Times are tough right now and there’s not much baseball to write about or discuss (our podcast has you covered if you’re looking for that). So, why not go for a little twist on an All-Time Yankees roster? Today, I’m starting a two part series on players who spent no more than one year with the Yankees. I’m building a 25-man roster with 13 position players (covered today) and 12 pitchers (coming sometime in the future). With that, let’s get right to it.
Catcher (2): Iván Rodríguez and Sal Fasano
Pudge in pinstripes is one of the weirder images in the Yankees’ history. The Hall of Fame backstop was a longtime rival, whether with the Rangers in the late 90s, that pesky 2003 Marlins squad, or those annoying mid-aughts Detroit clubs.
The Yankees brought in Pudge at the trade deadline in 2008 in exchange for Kyle Farnsworth. Jorge Posada, who hit the disabled list for the first time in his career that month, was out for the rest of the season. At the time, Rodríguez wasn’t much of a (power) hitter anymore, but his bat was still respectable and his glove remained top notch. Unfortunately, Pudge sputtered in pinstripes: in 101 plate appearances, the catcher hit .219/.257/.323 (51 OPS+). His OPS+ had hovered right around league before his acquisition and the previous couple of seasons, but the Yankees weren’t so fortunate to get that kind of production in Posada’s absence.
Considering that Posada was a bastion of health for most of his career, and that the Yankees were pretty stable behind the plate even after he retired (Russell Martin, Brian McCann, Gary Sánchez), it’s hard to find a backup catcher for this squad. So, just for fun, we’ll go with Sal Fasano. Because why not? He fits the criteria and was fun. Just look at this bundle of joy:
Honorable Mentions: Kelly Stinnett, Dioner Navarro, Chris Widger, and Kevin Cash
First Base (1): John Olerud
For a franchise that’s seamlessly gone from Don Mattingly to Tino Martinez to Jason Giambi to Mark Teixeira, the Yankees sure have had a ton of random first baseman throughout the last three decades. Best laid plans and all, am I right?
Giambi and Teixeira had a few seasons mired by injuries which resulted in a number of replacements. A lot of fun names as you’ll see in the honorable mentions below, but I took Olerud here.
The Yankees brought in Johnny O mid-2004 after Seattle released him. Then 35, he had hit .245/.354/.360 (90 OPS+) with the Mariners before the Yankees grabbed him. He closed with a better .280/.367/.396 (101 OPS+) triple-slash in pinstripes.
In the playoffs, an injury kept Olerud out of games four, five, and six of the ALCS before he pinch hit in Game seven. You may remember this homer against Pedro Martínez before Things We Will Not Discuss happened in that series:
Honorable Mentions: Doug Mientkiewicz, Tony Clark, Richie Sexson, Lyle Overbay, Mark Reynolds, Steve Pearce, Travis Lee, Craig Wilson, Ike Davis, Chris Carter, Ji-Man Choi
Second Base (1): Martín Prado
I have to say: it caught me by surprise that Prado was eligible. I really thought he was around for at least a couple of years. Then again, those mid-2010 teams weren’t clubs to remember. Prado only played 37 games in pinstripes and was great: he batted .316/.336/.541 (144 OPS+) for the Bombers in 2014.
The Yanks brought Prado aboard at the deadline that year in exchange for power-hitting prospect Peter O’Brien. He played all over the field for the final two months of the season — the first year in which the Yankees were without Robinson Cano.
In the offseason, the Yankees packaged Prado with David Phelps to the Marlins in return for Nathan Eovaldi, Domingo Germán, and Garrett Jones.
Honorable Mentions: Neil Walker, Tony Womack, Brian Roberts, Mark Bellhorn
Third Base (2): Kevin Youkilis, Mike Lowell
The Greek God of Walks had an illustrious career in pinstripes, did he not? Oh, those 2013 Yankees were a treat. With Alex Rodriguez out for the start of the season, the Yankees brought in Youkilis for a cool $12 million to handle the hot corner. It did not go well. The then 34 year-old lasted just 28 games with the Yankees and hit a putrid .219/.305/.343 (80 OPS+).
Back injuries ruined any chance of Youkilis having any success with the Yankees. He hit the injured list twice, with the second time being the last straw: he underwent season-ending surgery to repair a herniated disk in his back.
Performance aside, Youkilis in pinstripes has to be one of the most bizarre marriages in recent memory. He was a longtime loathsome foe up in Boston that I can’t imagine any Yankees had a fondness for.
