Our next Pinch Hitter, Andrew Katz, is from Scarsdale, N.Y. but went to college at Brandeis University in Waltham, Mass., right in the middle of Red Sox county. Andrew founded “The Louis Lunatic,” Brandeis’ first sports magazine, and he was sports director of WBRS, the Brandeis’ radio station where he co-hosted a sports talk show. Andrew has now returned to New York where he works as an Account Manager for a startup company. After seeing two of his fellow bloggers at NYaT get a chance to write a guest blog last year, Andrew was inspired to do the same.
For his post, Andrew looked back at the Yankees trade history. Instead of looking for done deals, he searched for those moments when the Yankees were glad they just said no.
Over the past 20 years, the Yankees have made some great acquisitions. David Cone was acquired for three minor leaguers who never panned out. Glenallen Hill was picked up for two minor leaguers (and, without Hill, there may have never been a Subway Series). The Yankees traded Wilson Betemit for Nick Swisher and have been laughing about it ever since.
But once in a while, the trade not made is the best one. Sometimes the decision to back away from a trade is good sense, sometimes it’s good luck, and sometimes it’s a combination of both.
Here are a few trades that the Yankees didn’t make which turned out really well for them:
The “other” player in the A-Rod trade: Even casual Yankees fans remember that Alfonso Soriano was traded to the Rangers for Alex Rodriguez, but that trade could have been known for another player being included. The other player ended up being Joaquin Arias, but the Rangers chose him over another Yankees’ infield prospect: Robinson Cano. The Rodriguez contract is looking like it will develop into an albatross, but imagine how much Yankees fans would have been up in arms had they lost Cano in that deal? The Yankees dangled Cano in deals for Carlos Beltran and Randy Johnson as well but escaped a big mistake. Arias? He has played in parts of four MLB seasons and has zero home runs.
Saved from Eric Gagne: In 2007, the Yankees looked like they might be one or two pieces away from a championship, and with Eric Gagne on the block, the Yankees were engaged in a fierce battle with the Red Sox for the former Cy Young award winner. The Red Sox ended up getting Gagne for a package of David Murphy, Kason Gabbard, and prospect Engel Beltre, but they probably wish they hadn’t. Gagne was terrible the rest of the season and ended up on the Mitchell Report shortly after the season’s end. The one silver lining for the Red Sox was that they won the World Series in 2007, but they could have used Murphy the past few years.
No Mo? The Yankees playoff run began in 1995 and, looking to bulk up the pitching staff, the Yankees looked to trade for the young Tigers pitcher, David Wells. The trade bait for the Yankees? A young, lanky, straight-throwing starter named Mariano Rivera. As the story goes, Rivera found his fastball just in time and the Gene Michael decided to hang on to Rivera. The Yankees would sign Wells a few years later as a free agent, but without giving up the player who went on to become the greatest closer in baseball history. The Yankees also had left Rivera unprotected in 1992 so he could have technically been taken in the Rule V draft, but an arm injury kept any team from taking that chance.
Andy could have been Dandy in Philly: Despite almost winning a Cy Young in 1996 and helping the Yankees win the World Series, George Steinbrenner still felt like Andy Pettitte wasn’t built for New York and playoff baseball, especially after a bad start to the 1999 season. The Yankees discussed a deal to send Pettitte to the Phillies for Adam Eaton, Anthony Shumaker, and Reggie Taylor. Rumor has it the deal got stopped at the 11th hour when Joe Torre convinced the Yankees brass to let Pettitte stay and a rejuvenated Andy was Dandy for another decade.
And Jorge Posada was almost a goner too: At the trade deadline of 1997, then-Yankees GM Bob Watson was being persuaded by George Steinbrenner to make a big deal at the trade deadline with names like Ivan Rodriguez, Albert Belle, and even former Yankees, Mike Stanley and Rickey Henderson as names being thrown around. The trade bait? A pair of 25-year-olds, Jorge Posada and Ramiro Mendoza. One rumor had the Rangers asking for Pettitte and Posada in exchange for Rodriguez. The trade deadline passed and Watson held on to all of his chips. After the 1998 season the Yankees once again made a run at Albert Belle as a free agent, but opted to re-sign Bernie Williams at the last second. That was certainly a free agent non-signing that worked out as well.
Juan Gone or Sammy? Sammy Sosa and Juan Gonzalez were two of the top sluggers of the 90s and both could have been on the Yankees had trades gone through in 2000. Luckily, neither one of them ended up in the Bronx as their rapid decline would have been tough to deal with as the proposed trades were both contingent on those players signing long, lucrative extensions in the Bronx. Amazingly, it was Gonzalez who turned down the Yankees.
Those are only a few examples, but it shows sometimes the best trade is the one not made. So while Yankees fans bemoaned not picking up pitching at last year’s trade deadline, you wonder which prospect they held on to last year will end up on this list in 10 years. In 10 years we may be thanking our lucky stars that the Yankees didn’t trade Phil Hughes for Johan Santana or include Ivan Nova for Cliff Lee. Sometimes the best deal is the one you say no to.
Assoicated Press photos