MINNEAPOLIS (CBSNewYork/AP) — The Yankees have ignited their playoff drive despite a midseason tailspin with the acquisition of power-hitting infielder Todd Frazier and power-armed relievers Tommy Kahnle and David Robertson.
“We’re now in a sprint, and we want to be able to run the fastest, swiftest, most successful race we can,” general manager Brian Cashman said, “and hopefully these three new additions can, again, put ourselves in position to do that.”
The bold trade that sent reliever Tyler Clippard and three prospects, including 2016 first-round draft pick Blake Rutherford, to the Chicago White Sox was completed on Tuesday night.
“Obviously those are all guys who can come in here and help us accomplish what we want to accomplish,” left fielder Brett Gardner said. “I think it’s important to do what we can to make our team better.”
After Wednesday’s 6-1 loss to the Twins, the Yankees have won just 10 of their last 31 games. But they are still in control of the second AL wild-card spot and just four games behind AL East leader Boston.
Before Wednesday’s series finale at Minnesota, they sent left-handed reliever Chasen Shreve to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and designated first baseman Ji-Man Choi and utilityman Rob Refsnyder for assignment.
Frazier, Kahnle and Robertson arrived at the ballpark right around game time and soon settled in the dugout with their new teammates. Frazier pinch-hit in the seventh inning, striking out in his debut.
Girardi said Frazier will remain at third base and Chase Headley will play predominantly at first base, which has been a problem position for the Yankees this season.
“When you do make the move, you’d like to leave them in the same spot,” Girardi said.
Having grown up in New Jersey as a Yankees fan, leading Toms River to the 1998 Little League World Series title at age 12 and later joining Derek Jeter on the field while his team was honored, Frazier posted to Twitter his excitement about coming home.
“Now it’s on to the concrete jungle,” the two-time All-Star said. “Can’t wait. Definitely a dream come true.”
The 20-year-old Rutherford was hitting .281 with 30 RBIs and 25 stolen bases at Class A Charleston to make the South Atlantic League All-Star team, and the 18th overall pick last year was the key piece for the White Sox to agree to the deal.
The seeds were actually sewn, Cashman said on a conference call with reporters, in the previous weeks while the Yankees pursued starting pitcher Jose Quintana, who went to the Chicago Cubs instead.
With Michael Pineda done for the season, Cashman will still try to trade for another starting pitcher, but this move at least shored up a bullpen that had been underperforming in recent weeks.
Though All-Star setup man Dellin Betances has struggled lately, adding Robertson and Kahnle to the mix with right-hander Adam Warren as bridges to closer Aroldis Chapman ought to be a big boost down the stretch for a team with a thin rotation.
“We hope it’s better, but I still pay homage to the baseball gods by recognizing this is a very difficult sport,” Cashman said. “We have a great bullpen on paper already, but for the last month it hasn’t been firing on all cylinders.”
Kahnle, a New York native who grew up outside of Albany, was drafted by the Yankees in 2010. Though Frazier, who hit a career-high 40 home runs last season, and Robertson, who was the closer for the Yankees in 2014, are better-known and more-experienced players, Kahnle could be the ultimate prize.
The 27-year-old, who is still four seasons away from free agency, has 60 strikeouts in 36 innings with a 2.50 ERA and only seven walks.
“We do believe clearly that this adds some significant weapons to the high-caliber pieces we already possess in the bullpen,” Cashman said, “and hopefully it plays out that way moving forward.”
As for searching for another starting pitcher, Cashman reiterated that he doesn’t want to decimate the franchise’s fertile farm system while chasing a World Series ring this year.
“I still think we want to be careful buyers as we walk this line of trying to maximize the present as well as protect the future,” Cashman said in a conference call with reporters.
The top starting pitchers thought to be on the trading block include Oakland’s Sonny Gray, Pittsburgh’s Gerrit Cole or Atlanta’s Julio Teheran. Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reported, however, that the asking price for starters has been high, which is one reason the Yankees shifted their focus to dealing for relievers and a position player.
Lower-tier possibilities include Atlanta’s Jaime Garcia, San Diego’s Trevor Cahill or Philadelphia’s Jeremy Hellickson. Or the Yankees could stay in-house and hope for the best.
Cashman indicated there’s a chance his pursuit of a starting pitcher won’t be fruitful.
“As we continue to try to navigate through those discussions, there may or may not be a positive resolution to that,” he said. “And if not, we’ve shortened the game (by acquiring Robertson and Kahnle) and given ourselves a better chance to compete in that win column by having stronger resources as we go backwards from the ninth inning to the fifth inning.”
(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)