Introducing the players the Yankees picked up in their flurry of trade deadline deals
By Jon Schwartz
Yankees Magazine |
When the clock struck 4 p.m. on Aug. 1, Brian Cashman and his baseball operations department got to briefly celebrate the end of a week in which they had reshaped the organization's personnel with an eye toward a new era of winning baseball. In shipping out veterans Aroldis Chapman, Andrew Miller, Carlos Beltran and Ivan Nova, the Yankees brought in a crop of talent that elevated the organization's farm system into the top two in the league, according to MLB's Jim Callis.
Here's a look at the deals that the club completed and a brief glimpse at some of the newcomers fans can look forward to watching over the next few years.
The first of the crop of Minor Leaguers Cashman acquired at the trade deadline to make the Big Leagues, Ben Heller earned his call-up before the Yankees' Aug. 11 game in Boston. The next night, he watched CC Sabathia pitch for his team -- not an altogether new experience.
In 2008, Heller, a Wisconsin native and Brewers fan, celebrated when Sabathia came to Milwaukee in a midseason trade and then watched in awe as the big left-hander regularly threw on three days' rest to help carry the club into the postseason.
"That was what initially gave me my passion for baseball, watching the Brewers, going to Miller Park, and being in that Big League atmosphere," Heller said. "It made me want to do it someday."
Whatever role Sabathia played in shaping a young Heller's baseball life, the Yankees are beneficiaries. He's primarily a two-pitch guy -- fastball and slider -- but that fastball can touch triple digits, and he commands the slider really well. He's also working on a change-up, one he'd like to integrate more as it develops.
"Just having an offspeed pitch that looks the same as my fastball coming out, that's the biggest thing," Heller said. "I want my arm speed with my slider to be the same as my fastball, so the hitters see fastball, and hopefully they'll be out in front."
As of Sept. 6Assigned To: Scranton/Wilkes-Barre (Triple-A)
The biggest get for Cashman, Frazier immediately takes over the No. 1 position in MLB.com's ranking of Yankees prospects. Fans hope and expect to be seeing Frazier play in pinstripes for a long time; and if he's playing, you can bet fans in the Stadium will be able to pick him out with no trouble.
Frazier sports curly red locks that explode out of his cap, and he plays with a high-energy style that is destined to make him a fan favorite.
"Very physical player," the Loganville, Ga., native said of his approach. "I play my heart out. I go out there, I swing as hard as I can, I run as hard as I can. I do everything as hard as I can. That's going to be something that I hope Yankees fans take notice of."
The fifth pick in the 2013 Draft, Frazier drew attention at the 2016 SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game in San Diego for his hair, his muscles and his dynamic play. Scouts have long raved about his abilities -- Cashman lauded all five of his tools -- and he has been drawing comps to Mike Trout since before he turned pro. But the confident outfielder -- who turned 22 on Sept. 6 -- manages to simultaneously deflect the attention while clearly using it as motivation.
"I keep telling everyone, I haven't even done remotely close to what he's done in his career," Frazier said. "So I think it's a little bit unfair. But I can see the physical traits that they're talking about, the tools that they bring up. It's kind of hard for that to go unnoticed. But overall, I'm just trying to be Clint Frazier when I step into that box, step over those lines. I'm not trying to put any pressure on myself to live up to trying to be Mike Trout. I'm just going to go out there, have fun and enjoy this game."
"I'm just a guy that likes to go out on the mound and attack hitters as much as possible. Bring the intensity to the mound. Decent breaking ball, decent fastball, and I just use those two pitches as much as possible to get guys out."
Finally, he got the call that made sense of the noise. He was on the move, headed to New York.
"I was excited," he said. "Surprised and excited at the same time. It was a new opportunity. But I've been through a trade before, so it wasn't that new."
Cashman likes the left-handed swing of McKinney -- a first-round pick by the A's in 2013. And if things pan out the way the team hopes, look for McKinney's Twitter to keep blowing up for years to come.
The final piece in the deal that was headlined by Gleyber Torres and Adam Warren, Crawford failed to record a hit in his first three games with Tampa. But once he got going, the Atlanta native hit in 11 of his next 13 contests.
While Clint Frazier got the biggest headlines out of the Andrew Miller deal, Cashman was quick to sing the praises of the left-handed pitcher he acquired, Justus Sheffield.
