Over the weekend, the Yankees made a minor splash when they signed slugging outfielder Jay Bruce to a minor league deal. The signing is smart since it is a cheap contract for Bruce who can be cut very easily. With his deal, he will join a list of late-in-their-career power hitters acquired by the Yankees. These hitters, usually over the age of 30, were former power hitters signed to small contracts with the hopes of bolstering the Yankees power off the bench.
This list excludes players under the age of 30 and more known players including Carlos Beltran, Lance Berkman, and Matt Holliday.
In 2008, the long-time Mariner Richie Sexson found himself looking for work after being released in the middle of the season. Meanwhile, the Yankees were looking for additional depth at first behind the aging Jason Giambi. Sexson was signed to a minimum contract but would unfortunately only produce minimum results. Appearing in 22 games, Sexson only managed to hit one home run.
In 2009, the Yankees were looking for a better third base option behind Alex Rodriguez following the struggles of Cody Ransom. The Yankees acquired Hinske from the Pirates and split his time between third and right field. In limited time with the Yankees Hinske hit 7 home runs. He did manage one plate appearance during the World Series where he walked and scored a run. The 2009 World Series would mark the third consecutive World Series for Hinske as a member of an AL East team.
In 2012, the Yankees announced the signing of the 39-year-old who had battled against the Yankees in the 2009 World Series as a member of the Phillies. Ibanez had established himself as a power threat as a long-time member of the Seattle Mariners. At the time, the Yankees were hoping for a bit more power behind the starting trio of Brett Gardner, Curtis Granderson and Nick Swisher. However, injuries would limit Gardner to only 16 games. Pressed into the starting lineup, Ibanez answered. That season he hit .240 with 19 home runs in 130 games, and had some clutch hits in the playoffs.
The following season, the Yankees decided to let Ibanez walk and replace him with the 35-year-old Travis Hafner. In 2006-07 Hafner averaged over 140 games and 33 home runs with the Indians but was limited following multiple injuries. From 2008-12 he only played over 100 games once but was a consistent threat to drive the ball over the wall. The Yankees were optimistic that with the short-porch Hafner could easily replace Ibanez. Unfortunately, Hafner was injured for about half the year. He would bat a pitiful .202 with only 12 home runs.
Unfortunately, the last name on the list was just over 30 and has to be included. Chris Carter joined the Yankees for the 2017 season, after he mashed 41 home runs as a member of the Brewers in the previous year. However, in 2016 he hit only .222 and led the NL in strikeouts forcing him to settle for a smaller contract. In the Bronx, Carter was awful, only managing 8 home runs to go along with his .201 average.
As the Yankees prepare for the 2021 season, Jay Bruce could become an important piece or an afterthought. While Ibanez became a fan favorite, the Yankees are probably hoping that Jay Bruce doesn’t have to appear in more than 100 games. Regardless, these types of moves can help teams find a missing piece or a veteran presence to make a deep run in the playoffs.
Be on the lookout tomorrow as my colleague Jeff Long takes a deeper dive into Jay Bruce and his potential impact for the Yankees.