It all started with a “healthy scratch.”
That’s what the White Sox announced as the reason for third baseman Todd Frazier’s removal from the lineup on Tuesday. Immediately, everyone guessed Red Sox because of their longstanding connection to him. But, no, that’s not how the MLB Trade Deadline works.
Instead, it was the Yankees who swept in and snagged the Red Sox’s third base solution right out from underneath their nose. It wasn’t just Todd Frazier, either. The Yankees satisfied all their needs in one trade, acquiring Frazier along with relievers Tommy Kahnle and David Robertson. Relief pitching has been trouble for New York this year, and now they get two new, shiny, excellent relievers to pitch out of their bullpen.
In exchange for the three players, the White Sox received Major League reliever Tyler Clippard and three prospects: outfielder Blake Rutherford, pitcher Ian Clarkin and outfielder Tito Polo. Let’s break this monster of a trade down.
Yankees block their division rivals, gift Todd Frazier a homer-friendly park and add to their bullpen
There’s a lot to break down here from New York’s point of view.
First, the Yankees block the Red Sox. Boston is in desperate need of a third baseman. We all know how the Pablo Sandoval signing turned out. Instead of letting the team that is just 3 1⁄2 games better than them in the standings get an improvement, the Yankees force them to start back at square one for this search, and I don’t necessarily know who they could target. Jed Lowrie, I guess?
Anyway, it wasn’t like the Yankees didn’t need a third baseman, either, so they definitely can say they killed two birds with one stone here. (Well, in actuality, they probably killed many birds with one stone, but I’ll get to that.) The Yankees’ main third baseman this season has been Chase Headley, who has a 93 wRC+.
The Yankees are not only getting a solid player in Frazier, but they are moving him to a homer-friendly ballpark that should result in an uptick in power. He is hitting .207/.328/.432 (103 wRC+) this season, with 16 home runs and 44 RBI over 335 plate appearances, but has only been worth 1.1 fWAR. Frazier’s best seasons came when he was with the Reds, who also happened to play in an extreme hitter’s park. The Yankees could be betting on a Frazier revolution at Yankee Stadium. In any case, there’s not too much risk if he struggles, as he will be a three-month rental for the team and a free agent at the end of the year.
Now, let’s move on to the other birds that the Yankees killed with that same stone. The acquisition of David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle basically means that the Yankees have all of the best relief arms, as they’re added to a bullpen that already has Aroldis Chapman, Dellin Betances and Adam Warren. This team has four closers on it, so what’s the point of even using a starting pitcher anymore?
In all seriousness, though, the Yankees’ bullpen has struggled enough to the point where they had to solidify it. Names are one thing, but results are another. Betances and Chapman have both struggled at times this year. However, the bullpen as a whole still manages to be one of the best in baseball, ranking 5th in MLB in ERA and second in total fWAR. That’s not bad, but it just got significantly better, and should give the Yankees a leg up in the regular season, and potentially a huge edge in the postseason.
Robertson, 32, was a Yankee for seven seasons, and he was considered to be one of the most likely bullpen arms to be moved in this market. This year, he’s posted a 2.70 ERA and a 47:11 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 33 1⁄3 innings pitched, saving 13 games. He’s struggled with the long ball, hurting his fWAR number, which is still relatively strong at 0.8 wins above replacement. He will be a free agent after next season.
Kahnle is arguably the more interesting arm moved in this trade. A former Yankee prospect, the 27-year-old righty has broken out in 2017, posting a 2.50 ERA and an insane 60:7 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 36 innings. His fastball averages 98 mph, and he can also mix in a slider and curve. His 1.4 fWAR ranks 9th among qualified relievers this season. He’s not a free agent until after the 2020 season.
So, yeah, the Yankees did well. They got a power-hitting third baseman that can help them in the short-term, and two longer-term relief pieces that give them one of the scariest bullpens in the Major Leagues. Who said Aaron Judge couldn’t turn a bad team into a contender? The Yankees have an AL East strike on their minds, while....
The White Sox continue an incredible rebuild
I mainly covered this in one of the last pieces I wrote, on the Jose Quintana trade, but the White Sox have done an excellent job building a great farm system.
Here’s a quote from that article about the state of their system:
Still, though, that’s a crazy return for the South Siders, who can now add [Eloy] Jimenez—who was rated as Baseball America’s No. 5 overall prospect in their midseason rankings—to a system that already includes top names such as Yoan Moncada, Michael Kopech, Lucas Giolito, and others. In fact, according to MLB Pipeline’s list, the White Sox now have the No. 1, No. 8, No. 11, No. 23, No. 28, No. 36, No. 59, No. 63 and No. 68 prospects. For those not counting, that’s nine of the top 100 prospects, including three within the top-15. The White Sox’ system looks to be the one of the best in baseball.
Well, the White Sox’s system just got better. Blake Rutherford was the Yankees’ first round pick in 2016 and already advanced to Class A ball this year. Ian Clarkin was the Yankees’ first round pick back in 2013, but has only made it as high as High-A. Tito Polo seems to be the throw-in for the deal.
Oh, and Tyler Clippard? Well, the White Sox have to have someone throw pitches for them, right? He will be a free agent at the end of the year.
Rutherford, 20, gives the White Sox 10 of MLB Pipeline’s top-100 prospects. He already slides in as the sixth-best prospect on Chicago’s top-30 list. This season, Rutherford has hit .281/.342/.391 with two homers and 30 RBI over 304 plate appearances. He has drawn comparisons to a more athletic version of David Justice, who — if you’re like me and are too young to remember — was a three-time All-Star and the 1990 AL Rookie of the Year. Rutherford grades out best with his overall hitting ability and his power.
Clarkin, 22, could end up being the x-factor in this trade. If he pans out, the White Sox could really be in business. If not, Rutherford could end up being the only return of value. Clarkin has struggled with injuries throughout his professional career, but he has returned his fastball velocity to the 90-93 mph range with the ability to hit 95. He hasn’t overwhelmed hitters at High-A this year, either, posting a 2.62 ERA and a 58:25 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 75 2⁄3 innings this year. His secondary stuff also needs some work in order for him to regain that effectiveness.
Polo, the throw-in, is a 22-year-old who is hitting .298/.358/.446 with five homers and 36 RBI over 316 plate appearances between High-A and Double-A this year. Good numbers, but his lack of appearance on any prospect lists suggests he hasn’t caught the attention of any scouts.
The White Sox took an interesting strategy to this trade. They pooled all of their tradable assets into one deal in order to maximize the return. While we won’t know how the deal will pan out in the future, it could end up being an effective strategy, considering they now have an MLB-leading 10 (!!!) top-100 prospects.
Devan Fink is a Featured Writer at Beyond The Box Score. Follow Devan on Twitter @DevanFink.