The Jonathan Lucroy trade, as I wrote about here and here, has become a big whammy for Texas. Not only did it cost them top prospect Lewis Brinson (since traded to his hometown Miami Marlins for Christian Yelich), they also dealt their best pitching prospect Luis Ortiz and the player to be named later, Ryan Cordell, is no slouch himself. Cordell is now part of the loaded Chicago White Sox system, flipped for pitcher Anthony Swarzak a year later. Ortiz, the 30th overall pick in 2014, has middle-of-the-rotation potential.
A substantial price to get Lucroy, pretty much squeezing the remainder of the Rangers farm system that had been depleted a season before in the trade for Cole Hamels, was made a far worse situation when the former all-star went from an elite catcher to a below average platooner.
The other trade the Rangers made was lower profile in comparison but did involve the highest draft pick of any players sent or received.
Not even two years ago, when the Yankees were rebuilding for all of eight New York minutes, they dealt twilight veteran and mostly full-time designated hitter Carlos Beltran to Texas for three pitching prospects.
Along with top 50 system prospects Nick Green and Erik Swanson, the Yankees bought very low on righty Dillon Tate.
Tate, as you all know, was the fourth overall pick in the 2015 MLB Draft. An enigmatic and risky pick from the outset —whether he would ever be a starter at such a premium draft slot was always in doubt— Tate battled forecasted issues of health, mechanics and expectations the minute he turned pro.
His debut short-season work in 2015 was actually very good, but once he hit full-season competition the following year, cryptic fears started to come true.
Still only 23, his reputational value, the organization’s sudden lack of minor league depth and their assumed disillusion with the pitcher led to him headlining the trade for Beltran.
A fresh start has been, as it often is with young players, just what the doctor ordered. Usually for prospects of this stature, that change of scenery (if it ever comes/is even needed) is years down the line, not less than 12 months.
For Tate, his numbers at Low-A before the trade were a 5.12 ERA, 1.62 WHIP and 55 strikeouts in 65 innings. After the trade and at the same level, he had a 3.12 ERA and 15 strikeouts in 17.1 innings.
The success continued in the 2016 Arizona Fall League, Tate throwing 9.1 innings of encouraging baseball, walking just one batter.
Prior to the 2017 season, Beltran left the Rangers after appearing in 55 games, three in the postseason. In 52 regular season games, the veteran became one of Texas’ best offensive weapons but struggled in the ALDS sweep against Toronto.
A clubhouse gem and a perfect addition alongside personalities such as Adrian Beltre and Elvis Andrus, a better opportunity —and eventually his very first World Series championship— awaited Beltran with the Houston Astros.
Lucroy lasted just a little bit longer, traded to Colorado at the 2017 trade deadline for a player to be named later, eventually labeled as outfielder Pedro Gonzalez. Lucroy met an historically tough open market and signed a one-year deal with Oakland earlier this month.
After Beltran departed and before Lucroy left Texas, Tate had his best season yet. Still deployed as a starter, he went 7-2 but the injury-prone hurler only made 13 starts. However, he advanced to High-A and finished the year exceptionally well at Double-A.
For High-A Tampa, Tate won six and lost none in nine starts, sporting a shiny 2.62 ERA and 1.08 WHIP, his best in full-season competition. Promoted to Double-A Trenton, he made four starts with a 3.24 ERA and 1.28 WHIP.
A non-roster invite to Spring Training this year, he continues to impress and is quickly regaining steam as a prospect. John slotted him 10th in his 2018 Yankees rankings, a very good position in one of baseball’s deepest farm systems.
When camp breaks, it is more than likely back to Trenton where New York will continue to see what he can do as a starter. But if durability issues persist, his day one bullpen projection will probably become true sooner than later.
The other two pitchers New York received with Tate for Beltran, Nick Green and Erik Swanson, were seventh and eighth round picks of the Rangers in 2014, respectively.
Green will be 23 on March 25th and Swanson 24 for all but the tail end of the 2018 season, and while neither has reached Double-A with the Yankees (Swanson reached Triple-A with Texas in 2015 as a depth maneuver), Swanson has progressed to the point of perhaps opening the season at the level while Green has yet to play at High-A Tampa and has struggled at Low-A.
The Yankees knew Green and Swanson were longshots and Tate was the prize fighter of the three. For three months of Carlos Beltran that the team had no use for, the trade looks exceptional right now for the Yankees with Tate’s progression.
For the Rangers, they got exactly what they wanted from Beltran. It was not a bad trade, just a regrettable investment with the fourth overall pick in the draft.