By Sweeny Murti
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The Yankees may now have the best bullpen in baseball, on paper. They may also have someone who can actually produce runs at the corner infield spots.
The Bombers’ trade with the Chicago White Sox late Tuesday night addressed several need. The following are some thoughts about all the players involved.
The familiar is Robertson, who adds experience and stability in the bullpen as a serious upgrade over Tyler Clippard. Manager Joe Girardi has multiple options now from the sixth inning on — and not just Robertson, Dellin Betances, and Aroldis Chapman. Add in Adam Warren and Chad Green, both of who can throw two innings at a time as pseudo-long men.
There are no questions about whether or not Robertson can handle New York since he grew up as a Yankee. He will make $13 million next season. That makes two high-paid relievers on the books in 2018 (Chapman), plus another arbitration raise for Betances that will eat up some payroll with starting pitching needs to fill, too.
The interesting part to me about how Robertson can be used involve his right/left splits. With lefties batting only .138 with 27 strikeouts in 58 at-bats against him, I wonder if he can be the “lefty” specialist when needed.
Kahnle is the unfamiliar. The former Yankees farmhand lost in the Rule 5 Draft back in 2013 was the critical part of this deal since he is under team control for three more years and will just be entering his arbitration years. He is the reason the Yankees had to give up a prospect as highly regarded as Blake Rutherford.
Kahnle has always thrown hard and struck guys out. This year he has learned control. From 2014-16 he had a WHIP of 1.407, was walking 5.5 per nine innings, including a high of 7.6 per nine in 2015, and had a strikeout to walk ratio of 1.61.
This year Kahnle’s WHIP is 0.972. He’s walking only 1.8 per nine innings and his strikeout to walk ratio is 8.57.
I know people in the Yankees organization who were sorry they let an arm like Kahnle’s get away in the first place. But now he’s back at just the right time — when he’s learned how to harness all that power, and joining a team that is trending up, not down.
The veteran slugger isn’t a perfect fit, but with power and the ability to play both corner infield positions, he at least gives the Yankees some options. Despite some big home run totals in his past, he has posted a slightly above league average OPS the last two seasons.
It may seem like another gamble on a veteran player — and the gamble on Chris Carter didn’t pay off — but that’s how these work sometimes. You might get Raul Ibanez or you might get Travis Hafner.
Oh, and it can’t hurt the Yankees’ outlook that the Red Sox need to look elsewhere for a third baseman now.
Rutherford is a good-looking 20-year-old outfield prospect. Most trades hurt a little, and he’s the reason this trade hurts a little. But to get a controllable pitcher like Kahnle who appears to just be turning into a bullpen monster, the Yankees had to give up more than a marginal prospect. That’s why Rutherford is in this deal.
He’s also in it because he is still in low-A ball, and his impact on the big league team is still a few years away.
If Rutherford turns out to be the type of player the Yankees thought he would be when they picked him 18th overall in 2016, that doesn’t mean they gave up on him or made a mistake by trading him. They had to give up a good player to make this deal. If Rutherford turns into a good player for the White Sox, so be it. It’s okay for good players to be on other teams sometimes. In fact, it’s usually encouraged.
I hope that Clarkin is a good one. The 22-year-old lefty has had to overcome some injury problems, but he is healthy again and moving his way up again at Class-A Tampa.
Clarkin was drafted in the first round, 33rd overall by the Yankees in 2013. He was taken one pick after Aaron Judge.
Up until June 12, Clippard was pitching pretty well. Since June 12, he has been pretty brutal and it was clear he wasn’t going to make it past the trade deadline. The Yankees were able get rid of Clippard and the rest of his money for this year since they are taking on all of Robertson’s.
It was worth a shot for the Yankees when they brought him over a year ago, but Clippard is one of the most-worked relievers in the game this decade. Maybe that finally caught up to him.
Here’s one final thought. While it’s mildly surprising the Yankees gave up a prospect as highly ranked as Rutherford, it’s clear that they had to pay a steeper price for controllable pitching like Kahnle. I still find it hard to believe the Yankees will package multiple top prospects before this deadline. I suppose a controllable starting pitcher could change that. Stay tuned.
Follow Sweeny on Twitter at @YankeesWFAN