Self-proclaimed winners: Yankees think they're better for White Sox deal

MINNEAPOLIS --- New York Yankees fans had grown to dislike reliever Tyler Clippard. He had pitched really poorly of late, making him quite unpopular. But a baseball team is like a family, and Clippard was part of the clubhouse that he joined nearly a year ago in a trade, spending more time with his fellow Yankees than anyone else in his life.

Clippard's teammates liked him.

So after Yankees manager Joe Girardi called him into his office following the team's 6-3 win over the Minnesota Twins on Tuesday to tell Clippard he had been dealt, Clippard described the feeling as "gut-wrenching." He didn't expect it, even though this is the third year in a row he has been dealt.

His teammates came up to him, offering handshakes and hugs. They'll miss Clippard, they all said. But they also said that the acquisition of a corner infielder in Todd Frazier and two right-handed power relievers in David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle in exchange for minor leaguers Blake Rutherford, Ian Clarkin, Tito Polo and Clippard made the Yankees better in 2017.

Even Clippard acknowledged it.

"It is a good trade for the Yankees, for sure," Clippard said. "I understand why."

It is easy to see why the Yankees made this trade. They have a much stronger roster today than they did yesterday. They added three needed players for one underachieving major leaguer. The rest of it, well, that is a big TBD.

The verdict on this deal is probably about five to 10 years down the road. Rutherford, an outfielder, and Clarkin -- a lefty starter who was drafted right after a kid named Aaron Judge in 2013 -- both have potential to be really good major leaguers.

There are some who think Rutherford will move through the minors fast. But he is only 20 years old, hitting .281 in Class A and the Yankees have plenty of young outfielders. They might regret the deal one day but that wasn't the case Tuesday night, at least not in Girardi's office or in his clubhouse. Not even Clippard.

Probably the biggest piece in the trade is the least famous one. Kahnle, 27, has been a strikeout machine for the White Sox and is three years away from free agency. He was in the Yankees' system before the team lost him in the Rule 5 draft in 2013. He is striking out 15 per nine innings. His ERA is 2.50.

The Yankees allowed Robertson to walk after he had an exceptional year as their closer in 2014, though neither side really wanted to let go. The Yankees chose to sign Andrew Miller and pick up the first-round compensation as Robertson went to Chicago. Now he's back. He will not pitch the ninth or the eighth innings regularly, but more likely the seventh or maybe even earlier.

Robertson is owed $13 million for next season, so he can help the Yankees this season and possibly could turn into a trade chip this winter or next July if the Yankees want to tinker with their roster again.

Robertson is striking out batters at a high rate -- 12.7 per nine innings -- his best since 2014 when he replaced Mariano Rivera. He struck out 13.4 per nine then, which got him paid. His walk issues are still there, but he has cut down his free passes from 4.6 per nine to 3.0. Meanwhile, Clippard's 4.95 ERA is 101st out of 109 relievers in the game with 35 innings or more.

The additions offer further protection for the Yankees' five-year, $86 million investment in Aroldis Chapman.

Frazier, now 31, came to prominence in the Little League World Series for Toms River, New Jersey, famously taking a photo with Derek Jeter as a kid and then playing against him as an adult.

He is hitting only .207 but, with Greg Bird probably out for the rest of the season, the Yankees wanted an upgrade over Garrett Cooper and Ji-Man Choi. Frazier has been much better away from Guaranteed Rate Field, hitting .267 with a .923 OPS compared to .142 and .585 at home. Frazier is a free agent at the end of the season, so the Yankees have no monetary commitment beyond the next few months.

Girardi wasn't sure whom he would put at first base -- Frazier or Chase Headley -- but either way the Yankees will feel as if they have established major leaguers at both corners. In making the deals, though, they have sent a message that was felt in the clubhouse: The front office believes this Yankees team, which is three games back in the American League East and holding the second wild card, can make the playoffs and maybe, with this bullpen, make some noise.

When looking at the Yankees' trade with the White Sox, it is important to take a glance around the AL -- there is one super team in Houston, then everybody else. Factor that in with the Yankees having played only one postseason game since 2012 and you can begin to understand why general manager Brian Cashman felt he could uphold his "careful buyer" mantra and make the trade.

There is no doubt that the Yankees are a better team, with a superior chance to win this season than they had before the deal. Long term, no one knows. But that is an opinion for a long time from now.