The anatomy of a rare Yankees-Red Sox trade
It takes a specific set of circumstances for the Yankees and Red Sox to pursue a trade together, something that the American League East blood rivals haven’t dared to do since 1997.
As the most marketable pieces of the Red Sox were shipped away on Thursday, their clock rolling ahead to 2015 with Jon Lester, John Lackey and Andrew Miller leaving town, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman wondered if he could get in on the action.
Swapping text messages on Thursday afternoon with Red Sox counterpart Ben Cherington, the clubs quickly hammered out the terms of a deal: infielder Stephen Drew and $500,000 would go to the Yankees in exchange for infielder Kelly Johnson. New York will be responsible for the remainder of Drew’s salary, approximately $5 million.
“The Drew stuff happened today,” Cashman said. “I threw an idea Boston’s way when they started moving and shaking as much as they were. Once they declared themselves the way they did, I floated a text Ben Cherington’s way and we worked really quickly off of that.”
Cherington said that the Yankees were not the first team to inquire about Drew, but the timing was right.
“We had talked to a handful of teams about Drew — teams we thought that might be in need of a shortstop — and it just so happened the Yankees were the team that fit and it fit for them,” Cherington said. “It sounds like he might play a little bit more second base there than short, but we just worked it out today. That one happened obviously late and was the last thing we did.”
The Yankees and the Red Sox had not completed a trade since Aug. 13, 1997, when New York re-acquired catcher Mike Stanley and infielder Randy Brown in exchange for pitcher Tony Armas Jr. and a player to be named later (pitcher Jim Mecir). The Red Sox later flipped Armas to the Expos as part of the Pedro Martinez deal.
Because the Red Sox are looking ahead to next season, the history between the clubs did not raise any red flags for Cherington, who said that he hopes Drew will play well in pinstripes.
“No, given the circumstances –look, we hope it helps them,” Cherington said. “I like Stephen, we all like Stephen. He’s a good player. It hasn’t worked out the way any of us wanted it to, certainly the way I wanted it to. Hope it works out for him there. The Yankee thing wasn’t an issue in that particular conversation.”
The clubs, partners in the legendary Dec. 1919 sale of Babe Ruth, have made just two other deals since George M. Steinbrenner’s 1973 purchase of the team. In March 1986, the Yankees traded outfielder Don Baylor to Boston for outfielder Mike Easler, and in Sept. 1994 the Yankees purchased reliever Scott Bankhead from the Sox.
“One of our two teams has to be in a playoff mode, and the other – in my opinion – has to be rebuilding to some degree. That’s obviously what happened on the last one that our franchises did,” Cashman said. “There’s a great deal of respect between the Red Sox and Yankees, both of our sides. It’s an amazing rivalry, but [we’re] certainly very careful when we do business with each other. That’s an obvious statement.”
Brian Roberts played 91 games for the Yankees this year, marking his highest total since 2009, but had produced just two hits in his last 17 at-bats and was held out of the lineup for the team’s last two games going into the Trade Deadline.
The Yankees plan to designate Roberts for assignment to create room for Stephen Drew on the active roster. With 348 plate appearances this season, Roberts’ Yankees tenure will end two plate appearances shy of a $250,000 bonus, but Cashman said the incentive was not a factor in the decision.
“No. Bottom line, it’s all just based on evaluations,” Cashman said. “We’re taking on money [in Drew and Martin Prado]. I had to go to ownership to ask to take on money. Somebody’s performance bonuses — by doing deals where you’re adding to your roster and taking on payroll in a significant way, it has nothing to do with somebody’s roster bonuses.”
Roberts, 36, posted a split line of .237/.300/.360 with five homers and 21 RBIs after signing a $2 million contract in January. Roberts already collected $350,000 in incentives, tied to reaching 250 and 300 plate appearances.
Cashman said that he was appreciative for the contributions from Roberts and Johnson, who was swapped to Boston for Drew.
“These guys, I thank them for their effort and what they brought, and I’m sorry to see them go,” Cashman said. “But at the same time, we’re trying to improve our club. In Drew’s case and Prado’s case, they’re going to assist us as we move forward, and reinforce and improve our chances. It’s just the nature of the beast.”
The Yankees had already expressed reluctance to rush infield prospect Rob Refsnyder to the big leagues, and Thursday’s Trade Deadline deals will help keep the 23-year-old with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
“I’ve been pretty consistent about Refsnyder, that my intention is to have him play his year out at second base,” Cashman said. “I have played a little bit with him in the outfield just in case we had to pull that rip-cord, but now I’ll have him focus solely on second base the rest of the way.”
Refsnyder has posted a split line of .298/.404/.494 in 46 games at Triple-A, with seven homers and 20 RBIs, after starting the year with Double-A Trenton. A fifth-round selection in the June 2012 First-Year Player Draft, Cashman has suggested that Refsnyder could be the Yankees’ starting second baseman in 2015.
“I’ve been pretty consistent and reluctant to bring him up,” Cashman said. “I’d rather him play the whole year out and prepare potentially to take a shot at the roster next year.”
Michael Pineda’s first Minor League rehab start is scheduled to come on Sunday for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre against Syracuse. Pineda is scheduled to throw four innings and 60-65 pitches, and could need three rehab starts before being big league ready.