So it appears that the Cleveland Indians believe they have what it takes to knock the hustle on the reigning World Series champion Kansas City Royals by fulfilling the wish of most Yankee fans (around here, at least) and trading for their All Star closer Andrew Miller. Yep, Cleveland beat out all comers to go for the gold, as it were. Cashman, to his credit this season, had managed to acquire the top relieving talent in the AL and has been seemingly wise in what has to be a real first for Yankeedom; bartering good MLB players for good prospects. Seriously, how often has this even happened, never mind worked out well for the Yankees in their history? The closest I could come up with (or at least the most recent example) was when the Yanks traded starting pitcher Doc Medich for, among others, up-and-coming rookie Willie Randolph in December 1975. That seemed to work out pretty well, if I recall. However, the Yanks have had a strong tendency as well know to be on the opposite side of the spectrum when dealing with prospects; usually giving away prospects (whom a lot of times turn into All Star talent) in exchange for OPP or middling MLB players who either break few waves or write regrettable footnotes in Yankee history. Is it not fair to think of Jose Rijo, Fred McGriff, Jay Buhner and other Yankee prospects from the early 80s (well into G. Steinbrenner’s reign
of terror as Yankees overlord owner) ending up as perennial All-Stars and borderline HoFers on other teams because of an incessant need for overvalued or ill-suited veterans led by shell-shocked or bi-polar managers who entered and departed like the steamy vapors of Old Faithful. HOw many of us felt the burn in those times, good times…
But this: unprecedented in nature and in scale. Instead of discarding a useful veteran or cashing in a bunch of great prospects for a two-month playoff push in the hopes that they can catch the same lightning that David Justice brought with him many moons ago, instead of shuttling off a headache or embarrassment for the tender mercies of their trade partner’s leftovers, the Yanks have practically admitted something obvious to the entirety of the Yankee universe: rebuilding is a viable option.
Rebuild. What a strange, funny little word that has for so long struck terror in the hearts of fans and administration alike, but somehow has managed to bring us a sense of relief in that now this team has a definitive plan, a course of action that says to all who observe that yes, the team does recognize the signs and has decided to focus on what lies ahead. There are too many holes to patch, too much money in the pit and much more time on our hands than we know what to do with. But Cashman, the de facto Leader of the New School, somehow got the okay to look forward and trade a couple of his cash cows for some magic beans. And let’s be real, this is what they really are for now… so who are these magic beans exactly?
Clint Frazier; No. 2 prospect in the Cleveland Indians organization, an outfielder and No. 5 pick overall in 2013 (nj.com)
Justus Sheffield: No. 3 prospect of the organization, LH Starter in A-Ball, but no, he is NOT related to Gary Sheffield (contrary to this and other reports, it has been asserted as a myth) (nj.com)
And for gits and shiggles, they threw in a couple more minor league cheeseheads, Triple-A reliever Ben Heller and Double-A reliever J.P. Feyereisen. (yeah you guessed it, nj.com)
What does it all mean? Well, Cleveland’s obviously going for it, and they think highly enough of Miller that they can afford to give up at least two prized prospects to get him. Good for Miller, he’s a very stand-up guy who deserves a shot at a ring during his prime, but while deserve’s got nothing to do with it, pundits are now seeing Cleveland as a true contender (the Royals seemingly spit the bit early on with injuries to key players and sub-par replacements) who will likely be waiting at the gate while Toronto, Baltimore, Texas and Houston figure out their respective positions. Provided that Miller stays healthy the rest of the way and Terry Francona doesn’t suddenly lose his mojo in the clubhouse, the playoff push promises to be pretty interesting. For the Yanks: The future is now for one Dellin Betances (provided he doesn’t get traded himself, which doesn’t seem likely at this point, but we are treading unfamiliar waters here). If he stays, he will now get the chance to lock down the closer position for years to come; a position that was inherently his from the moment he came up, but required (and may still require) some seasoning before he could fully embrace it. He’s got about two months. For the rest of the team, it’s put up or shut up. The White Flag has been raised, the retooling begins. Time to analyze who has an actual future with this team in 2017 or even within the next couple of months. Do they sit down a couple of under-performing players and bring up kids to test them out? Does the hype of these major trades invigorate provoke the rest into Super Saiyin mode and they go on a .750 tear the rest of the way and burst into the playoffs as the most dynamic team this side of hydrogen and oxygen? Or do they play with their shoelaces the rest of the way? Perhaps a little from column A, B and C?
At any rate, this has been likely the most interesting part of the season to date. So long, A. Chapman, so long A. Miller; you’ve both been great here and we thank you for keeping most of us at least peripherally interested in what’s happening at that mall we call Yankee Stadium nowadays, but it’s time to go forth and make history for your new teams (both Cleveland and the Chicago Cubs having a good chance to make big history by winning it all). while Betances holds down the fort and waits for the new arrivals to mature along with him and bring forth an interesting and perhaps exciting new era of baseball in New York; the likes of which we haven’t seen since the mid 90s perhaps? If so, it will likely change the narrative we’ve had on one Brian Cashman and cement his place in baseball not only as a visionary executive, but a legendary survivor. Too much, too soon? It’s okay, we just made a couple of big trades that we don’t ordinarily do, as if they finally listened to us and said, “Eh, why not?”
We can afford a little bit of euphoria for a minute. We shall see.