After going through some of the worst signings the Yankees have made last week, I figured we’d end on a high note this week right before free agency should start to pick up.
Over these past ten years, there have been plenty of great signings despite the lack of success the team has had at times. Many of these signings are overlooked because the end result wasn’t a championship, but that doesn’t take away the individual successes that these players had in pinstripes.
Like last week’s article, this article will only include players whose contracts have expired.
First off, we have Tanaka. The 32-year-old has spent all of his 7 seasons in the MLB with the Yankees. In 2014, the Yankees inked him to a 7 year/$155 million deal. He made an immediate impact with the team and put up impressive numbers. In 7 seasons, Tanaka has posted a a 3.74 ERA, with a 18.9 WAR and 1.13 WHIP.
When the playoffs came around, Tanaka would take the next step. In 10 postseason starts, Tanaka posted a 76 ERA-, 87 FIP-, and a 0.98 WHIP. Tanaka entered the 2020 postseason with a 1.76 ERA, and even though it increased due to his performance in the ALDS, he still has a respectful 3.33 ERA.
He was worth every penny of the 7-year deal and that’s why he’s first on this list. Let’s hope Cashman does the right thing and brings back Tanaka for a few more years. The impact he’s had in this rotation cannot be emphasized enough.
Before you question my intelligence as a Yankee fan, hear me out.
Beltran signed with the Yankees following the 2013 season for 3 years/$45 million. His first year with the Yankees was rocky – he missed 53 games due to injury. His slash line in ’14 was .233/.301/.402 with a 97 wRC+. The next season, his numbers improved: .276/.337/.471 and a wRC+ of 119.
In 2016, the Yankees were famously sellers at the trade deadline. One of the bigger moves that the Yankees made was trading Beltran to the Rangers in exchange for Dillon Tate, Erik Swanson, and Nick Green. Tate ended up as the main piece in the Zack Britton trade, who has been everything they could ask for in a reliever in 3 seasons with the team. If it wasn’t for the Yankees trading Beltran, it’s possible Britton may not have ever been a Yankee. Try to imagine the Yankees bullpen today without Britton, that’s why Beltran is on this list.
Next up, we have the starter Hiroki Kuroda. The Yankees had plenty of question marks in their rotation entering the 2012 season and needed plenty of help. CC Sabathia was a lock, but after that, names like Ivan Nova and Michael Pineda were being tossed around as possible starters. As a result, Kuroda was brought in on a one-year deal, and immediately impressed.
The Yankees needed a pitcher alongside CC who could eat up innings, and Kuroda came in and did exactly that. In his three years with the team, he only pitched less than 200 innings in one season (2014) and in that season he pitched 199 innings. Kuroda kept the same workhorse mentality in the playoffs as well, pitching 8 1/3 innings in Game 3 of the 2012 ALDS, the game that Raul Ibanez famously hit two home runs to tie and eventually win the game in extra innings. That comeback may not have been possible without Kuroda’s start.
His ERA- was 79, 82 and 96, respectively, in his three years with the team. Kuroda was everything the Yankees could have wanted in this time and pitched like a 2nd ace at times for this thin rotation.
This one is no surprise. LeMahieu has been the best free agent signing the Yankees have made in the past 10, maybe even the past 15 years.
DJ signed for 2 years/$24 million 2 seasons ago. When he was signed, a lot of fans were upset about it because it wasn’t Machado. Today, it’s safe to say none of us can imagine this team without Lemahieu on it.
DJ wasn’t even in the Opening Day lineup in 2019, Troy Tulowitzki (remember him?) started over DJ. LeMahieu would go on to finish 4th in MVP voting in 2019 and 3rd in 2020, as well as claiming a batting title last season with a .364 AVG. He is the first player in the modern era to win a batting title in both leagues.
LeMahieu has been everything that the Yankees were missing in 2017 and 2018. It seemed like any time he was at-bat in a big situation, we all felt a hit coming.
And it’s not just the fans that love him, all of his teammates revere him. Luke Voit went as far to say this just the other day:
Luke Voit: ”If I was a gambling man, I’d want to put money on DJ coming back. I think he wants to be back. I hope he’s back because he's one of the best players in baseball, one of the best hitters I ever played with. I want him in the pinstripes for the rest of his career.”
— Bryan Hoch (@BryanHoch) December 9, 2020
LeMahieu has made a huge impact on this team in his short time with them. The man has ice in his veins in any situation and lives and breathes baseball. As we all know, DJ is a free agent and he is due for a massive raise. That shouldn’t deter the Yankees from keeping him.
People will criticize Cashman for moves he has not made, but he has made some great signings throughout the years, especially with more under-the-radar signings like Kuroda and LeMahieu. Let’s hope he keeps it up this and re-signs LeMahieu
What are your thoughts? Leave a comment or tweet me @sashalueck, and let me know.