Whenever opposing publications have an opportunity to put the New York Yankees on blast, they almost never relent. Why would they? It’s just too easy. And the audience digesting that type of content is quite notable (anyone who isn’t a Yankees fan).
There’s especially been plenty this offseason following the team’s disappointing 2021 and the fact the lockout has prevented general manager Brian Cashman from making the necessary upgrades to get ahead in 2022.
A lot of the frustration/criticism is warranted, but some is a stretch. Since Yankees fans are inundated with such content, it’s important to sniff out what’s reasonable and what’s contrived/farfetched.
In the case of a recent article from Bleacher Report, it’s right to feel a bit miffed by the fact TWO Yankees trades from last year were included in their piece, “Recent MLB Trades That Could Haunt Teams Entering the 2022 Season.”
The offseason Jameson Taillon trade with the Pittsburgh Pirates and midseason Joey Gallo deal with the Texas Rangers were cited … but how can both of these hurt the Yankees in 2022?
Perhaps it’s sensible to argue one of them might (and we’d lean closer to the Taillon swap because of Roansy Contreras’ fast rise), but perhaps we’re forgetting other aspects that factored into the decision making.
So let’s dive into Taillon before we issue a rebuttal. If we’re to view this deal from as realistically a lens as possible, it was obvious the Yankees were looking to capitalize on Taillon’s 2022 campaign since everyone knows a pitcher’s first season back from Tommy John is hardly a home run.
That’s why referencing Taillon’s “roughly average 4.30 ERA” isn’t entirely in good faith here. Taillon provided 144.1 innings of work, which is 141.1 more than what Contreras brought to the Pirates. Additionally, the Bombers had little need for Miguel Yajure (8.40 ERA in four games with Pittsburgh), Canaan Smith-Njigba (due to their outfield depth on the MLB roster and in the minor leagues), or Maikol Escotto (since their glut of top shortstop prospects would’ve never allowed him to become a true asset). So the only gamble they took was Contreras not ascending as quickly as he did. But something tells us Taillon’s 2022 will be better than Contreras’ … and that the rest of the top pitchers in the Yankees’ farm (Luis Gil, Luis Medina, Yoendrys Gomez, Ken Waldichuk and Hayden Wesneski) could possess higher ceilings.
“Could” bite the Yankees if Contreras is an NL Rookie of the Year … and that’s about it.
Now, for the Gallo trade. At the deadline, the Yankees sent pitcher Glenn Otto and infielders Ezequiel Duran, Trevor Hauver and Josh Smith — all of whom were prospects — to Texas in exchange for Gallo, reliever Joely Rodriguez, and enough money to cover both of their salaries and Rodriguez’s 2022 buyout.
This was notoriously referred to as a deal the Yankees were able to execute because of their formidable farm system depth. New York traded four players that would’ve had to be protected on the 40-man roster this offseason to avoid being taken in the Rule 5 Draft (which they probably would have been, if the lockout hadn’t canceled this year’s festivities … which we didn’t know would happen until shortly before it was set to happen).
In short, should the status quo have remained, the Yankees would’ve had little use for those four prospects because of their 40-man situation plus the number of other prospects that ranked ahead of them. The B/R article said that Duran and Smith were ranked among the top 100 prospects in the game per FanGraphs … but that just speaks to the Yankees’ depth. New York has five players on that list, too, and there’s no room for Duran or Smith in 2022, and probably wouldn’t’ve have been in 2023 (the Yankees’ farm is loaded with infield talent, leaving Duran and Smith on the outside looking in, especially considering Smith had only reached High-A with the Yankees before he was traded).
In no way are these trades flawless transactions that make the Yankees look like geniuses, but general manager Brian Cashman minimized risk as best as possible and mostly parted with players who would not be making a bigger impact than anybody on the MLB roster over the next two seasons while also hanging onto prospects with more promise and higher ceiling at the same positions.
For as unimpressive as both Taillon and Gallo were in 2021, they showed flashes and now have ha ample time to get acclimated to New York. The only way these deals become losses for New York is if fans see worse production from them in 2022 while all the aforementioned prospects take unthinkable leaps.
We’ll bet that won’t happen.