Then comes Lowell, who like Youkilis, had a successful run in Boston. Before that though, Lowell emerged as one of the sport’s better third basemen with the Marlins. Even further back: Lowell was once a Yankees prospect who got a cup of coffee with the ’98 squad. Instead of becoming the Bombers’ third baseman of the future, he was blocked by Scott Brosius. Thus, the Yankees dealt him to the Marlins for Todd Noel, Mark Johnson, and Ed Yarnall. Whoops!
Honorable Mentions: Aaron Boone, Todd Zeile, Morgan Ensberg, Todd Frazier, Casey McGehee, Kelly Johnson
Shortstop (2): Troy Tulowitzki, Jerry Hairston Jr.
Tulo has the most star power of the one-and-done shortstops here, and there aren’t many choices nonetheless. That’ll happen as a result of Derek Jeter and Didi Gregorius dominating the position since 1996.
Tulo was the product of the Yankees’ peculiar plan to make him the starting shortstop as Gregorius recovered from Tommy John surgery last year. It only took five games for the oft-injured Tulowitzki to go down for good, but at least he tallied one homer with the Bombers. Remember, Tulowitzki idolized Jeter and seemingly longed to play for the Yankees for years, so that was a cool moment for him.
I have to say, I was surprised to see Hairston actually play far more shortstop in 2009 than second base. It was his second most played position that year to third base, though I always remember him at the keystone for the Orioles early in his career. With that, Hairston’s my utility infielder on this roster.
Anyway, Hairston was a nice trade deadline pickup for the World Champion 2009 Yankees. He’ll perhaps be best remembered for racing around to score on Melky Cabera’s grounder in the 13th inning to win Game 2 of the 2009 ALCS.
Honorable mentions: Erick Almonte, Tony Fernández, Ángel Berroa, Adeiny Hechavarría, Pete Kozma, Reid Brignac
Left Field (2): Rondell White, Vernon Wells
Even in the dynasty years, the one position the Yankees struggled to fill was left field. Not that it really mattered, of course. The Bombers were a juggernaut. Come 2002 though, I remember being really excited about Rondell White coming aboard.
To that point, White had a lifetime .295/.351/.484 (115 OPS+) batting line and was entering his age-30 campaign. No one could have anticipated the drop off he exhibited in pinstripes, particularly after he had just finished 2001 with a career high 134 OPS+ with the Cubs. White recorded an ugly .240/.288/.378 (76 OPS+) with the Yankees and was subsequently traded in the winter. White bounced back with the Padres in 2003, but the Yankees were unquestionably happy to have Hideki Matsui roaming left field.
Vernon Wells is my fourth outfielder. He was one of the many random players to grace that 2013 squad. You may recall that he was terrific in April: Wells hit .300/.366/.544 with six dingers in 101 plate appearances, seemingly out of nowhere. Of course, things weren’t so hot the rest of the way. Whenever each mark in your triple-slash starts with a 2, it’s not good folks. Wells finished with a .216/.258/.296 line the rest of the way. Yikes. But at least his heyday with Toronto and name recognition make him viable on this fake roster’s bench.
Honorable Mentions: Randy Winn, Austin Kearns, Glenallen Hill
Center Field (1): Kenny Lofton
2004 was a little bit awkward. Bernie Williams, the longtime Yankees center fielder, had a challenger in another longtime (but aging) great: Kenny Lofton. Though Bernie got the majority of reps in center, Lofton received his fair share and recorded 539 innings at the position in 2004.
It’s pretty well documented that Lofton wasn’t happy during his time in pinstripes because of sporadic playing time. Unfortunately for Lofton, the then 37 year-old was stuck in a crowded outfield situation with Bernie, Matsui, and Gary Sheffield. Nonetheless, Lofton was solid in limited time: he posted a a 95 OPS+ and 1.5 WAR in 83 games. Years later, when the Yankees were courting CC Sabathia in free agency, Lofton reportedly tried to steer CC away from the Bronx.
Honorable Mentions: Dewayne Wise, Shane Robinson, Slade Heathcott
Right Field (1): Andrew McCutchen
Cutch was with the Yanks for basically one month, but feels like an easy choice for one of these outfield spots. Acquired at the August 31st waiver trade dealine in 2018, the former NL MVP raked as a Yankee. In 114 plate appearances, McCutchen belted 5 homers, a .421 OBP, and a 145 OPS+.
Honorable Mentions: Aaron Guiel, Matt Lawton, Terrence Long, Brennan Boesch, David Delucci
Designated Hitter (1): Raúl Ibañez
Need I explain my choice any further?
Honorable Mentions: Lance Berkman, Travis Hafner, Ben Francisco, Matt Holliday, Edwin Encarnacion, Jose Canseco, Billy Butler, Garrett Jones