MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The New York Yankees have ignited their playoff drive with a bold trade.
This midseason tailspin didn’t deter general manager Brian Cashman from making an aggressive move. The recent slump couldn’t dampen any excitement of the acquired trio of power-hitting infielder Todd Frazier and power-armed relievers Tommy Kahnle and David Robertson, either.
“We’re now in a sprint, and we want to be able to run the fastest, swiftest, most successful race we can,” Cashman said, “and hopefully these three new additions can, again, put ourselves in position to do that.”
The deal 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. Frazier, Kahnle and Robertson arrived at the ballpark around game time on Wednesday afternoon and soon joined their new teammates in the dugout .
Frazier pinch hit in the seventh inning, striking out in his debut against Twins starter Jose Berrios. He remained in the game at third base, where he’ll stay as a regular with Chase Headley moving to first base, and was hit by a pitch on the right hand in the ninth.
“Ah, I was a little foggy, man. I’ll be honest with you. Just getting off the plane, I didn’t really sleep last night. Getting up there, I’ve faced Berrios a couple times already, but it felt like my first at-bat, basically, getting called up again,” Frazier said.
Kahnle struck out two in a perfect eighth inning of the 6-1 loss at Minnesota. Robertson didn’t pitch.
“It was a rush,” Kahnle said.
The Yankees sent left-handed reliever Chasen Shreve to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and designated first baseman Ji-Man Choi and utility man Rob Refsnyder for assignment to make room for the new players. They fell to 10-22 in their past 32 games and 0-8-2 in their past 10 series, but they control the second AL wild-card spot.
“I think all the tools are in that clubhouse. I do. We just have to play better,” manager Joe Girardi said.
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.
“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.”
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.
“It’s a very strong group,” Robertson said, smiling. “Looks like I’m the softest thrower in the bunch.”
Having grown up in New Jersey, 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 at a Yankees game, Frazier summed up his excitement on Twitter about coming home.
After hitting a career-high 40 home runs last year, he’s had a rough season. The familiar faces and sights for him in the New York area ought to help.
“I love playing at home,” Frazier said. “So I think I did need a change of scenery, and especially to come here, who could ask for a better scenario?”
Robertson was the closer for the Yankees in 2014 before leaving for the White Sox. Like Frazier, he was all smiles after the game in Minnesota as the team packed up for a long flight to Seattle for a four-game series.
“I’ve been here and I’ve won before,” Robertson said. “I want to win here again.”
Kahnle, a New York native who grew up outside of Albany, was drafted by the Yankees in 2010. Though Frazier and Robertson are more experienced and accomplished, Kahnle could be the ultimate prize in this trade. 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.