Yankees' trade for Frazier, Robertson could give old-school jolt to Red Sox rivalry

The Yankees and Red Sox haven’t finished 1-2 in the division since 2009, and haven't finished a season separated by fewer than six games since 2007.

Maybe Todd Frazier, David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle can help deliver what’s been missing from the AL East for a full decade — an honest-to-goodness, down-to-the-wire AL East race between the Yankees and Red Sox.

Those two franchises have long been the bullies of the AL East, which has often been the best division in baseball. In the glory days of the Yanks-Sox rivalry, the division was those two teams and then everyone else fighting for third place. Every season from 1998 through 2004, the Yankees finished first in the division and the Red Sox finished second. In 2005, they tied for the division title with 95 wins each (the Yankees earned the tiebreaker with a 10-9 season edge on the Sox).

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But those two teams haven’t finished 1-2 in the division since 2009, and to take it a bit further, they haven't finished a season separated by fewer than six games since 2007.

No, really.

They’ve both been contenders, of course. In that span, the Yankees claimed the AL East title three times and finished second three times; the Red Sox won twice and finished second twice.

Maybe Tuesday night’s trade signals the beginning of a renewed rivalry in the standings, not just in the history books. Both squads have loads of young talent, in the big leagues and the minors, and both will be contenders for many years to come.

For a little proof, let’s take a quick look back at recent AL East standings. We’ll list the division winner (if not the Yankees or Red Sox), then what place in the division those two teams finished and how far they were off the division lead.

2016
1. Red Sox, 93 wins
4. Yankees, 84 wins (9 back)

2015
1. Blue Jays, 93 wins
2. Yankees, 87 wins (6 back)
5. Red Sox, 78 wins (15 back)


2014
1. Orioles, 96 wins
2. Yankees, 84 wins (12 back)
5. Red Sox, 71 wins (25 back)


2013
1. Red Sox, 97 wins
3 (tie). Yankees, 85 wins (12 back)

2012
1. Yankees, 95 wins
5. Red Sox, 69 wins (26 back)

2011
1. Yankees, 97 wins
3. Red Sox, 90 wins (7 back)

2010
1. Rays, 96 wins
2. Yankees, 95 wins (1 back)
3. Red Sox, 89 wins (7 back)


2009
1. Yankees, 103 wins
2. Red Sox, 95 wins (8 back)

2008
1. Rays, 97 wins
2. Red Sox, 95 wins (2 back)
3. Yankees, 89 wins (8 back)


2007
1. Red Sox, 96 wins
2. Yankees, 94 wins (2 back)

You get the point. The Red Sox have been alone in first place in the AL East since June 29, while the Yankees have slipped from first place to third place behind the Rays. They’re still only 3.5 games behind Boston, though.

And adding Robertson and Kahnle to the bullpen is huge. Robertson, the former Yankee, has 123 saves over the past four seasons and was 13 for 14 in save opportunities for the White Sox this year. Kahnle, a former Yankees prospect, has 60 strikeouts in 36 innings this season.

Frazier brings pop to the New York lineup, though he’s been plagued by stretches of struggles with the White Sox. A two-time All-Star in Cincinnati, Frazier hit 58 homers in 239 games with the White Sox, but produced a less-than-optimal slash line of ..220/.311/.454. Still, he’s a veteran upgrade at first base, which has been a big problem spot for the Yankees this year.

And maybe more satisfying for Yankees fans is this: The Red Sox really need a third baseman, and most baseball people pegged Frazier — who is a free agent after the season — as a natural fit in Boston. But now that he’s in pinstripes, he can’t help the Red Sox.