In summer 2021, the New York Yankees made a lot of people hot and bothered by swapping contact hitting star Hoy Park (and upper-level infield slugger Diego Castillo) for reliever Clay Holmes, who sported a 4.93 ERA, 4.07 FIP and grimy 1.429 WHIP at the time of the trade.
How could they trade Park? And how could they trade Park for THIS?!
Luckily, we’re writing this from a position of knowing the end of the story — or, at least the middle. Holmes responded to Matt Blake’s teachings and halved his WHIP to 0.786 down the stretch with the Yankees, striking out 34 in 28 innings in a breakout stretch predicated on his otherworldly sinker.
Park? He was worth -0.3 WAR in 149 plate appearances in his rookie season. Hoping for the best for the kid, but as of now, you can chalk the second 2021 trade between the Yanks and Bucs as a Brian Cashman victory.
How about a third?
In the past calendar year, New York has already targeted a reliever in Pittsburgh who they believed they could save (and done so), as well as surrendered assets for a bounce back rotation candidate in Jameson Taillon who they thought could pay dividends in Year 2 (and he was solid in Year 1, too).
If they were to pull off a third trade and continue to transfer the midsection of their farm system to The ‘Burgh, it would take a bit of a Taillon-style overpay — but a deal for David Bednar could really help the back end of the bullpen, if Pittsburgh would be willing to continue their successful working relationship with the Yankees front office.
Yankees should trade for Pirates reliever David Bednar
We’ll forgive you if you didn’t notice, but Bednar’s first full big-league season last year went stunningly well. Unlike Holmes, the 27-year-old doesn’t need saving.
Bednar, who came over from San Diego in the three-team Joe Musgrove trade that the Mets somehow wormed their way into, whiffed 77 in 60.2 innings last season, posting a 2.23 ERA and silently finishing eighth in the Rookie of the Year balloting.
His three-pitch mix led to some Statcast nastiness; Bednar has turned every single category red (though, shockingly, his fastball spin could use some help to get above the 62nd percentile). 97th percentile in xWOBA. 92nd in hard-hit percentage. Mercy killing.
Now, it should be noted that Bednar is a local kid, and we’re not exactly sure the star-less Pirates would be inclined to trade him with fan anger already at a premium. But … a controllable reliever? They might just find the guts to do it anyway. He’s not exactly front and center.
Oh, and did we mention he’s controllable through 2026? We didn’t want to, because it hurts like a Band-Aid rip, but he’d be locked down for a long time. This is a premium deal — but with Aroldis Chapman, Chad Green and Zack Britton all likely leaving following the 2022 season, the Yankees’ bullpen needs a massive overhaul (as well as someone else to soak up innings in the present).
This will cost at least two of the Bombers’ top 10 prospects, as well as some mid-tier pieces. Potentially this turns into a five-for-two, with the Yankees asking for long-time Taillon/Cole favorite Steven Brault?
Can this wait until after 2022 when ‘pen roles are more clarified? Sure. But it won’t be any cheaper. Why not place the call when the lockout is lifted?