Yankees trade Luis Cessa and Justin Wilson to the Reds

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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.



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  1. I wonder who the Yankees are giving up for Joey Gallo-Jesus Montero, Justus Sheffield, Rob Refsnyder and Nick Nelson?

    More likely some prospects with upside (Deivi Garcia or other pitchers), a good infield prospect (I hope not Volpe but you never know) and maybe Frazier or Andujar

    • dasit

      i’m guessing something like frazier, medina, and peraza

  2. HenryKrinkle

    I’m sure they already have another deal in place that Hal approved — as long as they created more room under threshold via another trade like this one. Hard to judge right now, but I’m thinking it’s something significant, where taking on more money allowed them to keep the better prospects.

  3. dasit

    any chance of a trade deadline open thread?

  4. I’ve been as critical of this team and the way it is structured as anyone but Cashman and his staff aren’t complete idiots. If anything, they are too structured in their approach along a path that seems to be defined by ‘analytics’ and ignore the strategic elements of the game.

    They didn’t just give away Wilson (who has been, surprisingly, awful) and Cessa for nothing unless they have something else waiting in the wings for this to be completed. They aren’t going to bring back Nelson and Kriske and expect them to turn into a combination of Jeff Nelson, Mike Stanton, and Ramiro Mendoza overnight.

    This team, as structured, isn’t winning any championships unless, in some miracle world, Severino and Kluber come back during the season and pitch at something close to their best and they squeeze into the 2nd wild card. I’m old enough to remember 1964 (I was entering college that fall) and had given up on the season until they picked up Pedro Ramos from waivers and Phil Linz played the harmonica on the bus loud enough for Yogi to go ballistic and wake up the vets on the team. So there is a miracle possible although highly improbable.

    They have an owner who clearly cares more about money than winning because he isn’t a ‘baseball’ guy and was handed the team because the heir-apparent wound up divorcing out of the family. You can pine all you want for the return of the ‘Old Man’ but who you are really hoping for is the reincarnation of Stick Michael and Gabe Paul, who were the ones primarily responsible for the World Series winning teams of the 70s and late 90s. Had Old George not been suspended for a few years in the early 90s I doubt we would be basking in the memories of Jetes, Mo, and Bernie because they would have all been traded long before they ever made an impact in the bigs.

  5. Jacques

    Give Gerrit Cole 324 million dollars and here they are penny-pinching on Wilson’s contract. Absurd!

    Let’s see who they get by the deadline. Cashman will probably say, “we tried everything, but could not find the right deal, and I am content with our current squad; now we go for Plan B, which is to be patient…”

    Of course, we have Clay Holmes to save us!

    • Scout

      You can give Cole $324 million or you can stay under the luxury tax, but you cannot do both. Similarly, you can trade for Giancarlo Stanton in the middle of a ten-year contract or you can stay under the luxury tax, but again you cannot do both. And so on. The Yankees hand out or take on huge contracts for certain players, then cut corners to stay below a threshold that reflects the owner’s desire to make as much money as possible. The result is a roster that is, to put it kindly, not optimized for winning. Look at the starting rotation: megabucks for Cole, and then a cast of reclamation projects and lottery tickets.

  6. Dani

    Yanks acting like a small market team that desperately needs to save some money. Pathetic.


  7. Brian M

    This was obviously a preemptive move to add roster space for the next big addition. You guys are gonna sound foolish once the next trade comes through. Maybe Joey Fusilli from the Tigers, who has excellent spin rates despite his 6.00 ERA. OR Trevor Toboggon from the Rockies who is in the top 1% of minor league exit velocity. Statistically you can’t lose with guys like that. Maybe they’ll even throw in Greg Bird! I hear he made contact with a fastball over 90 MPH the other day.

  8. What do you think is more demoralizing as a player? Getting traded for just straight cash or being traded for a PTBNL? In one scenario you’re being essentially sold off to another team but in the other your team is basically saying “eh we really don’t care who or what you give us, just take him and we’ll figure it out later”.

    • DZB

      Worse yet, this is likely to play out like the Ottovino deal and there will never be a PTBNL. Maybe there is an agreement that if Wilson regains some effectiveness they will take back a player, but I assume these players were traded for nothing.

      • Steve

        The Ottovino trade was for a PTBNL or cash. Cash sent to complete a trade isn’t always reported on.

  9. Dan A.

    I certainly agree that Hal penny pinches too much (the payroll should be $250m minimum). But, as long as he’s going to keep caring about the luxury tax, this crummy 2021 team is not the team that justifies going over the luxury tax, at the expense of having to reset it some other year! It’s not even close.

  10. chip56

    A) I think it’s less about the cost savings this year than it was about clearing Wilson’s player option for 2022 off the books
    B) The first time in his entire career that Cessa has been effective and the Yankees trade him to get someone to take salary
    C) This team really has become a pathetic shadow of itself.

