This post was originally published on the evening of Tues., July 18, prior to the announcement of the trade.
9:59pm: Levine tweets that there are four players going to the White Sox in the deal. Sherman adds that the fourth player will be another prospect, so it doesn’t seem as though anyone else on the big league roster is in the deal.
9:27pm: MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand tweets that the White Sox would indeed take Clippard’s contract back in the trade as a means of offsetting some salary. Sherman tweets that there will be no cash considerations exchanging hands. Clippard is earning $6.125MM this year in the second season of a two-year, $12.25MM pact. About $2.5MM of that sum is still owed to the veteran reliever, so he’ll offset roughly one quarter of the nearly $10MM the Yankees are adding to the payroll by taking on the salaries of Robertson and Frazier.
9:04pm: Heyman tweets that the two teams are hoping to finalize a deal tonight, suggesting that well-regarded but lower-level prospects will likely be headed to the ChiSox in return.
8:01pm: The Yankees are indeed “pushing hard” for that trio, tweets Joel Sherman of the New York Post, though he notes that the deal is not yet at the finish line.
7:52pm: The Yankees are “very close” to a deal with the White Sox that would bring Todd Frazier, David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle to New York, reports Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports (on Twitter). Bruce Levine of CBS Chicago first tweeted that the Yankees were the “closest” team to landing that trio.
Notably, Frazier was announced as a healthy scratch by the White Sox tonight. A move to grab all three of those players would obviously be a significant upgrade for the Yankees’ roster, particularly the bullpen, but would also be important in that it’d keep Frazier (and possibly Robertson) away from the division-rival Red Sox. Boston was reportedly in talks with Frazier within the past hour, and there were some rumblings connecting Robertson to the BoSox as well.
While Frazier has been primarily a third baseman in his career, he does bring quite a bit of experience at first base to the table. That’s a clear area of need for the Yankees, who have seen injuries ruin the seasons of Greg Bird and Tyler Austin, while offseason acquisition Chris Carter has been twice designated for assignment and now cut loose back to the open market.
The 31-year-old Frazier is set to hit free agency at season’s end, and while his production this year hasn’t been up to par, he’s turned things on since the the calendar flipped to June. Over his past 37 games, Frazier has batted .234/.361/.508 with nine homers and eight doubles. For a Yankees team that has seen its first basemen bat a collective .208/.295/.391, even Frazier’s overall .207/.328/.432 batting line would be a marked improvement, but if he can sustain his recently increased production, it’d be a particular boon for manager Joe Girardi’s lineup.
And, in fact, there are plenty of signs that point to some positive regression for Frazier. The slugger has upped his walk rate to a career-high 14.3 percent in 2017 while also cutting his strikeout rate by more than three percent — from 24.5 percent in 2016 to 21.2 percent in 2017. Beyond that, Frazier has cut his infield-fly rate and seen increases in his line-drive and hard-contact rates. As such, it stands to reason that he could continue to improve upon a .214 batting average on balls in play that is currently the second-worst mark among all qualified Major League hitters.
Robertson, of course, is a known commodity to the Yankees. The righty spent the first seven years of his career in the Bronx, working to an excellent 2.81 ERA with 12.0 K/9 against 3.8 BB/9. Most of his career in New York was spent setting up for future Hall of Famer Mariano Rivera, but Robertson thrived in the ninth-inning spotlight in his final season with the Yanks (following Rivera’s retirement), setting him up to sign a four-year, $46MM contract that was at the time one of the five largest contracts ever inked by a reliever.
Now 32 years of age, Robertson is halfway through the third year of that contract and is in the midst of his best season with the Sox. Through 33 1/3 innings on Chicago’s South Side, Robertson has worked to a 2.70 earned run average with 12.7 K/9, 3.0 BB/9 and an even 40.0 percent ground-ball rate. He’s still owed $4.92MM of his $12MM salary this season and is set to earn $13MM in 2018 as well.
As for Kahnle, the 27-year-old was also once property of the Yankees, having risen through their minor league ranks before eventually making his big league debut in Colorado. The flamethrowing righty has long displayed a propensity for missing bats, but he’s taken that skill to new heights in 2017 while also dramatically slashing his walk rate. Through 36 innings in 2017, Kahnle has posted a ridiculous 15.0 K/9 rate to go along with a 41.1 percent grounder rate. The resulting 2.50 ERA looks impressive on its own, but metrics like FIP (1.47), xFIP (1.63) and SIERA (1.62) all feel that he may actually be unfortunate to be sporting an ERA even that high.
Further adding to Kahnle’s value is that he very much comes with long-term potential. If this proves to be a breakout rather than an aberration, he’d be controllable through the 2020 season via the arbitration process. Kahnle entered the year with just over two years of big league service time, so he’ll wrap up the 2017 campaign with three-plus years of service and be arbitration-eligible for the first time.
Adding Robertson and Kahnle to a bullpen that already features both Aroldis Chapman and Dellin Betances would give the Yankees a powerhouse relief corps to work with not only in 2017 but also through at least 2018, after which Robertson will be eligible for free agency. That pairing would figure to be joined by an excellent multi-inning weapon in the form of Adam Warren as well as 26-year-old Chad Green, who is in the midst of his own breakout season — one that closely resembles that of Kahnle (1.75 ERA, 12.3 K/9, 2.5 BB/9 in 36 innings). Chasen Shreve is in the midst of a solid season and seems likely to stick as a left-handed option.
That group doesn’t even make mention of young righty Jonathan Holder, who has also impressed this season. Suffice it to say, the sheer volume of quality relief options this deal would give the Yankees would leave little room for struggling veteran Tyler Clippard on the Yankees’ roster, though there’s yet to be any mention of Clippard losing a roster spot or being included in the deal as a means of offsetting some salary.