luis Cessa and Justin Wilson to the Reds for a player to be named later.
Moving Cessa is a bit perplexing, as it may mean more innings for the likes of Nick Nelson, Albert Abreu, and/or Brooks Kriske. Dumping Wilson isn’t surprising. He’s been ineffective and seemed like an obvious option to send packing in order to add space under the luxury tax threshold. In sum, this move appears to be a precursor for more things to come. The front office is trying to meet Hal Steinbrenner’s luxury tax demands while also buying at the deadline.
If you’ve read this blog for any amount of time, you’ll know that we absolutely loathe the Yankees penny-pinching. The Yankees should never, ever, dump salary on a team like the Reds. The Reds! A small market team in Cincinnati. I don’t care that it’s only a couple of million dollars. It’s a sad reminder of how Hal operates this ballclub.
Cessa, 29, has a 2.82 ERA in 38.1 innings this season and a 3.64 ERA since 2019. He blossomed into a really nice low leverage reliever who ostensibly will be tested in higher pressure situations in Cincinnati. The Reds will have him for two more seasons after this one, too. He’s not a free agent until after the 2023 campaign.
The Yankees signed Wilson as a free agent this winter and clearly regretted doing so. He was supposed to be a sturdy middle relief option, but instead, he’s either struggled or been hurt. The lefty tossed 18 innings of 7.50 ERA ball for the Bombers this year. He has a $2.3 million player option for next season.
Per Cot’s, Cessa is due $383,871 the rest of the season, which will reduce the Yankees’ luxury tax payroll accordingly. Wilson’s AAV is $2.575 million, though he’s due $1,041,936 of his $2.85 million salary the rest of this year according to Cot’s. If you take the same ratio of remaining salary to actual salary applied to his AAV, the Yankees will save something like $940,000 in luxury tax payroll here. So between the two dealt: something around $1.3 million in luxury tax payroll savings this season.
So, not huge savings, but it does create a little more room for the Yankees to improve the roster. We’ll see what’s to come by Friday’s deadline.
First, let’s talk about the elephant in the room: this is going to ruffle the feathers of some regular DoTF readers. That’s mostly because Park (25-years-old) and Castillo (23-years-old) have been killing it this year. Some fans have become fixated on Park in particular and hoped to see him get a shot in the Bronx this year. Makes sense given the state of things. And he’s been really good, and so has Castillo. To wit:
Hoy-Jun Park, Scranton Wilkes-Barre RailRiders: .327/.475/.567 (177 wRC+) with exactly the same rate of walks and strikeouts (20.6% apiece)
Diego Castillo, Double-A Somerset Patriots: .277/.345/.504 (127 wRC+) with a 13.7% strikeout rate against a career-best 8.4% walk rate
That all said, it’s important to pump the brakes a bit here. Park was a non-prospect coming into 2021. Eric Longenhagen of FanGraphs didn’t bother including him on the Yankees’ top 48 prospects before the season – though he did note that he had “average contact/patience” and could be a “bench infielder” – and Baseball America hasn’t written a scouting report on Park since 2016. It was nice to see him take a step forward, but a top prospect Park is not.
Castillo is the bigger loss. He’s younger and has really impressive bat-to-ball skills, striking out just 197 times in nearly 1,900 professional plate appearances. He topped out as the #27 ranked organizational prospect with Baseball America in 2018. But it’s still tough to see a future for Castillo with the Yanks, and he also is not a high-upside prospect.
More importantly, both Park and Castillo are Rule 5 eligible after the season. I noted this a few weeks ago in a mailbag and called them “interesting” cases because they’ve had good seasons but didn’t seem to be a great fit. This move helps clear some of that logjam.
In Clay Holmes, the Yankees get another reliever you’ve likely never heard of. The 28-year-old righty has 119.2 career innings, all with Pittsburgh, which explains that. He’s been in their pen on-and-off since 2018. As you probably guessed, given the Yankees, Holmes has an interesting profile.
First, he is a sinker baller who generates exceptional ground ball rates. He uses the sinker about 50% of the time in his career, though he also mixes in a curveball and slider. The sinker is hard, too, averaging north of 95-miles-per-hour in 2021. Here is a good illustration of that skill in action:
He should also have some success in Yankee Stadium, even though lefties (.368 wOBA) hit him better than righties (.298 wOBA). He’s allowed a few right-field homers, but this is a spray and heat chart that will work:
The big issue – barring health, as he was sidelined last year with a forearm strain that led him to be non-tendered in December – is the walks. He has a ridiculous 15% walk rate in his career (13.2% in 2021). Obviously, this limits his effectiveness and explains his career line of 5-7, 5.57 ERA (4.71 FIP). If, and this is always the if, the Yankees can make a tweak or two to reign in the command and control, there’s upside here. And even if not, he is a potentially useful middle-innings reliever. Lord knows the Yankees need those these days.
All in all, this is a fine trade. There is nothing to be angry about here. The Yanks cleared a Rule 5 logjam and added a bullpen piece. Let’s just hope that’s step one and not all they do before month’s end.
This move subtracts $8.15 million from the Yankees’ payroll for luxury tax purposes (Ottavino’s hit was $9 million, now reduced by the $850k). You have to figure that this is a precursor to more activity coming, such as a reunion with Brett Gardner.
Additionally, this trade clears up another 40-man spot. The Yanks now have two open, so the DJ LeMahieu and Corey Kluber deals will likely become official in short order.
Ottavino initially signed a three-year, $27 million contract with the Yankees ahead of the 2019 season. The righty posted a 2.76 ERA in 84.2 innings with the Bombers, his hometown team. He was often inconsistent and didn’t have complete trust of his manager Aaron Boone, as evidenced by sparse usage in the last two postseasons.
German, 23, was the Yankees’ 4th round pick in 2018 and is Rule 5 eligible this winter. He last pitched in High-A in 2019 and recorded a 3.79 ERA and 4.19 FIP in 76 innings. He was the club’s 24th-best prospect per MLB Pipeline.
This is the first trade between the two sides since the Stephen Drew for Kelly Johnson swap in 2014. Before that, the last trade between the Yanks and Boston occurred in 1997.
Friends, it is a done deal. After a few writers on both the Pirates and Yankees beats reported a deal was done, Jeff Passan came in with the details. The trade involves Miguel Yajure, Roansy Contreras, Maikel Escotto, and Caanan Smith on the Yanks side:
I like this trade a lot. First, the package feels right for a pitcher of Taillon’s caliber with injury concerns. It’s a quantity-over-quality package, really. I don’t mean to take anything away from them, some of whom I liked a bit, but they’re mid-level prospects. For what it’s worth, MLB’s Pipeline ranks Yajure 15th, Contreras 19th, and Smith 21st without ranking Escotto in the Yankees system. Feels fair to me.
Second, it starts to clear a very real 40-man backlog. As I noted earlier today, Yajure and Contreras are each on the 40-man. The Yankees will still need to clear one spot, but Taillon is a smart use of 40-man consolidation. None of them were likely to help the Yanks in 2021. Taillon, of course, will. I’ll have detailed thoughts on this shortly, but I love Taillon as an acquisition. For more on him, check out what Derek wrote on him back in December for a quick refresher.
This is a very exciting move that has the potential to really shore up the rotation. Good stuff, Yankees.