Due to a combination of injury and ineptitude, the Yankees had a very fluid roster 2013. In a constant effort to find upgrades on the cheap, they cycled through droves of fringy players, hoping some of them would stick. With Mike Zagurski‘s relief appearance a couple of weeks ago, the Yankees upped their franchise record of 56 different players used this season. A good deal of this turnover has taken place in the infield, where the team has used 18 different players who are primarily infielders — nine of whom were not with the team in spring training. We knew Alex Rodriguez would miss the majority of 2013 coming into the year, but early season injuries to key players including Derek Jeter, Mark Teixeira, and Kevin Youkilis left the Yankees scrambling for cheap infield help all season long. The result was not pretty.
It all looked so promising heading into spring training. The solid quartet of Teixeira, Cano, Jeter, and Youkilis seemed as good as any in baseball and the projection systems pegged them for around 12 WAR in 2013. Behind the starters, Jayson Nix and Eduardo Nunez represented adequate fall-back options with A-Rod slated to come back at some point.
Things started to go awry in early March, however, when Teixeira injured his wrist in the World Baseball Classic and Jeter began feeling pain in his ankle again. While not originally thought to be serious injuries, they lingered throughout the season, limiting the duo to just 32 games combined. Youkilis was also bit by the injury bug in late April and soon saw his season come to an end by mid-June.
Lyle Overbay, who the Yankees scooped up as a (supposedly) short-term fill-in at first, ended up accumulating nearly 500 plate appearances of replacement-level performance in Teixeira’s absence before finally being displaced by Mark Reynolds in September.
The absence of Jeter and Youkilis, combined with the injuries and incompetence from Jayson Nix and Eduardo Nunez, left a gaping hole on the left side of the infield. The team proceeded to cycle through Chris Nelson, Alberto Gonzalez, David Adams, Reid Brignac, Luis Cruz, and Brent Lillibridge to try to fill the void, but virtually none of those guys hit a lick, combining for a .180/.218/.228 batting line over 354 PA’s. The return of A-Rod (although he’s played exclusively at DH since injuring his hamstring on September 10th) along with the acquisitions of Mark Reynolds and Brendan Ryan helped to re-establish some respectability, but the damage had already been done by that point.
Not including Robinson Cano‘s 6 WAR performance this year, the Yankees’ infielders only managed to hit .226/.289/.342 and were 1.8 wins below replacement level per Fangraphs. Thanks to his pitiful defense, Eduardo Nunez has easily been the biggest burden with a disgraceful -1.6 WAR, but there has been no shortage of terrible performances from other members either — a total of 10 Yankee infielders registered negative WAR in 2013 and Lyle Overbay could easily make it 11 with another 0-fer.
The Yankees were fairly close to making the playoffs this year, which makes it hard not to think of what might have been if they had just received mediocre production from first, third, and short. In theory, replacement level production at these positions would have resulted in something like two extra wins, so just a couple of decent role players could have really moved the needle on the Yankees’ playoff chances. The Yankees proactively perused the scrap heap all year long to try to supplement their infield, but ended the season with little to show for it. Other than Mark Reynolds and maybe Brendan Ryan, most of the waiver-wire fodder that came through the Bronx this year failed to turn into anything worthwhile.
This was originally written for Pinstriped Bible.
Photo by Keith Allison on Flickr (Originally posted to Flickr as “Lyle Overbay”) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons