In my New York Yankees top 10 series that has covered most aspects of Yankee baseball, today we look at the top 10 acquisitions in the modern era. These acquisitions come from both signings and trades. The Yankees have had many star players that were homegrown and had to look outside their farm system to fill various needs. Owner George M. Steinbrenner was the first owner to make big moves and set the tone for acquisitions for the future.
This has been the most difficult to complete top 10s so far. Many will disagree with the placements; however, with the Yankees now looking to acquire players to improve the team, it seemed appropriate to examine these past acquisitions. Keep in mind that many of the Yankees’ best players were not acquisitions.
10. Ricky Henderson
Henderson was one of the longest-tenured players, playing for 25 years, 5 of them with the Yankees. During his five years, he stole 326 bases, making him the all-time base stealer for the Yankees. He hit .288 and had 78 home runs during the span while having an excellent fielding percentage in all outfield areas. He was an All-Star every year; he was a New York Yankee.
9. CC Sabathia
CC Sabathia was instrumental in the Yankees winning their last World Series in 2009. Sabathia came to the Yankees from the Milwaukee Brewers. In his eleven years with the Yankees, he had a record of 134 and 88. During the Yankees’ years, he was a workhorse, always giving his best effort for a win.
8. Masahiro Tanaka
Brian Cashman brought Masahiro Tanaka to the Yankees from the Eagles of the Japanese league in 2013 in a seven-year contract that will end this season, whether there is one or not. During his time with the Yankees up to this year, he is 75-45 with a 3.75 ERA. Tanaka has never had a losing season with the Yankees.
7. David Wells
The highlight of David Wells’s career was his perfect game on May 17, 1998, the tenth no-hitter in Yankee history. Wells for the Yankees was 34-14 in his two-year stint; that’s a .706 winning percentage, one of the best for the Yankees. Wells pitched 21 years, all in the American League.
Wells was quite a character that didn’t care much for rules. He has admitted he pitched his perfect game while nursing a bad hangover. In 1998 he would help the Yankees with his 18-4 record and propelled them to the World Series shut out of the San Diego Padres.
6. Reggie Jackson
Yankee owner George M. Steinbrenner made Reggie Jackson the highest-paid baseball player when he hired Jackson from the Baltimore Orioles. However, Jackson was a controversial player as he was a show-off, and Manager Billy Martin didn’t want the Yankees to hire him. It didn’t help when he was quoted as saying, “I’m the straw that stirs the drink,” a phrase that he never said but caused a rift with Yankee catcher Thurmon Munson.
In his five years with the Yankees, Jackson had many memorable moments, including his three home runs that caused him to be called “Mr. October.” In 1977 in the sixth game of the World Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers, New York Yankees outfielder Reggie Jackson hit three home runs off three consecutive pitches from three different pitchers. Jackson batted .284 with 144 home runs while a Yankee.
5. Mike Mussina
On this list, Mike Mussina is the one player that often flew under the radar. Mussina, after being a Baltimore Oriole star pitcher, became a New York Yankee. He never had a losing season in his eight years with the Yankees, winning 10 or more games every year. Mussina was not only an outstanding pitcher, but he was an excellent defender as any pitcher ever to grace the mound.
On some writer’s top 10 lists, they don’t even include Mussina. For the Yankees, Mr. Steady is one of the Yankee’s most dependable pitchers during his time with the Yankees. The brilliant Stanford grad, with a thinking pitcher that adjusted to every situation. His performance never diminished with age. In the last year of his career, he had his first 20 win season, becoming the oldest pitcher to have a 20 win season.
He was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum for his pitching with the Baltimore Orioles and the New York Yankees on January 22, 2019; he was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, receiving 76.71% of the vote. Mike distinguishes being the first American League pitcher to win ten or more games in each of 17 consecutive seasons.
4. Alex Rodriguez
Alex Rodriguez is a controversial New York Yankee, to say the least. Many fans cite his performance-enhancing drugs while with the Texas Rangers and ignore his Yankee club performance. But the facts are still the facts. During his 22 years playing the game, he was one of the best in either league.
For his 12 years with the Yankees, he hit 30 home runs a year, with 1,100 RBIs while hitting .283. He was a seven-time All-Star and a seven-time MVP candidate, winning the prestigious award twice. He would be a first-ballot inductee into the Baseball Hall of Fame if it were not for his drug use, which most likely will never come to fruition.
I have to admit that I am a writer that does not place as much importance on drug use as many writers do. My stance is that dozens of other players used some doping during that period that was never caught; thus, many stats may be in question. However, in the case of Rodriguez, his career wouldn’t have been less impressive even if he hadn’t made the bad decision to break the rules.
3. Paul O’Neill
Paul O’Neil played for only two teams in his baseball career, nine years with the Yankees in the second half of his career. Then, at the end of the 1992 season, the Red traded O’Neill outright for Yankee outfielder Roberto Kelly. In his first year, he batted .311 with 20 home runs and 75 RBIs. O’Neill played with such vigor that owner George M. Steinbrenner would give him the nickname the “Warrior,” which stuck.
In his second year, he got the AL batting title batting .359. If O’Neill missed a hit he thought he should have gotten, batting racks and water coolers often felt his wrath. Stick Michael made the trade that would change the face of the Yankees for years to come. Paul made amazing plays in defending the right field. He played fiercely and hurt; he was the ultimate warrior the Yankee fans loved.
2. Roger Clemens
The acquisition of Roger Clemens was one of the best the New York Yankees ever made. In 1996 the Yankees sent Graeme Lloyd, David Wells, and Homer Bush to the Toronto Blue Jays for their ace pitcher Clemens. In his first year with the Yankees, he helped them win the 1999 World Series. In 2000 he almost single-handedly retook them to the World Series with his 20-3 season. The Yankees would win that series as well. Clemens was never fully embraced by Yankee fans due to his long tenure with the Boston Red Sox.
Also, in 2000, Roger would win the prestigious Cy Young Award at the age of 38. Roger is one of the longer-tenured pitchers in baseball, pitching for 24 years. With the Yankees, he would win twice as many games as he lost. He went 83-42 in his six years with the Yankees for a .664 winning percentage. It is outrageous that this 3 time Cy Young Award isn’t in the Hall of Fame. This year he received 72.5% of the votes compared to the 75% needed to be inducted. He has two years left of eligibility.
1. Babe Ruth
Babe Ruth isn’t a modern era Yankee acquisition but must be included in the list as the best move the Yankees ever made in procuring him from the cash-strapped Boston Red Sox. Following Ruth becoming a Yankee, he transformed himself into a great hitting outfielder. He really made his name with the Yankees as one of the best if not the best player to ever play baseball.
David Cone, Starky Lyle, Roger Maris, Tino Martinez, Scott Brosius, Curtis Granderson, and Nick Swisher.
Gerrit Cole could not be included for the Yankee top 10s as he hasn’t had a long enough time or games thrown to prove he belongs on this list. However, he has to be mentioned as he may be in the future proclaimed one of the best Yankee acquisitions in history; only time will tell. The same goes for DJ LeMahieu and Gio Urshela; how they play will tell if they can be included on this list in the coming years.
EmpireSportsMedia.com’s Columnist William Parlee is a member of the Society for American Baseball Research. Follow me on Twitter @parleewilliam.