"Frankie Montas for Ken Waldichuk, JP Sears, and the Yankees' entire Triple-A pitching staff." Done. Cut. Print it. Article finished.
Well, not so fast. Enough ink has been spilled on the Montas swap lately, and yes, it's an obvious regret. That trade, combined with the similar swap of Hayden Wesneski for a now-injured Scott Effross, will deplete the Yankees' depth to begin the 2023 season.
Ultimately, though, as bad as those trades look in the present ... the one thing we can trust this franchise to do is build a stockpile of pitching depth over the course of time. Will Warren and his patented sweeper have clearly been crafted in the Wesneski mold (and the amount of control the Yankees have over Effross will pay off in due time). Drew Thorpe has already gained 2-3 miles per hour on his fastball. Clayton Beeter showed signs of being a potentially-dominant reliever. Richard Fitts just cracked MLB Pipeline's preseason Top 10. Matt Krook could be 2023's Sears. There are names we don't know yet who will be contributing to the cause before mid-May.
In terms of filling a long-term need in the Bronx, as well as possessing that impressive sheen that only the upper-echelon top prospects seem to have, Kevin Alcantara, now a Cub, is the far bigger loss, as well as the player whose star quality will become most apparent in 2023 after developing over the previous few years.
Traded for Anthony Rizzo at the 2021 trade deadline, Alcantara has emerged at Cubs camp as a perfect distillation of his many tools, with a Ronald Acuña-like swagger to boot. Rizzo is a face of the Yankees, and having his rock-steady presence at first has been a blessing, but ... this is the year that giving up Alcantara finally begins to sting in the public eye.
Yankees Trade Grades: 2021 Yanks didn't need Anthony Rizzo, Kevin Alcantara is a star
People are going to be talking about this.
There's something to be said for getting Rizzo in the building, of course, as well as stepping on Boston's toes and acquiring him out of nowhere at a splash-filled deadline. But the 2021 Yankees weren't an Anthony Rizzo away from making a run to the title. They were, in fact, uniquely depressing, a tradition that continued when the Red Sox -- powered by Kyle Schwarber, acquired in Rizzo's place -- demolished them at Fenway Park and ended their season.
Rizzo has gone on to be a perfect Judge running mate and has already signed two contracts with the Yankees since he was first acquired. But that means, of course, that the Yankees theoretically could've used their biggest advantages -- money and history -- to get him into the building during the winter of 2021-22 anyway, without surrendering a key asset in a lost season.
At the time of the trade, the Yankees were 53-48. They ended the year with a pythagorean record of 86-76 that reflected their humdrum season more accurately than their actual 92-70 mark. Rizzo hit eight homers with a 110 OPS+ in 49 games for that team, but missed a chunk of time almost immediately with COVID, and created an awkward situation with a raging Luke Voit both upon arrival and when he hit the shelf (and Voit tore the cover off the ball, never to be seen again when Rizzo returned).
The 2021 Yankees could've been mediocre, with or without Rizzo, who might've joined up the next offseason regardless. Alcantara, meanwhile? Just 20 years old, the righty swinger (his only negative attribute, in the eyes of the Yankees' needs) hit .273/.360/.441 last season with 15 bombs and 85 RBI at Single-A.
It can't be overstated, too, how much joy he seems to bring to the position as he develops. Alcantara seems like a magnet for effusive praise, and the kind of lightning rod the Yankees really could've used at Double-A Somerset this season, with a long-term left field vacancy still in the projections.
The fact that the Yankees acquiring Rizzo was a positive will never been disputed. There was probably a better way to go about it, though, wearing hindsight goggles.
Those hindsight goggles should probably not watch too many Double-A Tennessee Smokies games this year or read much Baseball America. Avoiding Alcantara coverage entirely might be the way to go to minimize the pain.
Sadly, that could prove difficult. He's magnetic.