Blockbuster trades do not happen that often for the New York Yankees. Most of the off season news concerns free agents and waiver pickups. What few trades made over the Steinbrenner years seem inconsequential and the players involved quickly sink into oblivion. The last big off season trade involved sending Jesus Montero and Hector Noesi to the Mariners for Michael Pineda and Jose Campos. The debates about that trade have been fun. The official tally so far is Pineda with 2.7 rWAR to Jesus Montero and Hector Noesi both at -0.4 since the trade occurred. We will have to give that one a little more time before the Yankees can be declared the winner. But what were the best trades? I am just talking off season here or that period between the end of the season and the start of the next one. Obviously, the list will not include the most recent seasons because, again, time needs to occur before you can look at a long history of what happened after a trade.
I went back to 1975 as an arbitrary date. Frankly, there is just too much work to go back further. But if you did, I'm sure Babe Ruth and Roger Maris would show up on the list. 1975 gives us forty years and almost all of the time that the Steinbrenners have been in charge.
My methodology was to compare the traded player's post-Yankee years WAR as calculated by baseball-reference.com to the same value the Yankees received back in the trades. There might be better methods but this is the one I chose.Oh, and the years indicated mean that the trade was made prior to the season listed in parenthesis.
So without further ado, here are the seven best Yankee off season trades since 1975:
1. Doc Medich to the Pirates for Ken Brett, Dock Ellis and Willie Randolph (1976). Medich had some good years for the Pirates and other teams and compiled 8.1 rWAR after he left the Yankees. But the trio the Yankees received compiled 55.2 rWAR with most of that going to Willie Randolph. Ellis had his moments (on and off the field). Ken Brett should have been a hitter instead of a pitcher. But Willie Randolph...he was a franchise player. +47.1 rWAR.
2. Alfonso Soriano and Joaquin Arias to Texas for Alex Rodriguez (2004). Go ahead and grit your teeth if you want to. Soriano was a prolific hitter and got better with age in left field, but between Arias and him, they compiled 18.2 rWAR after their Yankee years (I did not count Soriano's last stint with the Yankees). A-Rod has compiled 52.5 rWAR since joining the Yankees. Say what you want about how he compiled them. +34.2
3. Bobby Murcer to the Giants for Bobby Bonds (1975). You have no idea how much this one hurts even after all these years. I was devastated when Murcer was traded! Anyway, Murcer compiled only 4.3 rWAR in his non-Yankee years which I found surprising. Bobby Bonds only played with the Yankees for one season and compiled 5.0 rWAR that season. But the year after obtaining him, Bonds was flipped for Mickey Rivers and Ed Figueroa. While that kind of thing can be done for every trade, since this one was flipped just a year later, I included Rivers and Figueroa in there too. +20 rWAR
4. Roberto Kelly to the Reds for Joe De Berry and Paul O'Neill (1993). Kelly was a decent player and compiled 7.2 rWAR after leaving the Yankees. De Berry was never heard from again, but everyone else knows about Paul O'Neill--everyone's favorite warrior (if not broadcaster). +19.4
5. Russ Davis and Sterling Hitchcock to the Mariners for Jim Mecir, Tino Martinez and Jeff Nelson (1996). Both Davis and Hitchcock had their moments after leaving the Yankees. Their total wins valuation came to 6.8 after they left the Yankees. Mecir wasn't much of a factor, but Tino has a plaque in center field and Jeff Nelson was part of the great bullpens of the championship years. +16.2
6. Mike Heath, Sparky Lyle, Larry McCall, Dave Rajsich and Domingo Ramos for Greg Jemison, Juan Beniquez, Mike Griffin, Paul Mirabella and Dave Righetti (1979). That was a lot of players. And, of course, it was Dave Righetti who made the difference. 12.7 rWAR versus 21.1 for the Yankees. +8.4
7. Steve Sax to the White Sox for Domingo Jean, Melido Perez and Bob Wickman (1992). Steve Sax had a very good offensive season for the Yankees in 1991, but he faced the dreaded second base curse of turning 32 the following year and his career tanked after leaving the Yankees. The Yankees did not get super value back for him but Bob Wickman was a very useful swing man for the Yankees and later became a good closer for others once he moved on. +7.8
There you have it, the seven best off season trades since 1975. I probably could do a seven worst trades post too, but then I might have to talk about Javier Vazquez twice! Did I miss any? Let me know and who knows, maybe the Pineda trade will move up to the top seven some day..