A review of the Yankees' trade for Andrew Heaney reveals larger deadline truths

·3 min read
Yankees Andrew Heaney pitches debuts
Yankees Andrew Heaney pitches debuts

Brian Cashman and the Yankees had a strong trade deadline, diversifying their lineup and jolting their fan base and clubhouse with a pair of strong acquisitions in Joey Gallo and Anthony Rizzo.

The front office group, for obvious reasons having less fun this season than in years past, departed the war room in Tampa feeling newly fired up and unified. And Rizzo proved instantly vital to the Yanks’ weekend sweep of Miami.

But for all the good vibes, Cashman and Co. knew that that a major deadline craving -- pitching -- was left only partially satisfied. It was not for lack of hard work and effort.

The starting rotation in particular was an area of focus, and the Yanks were shooting higher than Andrew Heaney. Heaney is better than his season numbers but limited in his ceiling, a reality that was evident in his first start for New York on Monday, in which he allowed four home runs.

A review of the process by which the Yankees ended up with Heaney, courtesy of sources directly involved, provides a window into how much more difficult it is to solve a problem at the trade deadline than it is to identify one.

At the beginning of last week, the Yanks were looking into potential upgrades for the front of the rotation, back of the rotation, and bullpen. They asked about then-Washington ace Max Scherzer and were told that Scherzer did not want to play in New York

They spoke to Minnesota about Jose Berrios, and came away with the same impression as the Mets did: The Twins simply wanted too much for Berrios.

Like the Mets, the Yanks engaged in multiple conversations about Berrios, but never found a price that felt comfortable to them (the package that ultimately made Berrios a Toronto Blue Jay, top hitting prospect Austin Martin and pitcher Simeon Woods-Richardson -- whose stock is high but fell a bit along with his velocity in recent weeks -- was arguably not quite as strong as what the Twins wanted from the New York teams).

As far as other Twins targets, the Yankees were told that Kenta Maeda was not as available as media reports indicated. They also dabbled in talks for shortstop Andrelton Simmons, but it didn’t progress.

Minnesota was not giving away players, even free agents-to-be. They set prices, came down little if at all, and held the trade chips for which those prices weren’t met. This didn’t create hard feelings, as the Yankees and Twins front offices express a sense of mutual respect. But it didn’t create deals, either.

Aug 2, 2021; Bronx, New York, USA; New York Yankees starting pitcher Andrew Heaney (38) reacts after allowing back to back home runs during the third inning against the Baltimore Orioles at Yankee Stadium.
Aug 2, 2021; Bronx, New York, USA; New York Yankees starting pitcher Andrew Heaney (38) reacts after allowing back to back home runs during the third inning against the Baltimore Orioles at Yankee Stadium.

The Angels were an even tougher partner, as they often are. New GM Perry Minasian is well-liked, but owner Arte Moreno has a reputation for making the team’s plans difficult to read.

Hovering around .500, the Angels did not seem to know if they wanted to behave as sellers. The Yankees were interested in starter Alex Cobb and closer Raisel Iglesias, but neither ultimately moved.

It was clearer to other teams that Heaney was available, perhaps because his 5.27 ERA could be moved without looking like a white flag. The Yankees, like most organizations in 2021, pay little attention to ERA, and noted that Heaney’s peripheral numbers were a bit better.

It’s not that the Yanks didn’t want Heaney; they were happy to have a pitcher who they saw as a project for their analytics and coaching staff, and one who could either start or serve as a multi-role swingman.

But his acquisition is a reminder that as much as any fan base wants to identify specific players as targets for their team at a trade deadline, it’s rarely that easy for a front office.

A GM talks to multiple teams about dozens of players, weighing the cost of each along with availability, desirability, money, and other factors.

When the appointed time arrives, the team ends up with … someone. Or no one. And then they hope that their decisions work out. There is science to this process, but it’s luck, timing, and randomness, too.