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  • Cory Claus

Cashman’s 2022 Trades are Killing the 2023 Yankees

The Yankees looked like a World Series winner when the season started last year. So it was natural that Brian Cashman would try to bolster the club at the trade deadline. Unfortunately, he did so by cleaning out most of the Yankees' top pitching prospects at the upper levels of the minors. Those trades not only failed to help the 2022 Yankees win a World Series, but they've also killed the 2023 Yankees.

Yankees Stadium

The Yankees are finding new ways to lose.

The offense has been the biggest problem, but the pitching has been equally troubling over the last two months.

Luis Severino, for instance, has been a complete disaster. Not only is he sporting an abysmal 8.06 ERA and WHIP of 1.885, but he’s also gotten worse as the season’s gone along. Severino’s put up a 9.43 ERA over the last month and a 13.50 in the last two weeks; ouch!

Yet the team is still running him out there. There’s even a report that he’s going to start on Tuesday against the best team in baseball, the Atlanta Braves. That should end well.

But the starting pitching problems go beyond Severino. Nestor Cortes Jr. has missed most of the season with an injury; ditto Carlos Rodon. And when Rodon has pitched, he hasn’t been good. Domingo German, meanwhile, went from bad to rehab.

That’s four of the pitchers the Yankees were counting on in their starting rotation.

That has created a domino effect for Clarke Schmidt. He’s been their second-best pitcher and a good one since mid-May, but he’s running into an innings limit with no relief in sight. The Yankees would like to put him into the bullpen or send him to Scranton, but they simply don’t have the pitchers.

There are also problems in the bullpen. It’s gone from dominant to overused and shaky. A case in point is Clay Holmes melting down in a heartbreaking loss to the Marlins. The man looks scared every time he takes the mound and is not anywhere close to a real MLB closer.

So why haven’t the Yankees made more use of their minor-league pitchers? Because Brian Cashman gutted the system last year. And that decision is killing the remote chances the Yankees have of making the playoffs in 2023.

It Ended With A Whimper

It is easy to understand Cashman’s motivation last year. The 2022 Yankees exploded into the season and looked like a shoo-in to make the World Series. Their record by July 8th was 61-23 and the talk around the baseball was whether or not they might set a new franchise record in wins.

If there was ever a season to trade a plethora of top prospects, last year was it.

But there are two problems. One, Cashman decided to practically empty the upper levels of the minors of the team’s best pitching prospects. He even reached right into the starting rotation and traded homegrown mainstay Jordan Montgomery. That’s taking a big risk when arms are at a premium. The old maxim that a team can never have enough pitching exists for a reason.

And two, almost every trade has been a complete bust. That, in turn, hurt the team last year and has hamstrung them this year.

Looking at the worst of the trades brings it all into high relief.

Cashman sent pitching prospects Ken Waldichuk, Luis Medina, and J.P. Sears (along with 2B Cooper Bowman) to the Athletics. In return, Cashman got SP Frankie Montas and RP Lou Trivino. That seemed like a fair swap at the time but it’s aged poorly, as neither man will pitch even a single inning this year.

That one trade alone has handicapped the Yankees all year.

Yankees Fans Are Speechless

Both Waldichuck and Medina were lined up to be at least good to great relievers. Waldichuck, for instance, had 70 strikeouts in just 47 innings last year at Scranton. With his stuff, he could have taken over the closer’s role by now.

Medina, meanwhile, looked like a promising back-of-the-rotation starter. He had a 3.38 ERA at Double-A Somerset last year with more than a SO/inning (81/72). That might not seem like a lot, but the Yankees need starters, backend, frontend, or otherwise.

Sears, however, was the best of the bunch. He’d already had some success with the Yankees, pitching to a 2.05 ERA and WHIP of 0.864 in 2022.

The results of that trade speak for themselves.

Sears has developed into a competent starter, sporting an ERA of 4.23. Medina, meanwhile, has improved as the season has gone along to being a reliable back-of-the-rotation arm. He’s lowered his ERA from a season-high 8.19 back in early June to its current 5.31. Even better, his ERA for the last month is an excellent 2.70.

Waldichuck still sports a 6.07 ERA, but that’s in part because the A’s have had him start 16 games. Ken has always profiled as a reliever.

But all three of them would be upgrades for the Yankees staff. Severino is at 8.06, Rodon is at 7.33, while German carries a 4.56 ERA. Not only would the three now-A’s be excellent subs, but they’d also be better than the starters.

The real kicker is in their contracts, though: neither Trivino nor Montas is under contract for next season. Sears, Waldichuck, and Medina, meanwhile, are all pre-arbitration and under team control for years to come.

All for Naught

While that might be the headline, all of Cashman’s trades turned out the same way. He sent Hayden Wesneski to the Cubs for proven reliever Scott Effros. Cash said at the time that Effross was going to be the bullpen piece that put the Yankees over the top.

Instead, while he pitched well last year, he tore his ulnar collateral ligament late in the season. That resulted in Tommy John surgery and, you guessed it, Effross missing all of 2023.

While Wesneski might not win the CY Young this year with his 4.65 ERA, at least he’s actually playing. And once again, his 4.65 would make him an upgrade over Severino and Rodon. German is slightly better, but he’s pitching on Bill W’s team, not the Yankees.

Yankees fans might argue that the trade that sent T.J. Sikkema, Beck Way, and Chandler Champlain to the Royals for Andrew Benintendi is a case of no harm, no foul. None of the pitchers is making an impact while Benny is already gone. But if Cash hadn’t traded them for a player who got injured last year and isn’t on the club this year, he would have had those players in his pocket for a trade this year.

Prospects are a form of capital, and Cashman spent his foolhardily.

The last two trades are a bit harder to evaluate. Trading Joey Gallo for anything more than a bag of balls has to be considered a win. If Clayton Beeter turns out to be a contributor at some point in the future, we’ll reevaluate the deal then. But since his ERA since moving up to Scranton is 6.25, it seems safe to assume he will not make a major impact this year. And now is when the Yankees need pitchers.

Even harder to gauge is the Jordan Montgomery for Harrison Bader trade. It’s true that Monty would be one of their best starters with his 3.38 ERA. But it’s also true that the Yankees need a true centerfielder. That’s too important a position to go into the season without. I still think it was the wrong move, but it wouldn’t have been so bad if all the other moves hadn’t gone south.

But they did. And that’s the point.

Yankees Live in the Shadow of the Past

More than any one single trade, the real problem is that Cashman traded all these pitchers away in the span of a few days. He gutted the upper level of the minors. Now, when the Yankees are desperate for starters and relievers, there are few able to answer the call.

None of that might have made a difference, though. Both Jhony Brito (4.76 ERA) and Randy Vasquez (1.89) have shown they are at least better than Severino. But still, Cashman keeps running Sevvy out there and ignoring better options. So maybe it wouldn’t have mattered who was left in the minors if Cash isn’t going to let them pitch.

Shakespeare once wrote that what is past is prologue. He was thinking of his play, The Tempest. But he could have been thinking about the storm that has set on the 2023 Yankees and the dearth of pitching brought on by Brian Cashman.


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