The New York Yankees veered directly back into being precious with their prospects this offseason, thus far holding onto the entire corps and ditching Gary Sánchez and Gio Urshela instead to make their only meaningful roster upgrade.
Last trade deadline, New York swapped 40-man fodder (good 40-man fodder, but still fodder!) to the Texas Rangers and Chicago Cubs for Joey Gallo and Anthony Rizzo. Brian Cashman didn’t execute anything truly painful in any of those instances; if Josh Smith pans out, so be it, but he still solved a glut.
No, Cashman hasn’t really “given to get” since the halcyon days of 2017, when he dealt Blake Rutherford as the centerpiece of a package for David Robertson/Todd Frazier/Tommy Kahnle, then surrendered Jorge Mateo, James Kaprielian, and Dustin Fowler for Sonny Gray.
Since that fateful day, he’s missed out on several opportunities, always seemingly preferring to win a trade rather than get better, just this once. The closest he’s gotten to a meaningful “parting of the ways” since the Gray days? Surrendering a package of prospects to the Pirates for Jameson Taillon last offseason, highlighted by flamethrower Roansy Contreras, who’s leveled up since the Yankees let him loose.
Cashman shipped four players to the Pirates for Taillon’s services, who’s entering a big Year 2 in New York (and coming off a better-than-expected Year 1).
Unfortunately, one of them tops 100 with regularity, is coming off a Futures Game selection, and embodies Cash’s worst nightmare.
Did former Yankees right-hander Roansy Contreras dominating in Pittsburgh scare Brian Cashman?
Taillon may not be the best player in the deal when the dust settles, but it’s a completely justifiable exchange of talent considering New York’s needs and their evaluation of Contreras’ boom potential (we think).
Unfortunately, Contreras seems liable to soar higher than expected, which has left Cashman averse to, say, betting on the wrong shortstop or two this offseason.
In 2021, across 13 minor-league starts, Contreras whiffed 82 men in 58 innings, posting a minuscule 0.93 WHIP. He’s still just 22. That’s precious little data to go off of, and indicates his arm isn’t yet ready to do damage at the big-league level.
But … still. That’s a breakout. That’s a vastly improved strikeout rate from his Single-A Yankees days (just 113 in 132.1 innings in 2019). And that’s an immediate data point indicating an all-caps “LOSS” in a deal from the top 10 of Cashman’s beloved system.
The Yankees might not survive Game 162 without Taillon last year, and they might be dead in the water without him this year. But Taillon can’t do this.
The Yankees should not be ’90s reckless with their mid-tier farm system, but they also can’t afford to let their window close by hoarding at certain positions — especially, counterproductively, on the mound and up the middle.
Hopefully, Contreras’ emergence didn’t dissuade Cashman from wheeling and dealing as much as it’s seemed to.