    • DZB

      Wilson’s player option is $2.3M, while the buyout is $1.15, so he would only take the player option if he couldn’t get a new contract worth at least $1.15. Even if that is true, the player option salary is nothing to this team. This is all about cost savings and has nothing to do with 2022. If you are looking at 2022, you would prefer to have Cessa as an option (okay, so his arbitration salary could mean they want to cut ties, but at least he an effective controlled player).

      • chip56

        He’s pitching to an ERA north of 8 and has been injured. If he doesn’t take the player option there’s a non-zero chance he has to settle for a minor league deal.

        • DZB

          Who cares either way. It’s a difference of just over a million that shouldn’t mean anything to this team

  11. Terry from LA

    Cheapskate Hal strikes again!

  12. Wire Fan

    This doesn’t really save 1.3 mil as their spots on the roster will be taken by league min players. So the extra room this trade buys is smaller than that.

    The Yankees attaching useful pieces to guys like Ottavino and Wilson to get rid of their contracts is cringeworthy. The tax actually isn’t that significant until you really pass the highest threshold. Yankees (and all big market teams) front offices have done a tremendous job duping their fan bases and the general media into thinking the penalties for going over the first threshold is significant.

    But as cringe-worthy as this trade was, Look at what dipoto did… Traded one of the best closers in baseball this year to a rival for a broken down reliever (joe Smith) and a prospect who hits well in the minors but hasn’t been able to do anything in the majors (Toro). Yikes.

    • dasit

      dipoto might want to steer clear of the locker room for the next few years. even if the trade ends up being a win in the long term, the timing was horrendous and demoralizing to the team

  13. Esteddardban Florial

    This is a good little trade, Derek. Last night’s win notwithstanding, we need to sell sell sell. Cessa was a good arm that Boone didn’t utilize enough. Wilson is addition by subtraction. And Cash finally learned that you don’t trade these guys to the Sox, you trade them to the insignificant Reds. I hope we see more players go this week. Sell sell sell.

    • DZB

      I don’t see how a salary dump equates to selling. They lost a controlled player in Cessa to dump a guy who is really on a one year deal in Wilson, so they are weaker next year (Wilson only takes the player option if he is really done, in which case he has no value anyway). They won’t get a player back in this deal, so how does it help the team aside from giving ownership more money?

      • Yankeespring

        That is not necessarily true. After these trades, the Yankees are now at exactly 40 players on the roster with Kluber, Severino, and Schimdt all slated to come off the 60 day DL in the next month or so and be added to the 40 man. They still need to shed three players from that roster, and even more if they want to acquire an additional player or two at the deadline

        • DZB

          They can send down the two covid list guys to clear to spots (they don’t need to clear waivers) and could have released Wilson. There are three spots. There are also guys on the roster that are far more marginal than Cessa. They could also dump O’Day.

  14. Scout

    I’m so very happy for Hal! He gets to make money hand-over-fist while fending off critics by saying the team has one of baseball’s highest payrolls. And, of course, he’ll repeat his mantra, “I’ve said I’m prepared to consider going over the luxury tax threshold.”

    Meanwhile, Cashman will respond, “We engaged with many teams, but just couldn’t find value in what other teams were demanding. Believe me, we tried. And I knew that Hal was prepared to consider going over the threshold, as he’s said many times. I just couldn’t find the kind of value that would have justified asking him.”

  15. Yankeespring

    I think this trade combined with the Holmes deal is more about clearing room on the 26 and 40 man rosters for subsequent deals then necessarily clearing salary (tho this one does serve that purpose as well).

    • DZB

      I disagree. They could DFA Wilson since he had no value, and they can send down some of the COVID replacements to clear 40 man spots without them going on waivers. The 40 man roster is in find shape at the moment. It has to be a money dump (why else would you not take back a player? I mean, Cessa on his own might have returned a mediocre prospect, but once you attach Wilson’s salary the value is net zero).

  16. DZB

    This is pretty clearly a salary dump to prepare for other trade deadline deals. They basically gave away Cessa to get rid of Wilson. They net about zero bWAR together and clear space, but obviously a team really trying to compete instead of enriching ownership would keep Cessa. The PTBN will be nothing of note I assume. It is ‘take Wilson and we will give you Cessa’. What an embarrassment for the NYY. Let’s at least hope they make a trade to actually improve the team with their new found ‘cap space’.

    • Brent Lawson

      Who does the saying, “hearing no evil, see no evil, speak no evil” remind you of? Steinbrenner of course.
      I used to think Steinbrenner is not a baseball fan, doesn’t care about the Yankees and is the cartoon character Uncle Scrooge. I still do.
      But, I am beginning to think Steinbrenner has had it with Cashman spending a lot of his money and has nothing to show for it.
      Steinbrenner is saying to Cashman, ” ok Mr Wizard, let me see what you got.”

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