"Just an exciting young starting pitching talent," the Yankees' general manager said the morning of Sheffield's first start for the Tampa Yankees. "He probably goes into our system as our No. 1 pitching prospect now that's not named Severino."
As reports came in of Sheffield's performance on the mound that night, Cashman must have felt pretty pleased with his assessment. In six innings, Sheffield allowed just two hits and a walk while striking out 11. Tampa won the game by a 7-1 score -- three of the runs coming on a Gleyber Torres homer -- and everyone from Tampa to the Bronx had plenty of reason to smile.
"To go out, pitch well, and have him hit that three-run homer, it's like historic," Sheffield said.
Gleyber Torres, SS
Acquired from: Chicago (Aroldis Chapman)
As of Sept. 6Assigned To: Tampa (Class A)
Growing up in Venezuela, Gleyber Torres was surrounded by images of the New York Yankees.
"All I can remember is my mom being a Yankees fan," he said, with teammate Jose Mesa Jr. interpreting from Spanish. "She had sweaters of the Yankees; she tried to watch them as much as she could. It was always something that I grew up noticing."
Now, three years after signing as an international free agent with the Chicago Cubs, Torres is a member of the Yankees. And it's not just his mother who is delighted by the development.
"He was, for me, the No. 1 international prospect when he was a free agent in 2013," said Cashman. "The Cubs did a great job of securing him, getting in on him early. So we were frustrated that we didn't get him. That's a name I have not forgotten, and he's done nothing but continue to develop and emerge. As far as we were concerned, he was the No. 1 prospect in their organization that wasn't in the Big Leagues."
Torres slots in among a host of talented middle infielders in the organization, from Jorge Mateo to Wilkerman Garcia to Tyler Wade, among others. And of course, there's also Didi Gregorius, who doesn't seem inclined to give up his hold on the shortstop position any time soon. But Torres, whose bat and defense both draw raves from scouts, hopes to continue his rise up the ladder.
"Growing up," he said, "I would always hear the stories about the great history that the Yankees have and all their great players: Mariano Rivera, Derek Jeter, those guys. Pretty much, I never expected that I would be able to play for them, but I always knew that they were a great team with a great history. I'm just blessed to be here."
It was just last June that the Rangers were all-in on pitcher Dillon Tate, selecting him with the fourth pick in the First-Year Player Draft. But little went right for him in his first full year with the Rangers organization: Through July 28, he was languishing with a 5.12 ERA, and opponents were hitting .311 off of him. Tate was turning everyone he faced into an All-Star.
"Mainly, the center of my struggles came around some of the mechanical adjustments that I was trying to incorporate," Tate said. "In the end, they just weren't very comfortable for me. I couldn't really do anything naturally. I couldn't throw the ball the way I naturally throw it. It was uncomfortable when I first started doing them, but in the end, I realized that those adjustments just weren't for me. By the time I realized that, I was already getting traded."
Tate said that the trade lifted him up mentally; as he was trying to make sense of struggle, he at least got to see that he was still in demand. Since the trade, his fastball velocity has returned to the high 90s, back where it was before he started making the adjustments. And Cashman is confident that he picked up a player on the upswing.
"A lottery ticket," Cashman called him. "It's such a small sample that, as long as he's healthy, we're excited by the upside that remains regardless of how his last two to three months have gone."
As of Sept. 6 Assigned To: Gulf Coast League (Rookie Ball)
Swanson was amazed by outfielders Tyler Austin and Aaron Judge after watching them homer in their first plate appearances with the Yankees. "Me being new to the organization," he said, "I didn't know who either of those guys were. I'd heard Judge's name before, knew it was a big name. But a lot of it was guys explaining these guys to me. And I think the coolest thing was everybody explaining to me that Judge was 6 foot 7, 275 pounds. They were saying, 'This guy should be playing in the NFL somewhere. Wait until you see this guy in person.'"
Not accounting for the two players the Yankees selected from the Pirates as the players to be named later in the Ivan Nova deal, Green is certainly the rawest piece of the trade deadline haul. But after just two games in Staten Island, Green was promoted to Charleston on Aug. 17. He started that night, giving up one run in six innings.
Jon Schwartz is the managing editor of Yankees Magazine. This article appears in the September issue of Yankees Magazine. Get this article and more delivered to your doorstep by purchasing a subscription at yankees.com/publications.