After all, since the Yankees began jettisoning veterans from their 25-man roster, in 2016, almost everyone they have traded has gone on to the Series. So why not Ellsbury and Headley?
Consider that Aroldis Chapman was traded to the Chicago Cubs in July of last year (he is a Yankee again) and played a key role in the 2016 Series. So did his fellow reliever Andrew Miller, who was traded by the Yankees to the Cleveland Indians in midseason and also ended up a major figure in the 2016 Series.
Another Yankee who was dealt at the nonwaiver trade deadline last year was Carlos Beltran. He was sent to the Texas Rangers, but signed as a free agent with the Houston Astros before this season. Now he is in the World Series, too, along with another former Yankee — catcher Brian McCann, who was traded by New York to the Astros in the off-season.
Then there is reliever Tyler Clippard, who was a Yankee this year and is now an Astro, although he is not on the postseason roster. Still, if the Astros win the Series, he is in line to get a ring.
Clippard was sent to the Chicago White Sox this season to help offset some of the salary the Yankees were taking on when they acquired relievers Tommy Kahnle and David Robertson and third baseman Todd Frazier. Several weeks later, the White Sox sent Clippard to the Astros.
The only two players the Yankees have dealt from their major league roster in the past 16 months who have not reached a World Series are starting pitcher Ivan Nova, who was sent to Pittsburgh at the 2016 nonwaiver trade deadline and has remained there, and reliever Tyler Webb, who was dealt to Milwaukee this past summer.
Beltran, who grounded out as a pinch-hitter on Tuesday night in Game 1 of the Series, was relegated to the bench for the two World Series games at Dodger Stadium earlier this week because there is no designated hitter in National League parks. But McCann could play a central role as this Series continues, just as he did in the American League Championship Series against the Yankees, when he hit a pair of run-scoring doubles that sparked the Astros to victories in Games 6 and 7.
McCann signed a five-year, $85 million deal with the Yankees in November 2013 but realized his role as the team’s regular catcher was in peril once the Yankees called up Gary Sanchez from the minor leagues in August 2016 and thrust him into the lineup.
From that point on, McCann played regularly as a designated hitter but caught only sporadically. Meanwhile, Sanchez was slugging one home run after another.
“When the season ended, I kind of assessed where I was and what I wanted to do going forward, and I just wasn’t ready to catch once a week and I wasn’t ready to just D.H. against right-handed pitching,” McCann said recently.
While McCann had a no-trade clause in his deal with the Yankees, he also had another incentive to waive it — the $15 million in his contract for 2019. It vests only if he has 1,000 plate appearances in 2017 and 2018 and he must also catch at least 90 games next year and not end the season on the disabled list.
In conversations with Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman after last season, it became apparent to McCann that there were two realistic landing spots for him — the Astros and the Atlanta Braves. Atlanta is McCann’s hometown and the Braves are the club with whom he began his career.
But in the end, it was Houston that wanted to make the deal, with the Yankees picking up $11 million of McCann’s contract over this season and next.
“I looked around and this was the first team that came to mind because I knew they needed a catcher, I knew the talent they had in the clubhouse playing against them, and it was just a perfect fit,” said McCann, who is playing in his first World Series. “I talked to Cash quite a bit during that process and it was really between coming here or going to Atlanta. I’m very thankful this all worked out the way it did.”
Well, not all of it. Because McCann had only 399 plate appearances this season — he batted .241 with 18 home runs — it is unlikely the 2019 option will kick in. Still, he is in the World Series, one more recently traded Yankee enjoying baseball’s most prestigious competition. Perhaps there will be still others in 2018.
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