The New York Yankees bolstered their bullpen Monday with the acquisition of right-handed reliever Scott Effross from the Chicago Cubs.
It’s a solid move by the Yankees in that it stabilizes a sputtering unit with an asset under club control through 2027. But it’s not without risk, as New York sent a notable prospect, Hayden Wesneski, to Chicago to complete the 1-for-1 swap one day before the Major League Baseball trade deadline.
Wesneski, a 24-year-old right-hander who has spent all of 2022 at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, was the Yankees’ No. 4 prospect, per Baseball America, a high price to pay for a little-known reliever with a fairly limited track record.
This isn’t to say Effross won’t carve out a significant role in New York’s bullpen as the Yankees pursue their first World Series title since 2009. The Bronx Bombers recently lost Michael King (fractured elbow) and Chad Green (Tommy John surgery) — two bullpen stalwarts — to injuries in addition to maneuvering around the downfall of Aroldis Chapman. So, the trade ultimately could be a savvy move by Yankees general manager Brian Cashman, especially when you consider Effross is under contract for five more seasons after 2022.
There’s certainly some downside, though. Wesneski, a 2019 sixth-round pick out of Sam Houston State, was the Yankees’ top pitching prospect, ranking behind shortstops Anthony Volpe and Oswald Peraza and outfielder Everson Pereira in New York’s system, per Baseball America. He could have a very bright future or, at the very least, give the Yankees one less asset with which to negotiate if/when they pursue a bigger fish like Juan Soto or Shohei Ohtani.
Here’s what BA’s Josh Norris wrote Monday about Wesneski:
“After getting his feet wet in 2019, Wesneski emerged from the lost pandemic season as one of the most dominant arms in the system. His upward trend allowed him to reach Triple-A in his first full season and become the top pitching prospect in the organization. Wesneski works with a vast array of pitches, including two- and four-seam fastballs, a low-80s slider, a high-70s curveball, a mid-80s changeup and a newly added cutter. He hasn’t been quite as effective this season, but had rebounded somewhat in July. Rival scouts believe he needs to clean up before he can begin missing bats at the rates he did in 2021, but they also see a nearly ready starter with enough pitchability and stamina to fit into a rotation.”
If Wesneski develops into an impactful big league starter, it’ll be a nice gain for the Cubs as they continue their rebuild. Chicago clearly is selling high on Effross, a 28-year-old side-winder who debuted in the majors last season and owns a 2.66 ERA, a 2.19 FIP and a 1.068 WHIP with 10.2 strikeouts per nine innings across 47 appearances (44 frames) in 2022.
And if Effross, with just 61 career major league appearances in the Windy City, continues on his current trajectory in pinstripes, it’ll be hard to fault the Yankees for being aggressive. After all, New York has very few weaknesses and looks like a legitimate championship contender.
Maybe, just maybe, this ends up being a rare win-win? For now, it’s simply worth pointing out the Yankees’ newest chess piece came at a relatively sizable cost.