Spencer Howard release puts goofy little bow on Yankees' empty trade deadline

Not the biggest deal in the world, but still makes you laugh a little.
Spring Training
Spring Training / Ben Ludeman/Texas Rangers/GettyImages

The New York Yankees had a fruitful trade deadline, acquiring absolutely nothing in exchange for very little.

After much consternation about whether they'd be enthusiastic buyers or begrudging sellers, Brian Cashman and Co. refused to pick a lane, trading for reliever Keynan Middleton five minutes before the deadline and announcing a flyer on former Phillies top prospect Spencer Howard a few minutes after the buzzer.

Did too many Steinbrenners in the kitchen stop New York from pulling off something closer to a fire sale? That's what the rumors have said. Regardless of the culprit, the Yankees added a reliever and a wild card, which gave the hilarious impression they'd gotten lost in their own sauce.

That impression only veered closer to reality this week when center fielder Harrison Bader, perhaps the team's top rental, was held on Aug. 1 only to be placed on waivers on Aug. 30. What changed between then, the time when the Yankees could've required assets in exchange for him, and now, when they can be relieved of his remaining salary, but cannot improve? New York's malaise became a below-.500 way of life in the month of August, but anyone who'd diagnosed them as losers pre-deadline has been proven accurate.

As if the changing tune on Bader or Josh Donaldson's release weren't big enough reminders that every half-measure this team has touched for two calendar years has turned to dirt, Howard being quietly released from a 40-man roster spot on Wednesday acted as a cherry on top.

Yankees release Spencer Howard, clear 40-man roster spot

Howard, once the centerpiece of Philly's Kyle Gibson trade and Baseball America's No. 27 prospect in the game entering 2021, lost significant shine when he posted a 4.73 ERA at Triple-A Round Rock in 2022 (despite striking out 73 in 59 innings) after battling injuries the previous season.

Cashman adding Howard was a no harm, no foul move. If he regained his mojo and pitched to his pedigree, it would've been a steal. If not, he'd languish in the minors or be released. The only reason anyone noticed was because his acquisition hit minutes after one of the most confounding trade deadlines in recent MLB history; Howard would've been a complete unknown if he'd come over on waivers in June instead.

Unfortunately, after posting a 16.88 ERA in 2.2 innings at Triple-A Scranton, he was placed on the Injured List with an undisclosed injury (which is how things typically go at the minor-league level). Rather than rehab in New York and take up a valuable 40-man spot, he was instead cut loose on Wednesday afternoon. The Yankees will use his roster spot to harbor one of their more valuable prospects this offseason.

Releasing Howard was the right call. So was adding him. But regardless of MLB impact, his name will forever be associated with a deadline day gone sideways, and it's darkly funny that he's already gone.