Yankees acquire Stephen Drew, Martin Prado
Aiming to spark their stagnant lineup and increase roster flexibility for a playoff drive, the Yankees crossed the finish line on a pair of swaps in advance of Thursday’s non-waiver Trade Deadline, acquiring Stephen Drew from the Red Sox and Martin Prado from the D-backs.
New York also claimed reliever Esmil Rogers on waivers from the Blue Jays in a flurry of activity that bumped up against the 4 p.m. ET cutoff. Drew will take over as the starting second baseman and Prado is primarily being viewed as a right fielder.
“I think we’re going to compete. I think we’re improved,” Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said. “We’re going to find out if it’s enough or not.”
The Yankees sent infielder-outfielder Kelly Johnson to Boston in exchange for Drew, who will switch clubhouses and join New York for Friday’s game at Fenway Park. New York also picked up $500,000 in the deal from the Red Sox, Cashman said.
Arizona received Minor League slugger Peter O’Brien, plus a player to be named later or cash considerations; O’Brien was ranked No. 9 among Yanks prospects by MLB.com before the deal. O’Brien hit a combined 33 homers this year between Class-A Tampa and Double-A Trenton, but has not found a regular position.
Cashman said that the Yankees would designate veteran Brian Roberts for assignment in favor of Drew, and the team will have other transactions to get Prado and Rogers in uniform for Friday’s game. In a minor move, the Yankees unconditionally released infielder Scott Sizemore, who was with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
Feeling fortunate to still be in the American League East hunt despite an underwhelming first 100-plus games to their season, the Yankees have been active on the trade front for some time. Much of Cashman’s last month has been spent searching for roster upgrades, both significant and of the incremental variety.
Their focus was initially on securing starting pitching, with the Yankees missing 80 percent of their Opening Day rotation due to injuries, but the July additions of right-hander Brandon McCarthy (in a July 6 deal with Arizona, for left-hander Vidal Nuno) and left-hander Chris Capuano (in a July 24 swap with the Rockies, for cash considerations) shifted the Yanks’ focus to the offense.
Ranked 10th in the American League with 429 runs scored entering play Thursday, New York enjoyed quick returns after picking up third baseman Chase Headley from the Padres earlier this month. They’ll hope for similar splashes from Drew and Prado, the latter of whom will send Ichiro Suzuki back to a bench role.
Drew, 31, was hitting just .176 with a .255 on-base percentage and .328 slugging mark after missing Spring Training and signing with the Red Sox in May. He had 12 hits in his last 45 at-bats for Boston dating back to July 11.
“He’s starting to heat up a little bit now and we hope to take advantage of that,” Cashman said.
Drew has played only shortstop during his nine-year Major League career, but with Derek Jeter installed at the position, the Yankees believe that Drew can make the adjustment to the other side of the infield.
“As we went through our assessments internally with our scouting personnel, everybody was shaking their head, ‘Can he do this, even though he hasn’t done it?'” Cashman said. “The belief system is that he can.”
Prado, 30, was dealt from Atlanta to Arizona in January 2013 as part of the deal that sent Justin Upton to the Braves. Over two seasons with the D-backs, Prado hit .278 with 19 homers and 124 RBIs.
He is under contract through 2016, due $11 million each year. Though he has played just two innings in right field, Cashman said the Yankees expect he can handle it; they could also use Prado at second base, third base and left field.
“That is one of the attractive things about Martin Prado, is that he can play a lot of different positions,” Cashman said. “I think Joe is going to have fun with that.”
Rogers, 28, posted a 6.97 ERA in 16 relief appearances over two stints with the Blue Jays this season before being designated for assignment on July 27. He also saw time at Triple-A Buffalo, going 2-2 with a 3.14 ERA in 12 games (seven starts).
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 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.
Cashman said that a “unique set of circumstances,” Boston’s fire sale, created an opportunity for the rivals to do business. There could be more moves in store next month; Cashman said that he was not sure how Thursday’s flurry of dealing would affect the waiver market, but in years past the Yankees have been able to obtain useful pieces via that route.
“I can’t tell you how things are going to play out,” Cashman said. “Do I think our club is better right now? The answer is yes, I think we have improved over time, but talk is cheap. We have to actually go out there and prove that, and I’m hopeful that will happen for our fans.”