Shortly before the 4:00PM Eastern time trade deadline, the Yankees managed to give its infield a makeover in exchange for a stopgap, designating a veteran for assignment and one solid prospect. New York parted ways with Kelly Johnson in a straight up deal for Red Sox middle infielder, Stephen Drew, designated Brian Roberts for assignment and then traded 23-year-old catching prospect, Peter O’brien, for utility player, Martin Prado, from the Arizona Diamondbacks.
For the Yankees, the deals make a lot of sense just as Chase Headley‘s did last week. New York and Boston alike are playing for this season and next season simultaneously (albeit one competing for a division and the other competing for a top draft pick) and both did their jobs on Thursday.
The Yankees are not quite out of the AL East race this season and Prado (.270/.314/5/42) and Drew (.370 OBP his last two weeks as he acclimates to the season after being signed late by the Sox) are almost certainly upgrades over Johnson (.219/.304/6/22 and Roberts (.253/.284/2/17).
Drew will play second base replacing Roberts for the duration of 2014 and then will likely shift over to shortstop if he is resigned in 2015, replacing Derek Jeter and maintaining Brendan Ryan as a backup, who is signed through 2015. It’s an $8 million dollar increase but Drew represents an upgrade this season and a hot lead for next year.
Martin Prado can pretty much play anywhere and may very well split time between 2B (when Drew is off), 3B (when Headley is off) and RF, which is where he will play the majority of the time as an upgrade over Ichiro Suzuki, relegating Carlos Beltran to a full-time DH role for the remainder of his contract.
Prado is signed just as long as Beltran, through the 2016 season, which is very likely not a coincidence. The Yankees now have the entire outfield and DH roles signed through 2016 and beyond in addition to catcher and first base.
Next season, New York will have Headley under contract, and the potential return of Alex Rodriguez and Drew, plus Ryan and Prado already under contract as well. All of a sudden a very thin infield has turned into an infield with a few different options and much needed depth in 2015.
The Yankees sacrificed Johnson and Roberts, neither of which are signed beyond this season or who were long-term plans and gave up the aforementioned O’Brien.
O’Brien has hit 23 HR in just 294 AB in AA Trenton this year and was one of the brighter bats in the farm system. It’s very likely O’Brien will grow out of catcher at 6’3″ and move over to first base, but either way he is blocked at the major league level. Brian McCann is the catcher for at least another year and Teixeira will be at first base until at least 2016.
With Beltran holding down DH most likely full-time, there wasn’t a lot of space for O’Brien to begin with and he’s not even the Yankees‘ top catching prospect (Gary Sanchez) or hitting prospect (Aaron Judge).
So suffice it to say the Yankees improved today, which was the goal all along, and added plenty of depth into the 2015 season, giving up one blocked but promising prospect in the process.