Early-Season Grades for New York Yankees' Offseason Acquisitions

Anthony Maimone@@amaimone4Featured ColumnistApril 11, 2014

Early-Season Grades for New York Yankees' Offseason Acquisitions

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    Bill Kostroun

    In New York it is never too early to over-analyze a player's performance, especially if the player is a new acquisition from this offseason.

    Just under two weeks into the regular season, the New York Yankees have played average baseball and sit with a record of 5-5.

    However, they have won five of their last seven games and are currently tied for first in the AL East.

    The Yankees made a lot of noise this offseason and spent a lot of money on adding winning pieces to their team. Some have gotten off to a slower start than expected, while others have been everything the Yankees could have hoped for. It is early in the season, but it is still worth taking a closer look at what these additions have been up to in pinstripes.

    We will focus on the seven key acquisitions picked up via free agency. To determine their final grades, we will evaluate the players' statistics, as well as other contributions to the team's play.

    For example, if a hitter is struggling at the plate but has been great in the field defensively, their grade will reflect that.

    Without further ado, the grades are up.

Matt Thornton, RP

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    Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

    How Acquired: Signed two-year, $7 million contract.

    Matt Thornton is the "other" former Boston Red Sox the Yankees picked up this offseason. He came in with much less fanfare but plays a crucial role in the team's success. With the departure of Boone Logan in free agency, the Yankees were in need of a lefty specialist out of the pen.

    So far this season, manager Joe Girardi has used Thornton perfectly, and he has responded with near perfect play. Thornton has appeared in four games and faced only six batters. He has retired every batter he has been given a chance to get out.

    The only guy to get on base against Thornton this season was via an intentional walk.

    All Thornton can do is get the guys out that he faces, and so far this season that is all he has done, therefore he receives top honors.


    Grade: A

Brian Roberts, 2B

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    USA TODAY Sports

    How Acquired: Signed one-year, $2 million contract.

    Brian Roberts was not signed to replace the production that was lost when Robinson Cano signed with the Seattle Mariners. However, it's safe to assume they would like a little more than what they have gotten so far out of the 36-year-old. 

    The knock on Roberts has been his ability to stay on the field, but when there, he is a factor. So far health has not been the issue, as Roberts has played in nine games and looks to be in great shape.

    The problem is that he isn't producing offensively.

    In the short season, Roberts is batting only .160, but his offensive stats aren't a complete loss. What will end up saving him from a far worse grade is that Roberts is drawing walks still and getting on base.

    Roberts has an OBP of .333 and is actually tied for second on the team in stolen bases with two.

    It is still very early and Roberts can easily turn around that average. The Yanks just have to hope that comes before an injury.

    Grade: D+

Kelly Johnson, 3B/1B

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    Elsa/Getty Images

    How Acquired: Signed one-year, $3 million contract

    When the Yankees signed Kelly Johnson this offseason they knew they were going to need him, they just didn't know where. At the time, Robinson Cano was still a free agent and Alex Rodriguez had yet to be officially suspended. It only made sense to sign a guy capable of playing both positions.

    As it turned out, both Cano and A-Rod are gone and Johnson was set to take over the everyday third base job.

    What has made Johnson so valuable to the team this early in the season is that he has now been called on to play another position.

    With Mark Teixeira hitting the disabled list, Johnson has been thrust into playing first base regularly.

    Johnson's versatility has been crucial for the Yankees and has made him one of the more reliable players on the team. Offensively, Johnson has been fine, batting .250 on the short season.

    Johnson also leads the team in home runs with two.

    Grade: B


Carlos Beltran, RF

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    Bill Kostroun

    How Acquired: Signed three-year, $45 million contract.

    Carlos Beltran was the final big offensive signing of the past offseason. He came after two guys who have yet to be mentioned on this list. After years of flirting between the Yankees and Beltran, he finally made his way to the Big Apple.

    So far this season Beltran has been average at-best for the Yankees. He isn't hurting the Yankees, but he hasn't done a lot to impress them. He is batting .273 on the year, which is just slightly under his career average.

    The Yankees know a hot streak is coming for Beltran, but in all honesty, his regular-season grades won't matter.

    Beltran was signed for October; if the rest of the Yanks can get him there, that is where he will deliver.

    Grade: B-

Jacoby Ellsbury, CF

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    USA TODAY Sports

    How Acquired: Signed seven-year, $153 million contract.

    When the offseason began, I was the first to mention that the Yankees needed to avoid signing Jacoby Ellsbury.

    That's a swing and a miss by me.

    Ellsbury has been a star for the Yankees in the early parts of this season and leads the team in hits, runs and stolen bases. He is batting .351 on the year.

    Ellsbury began the season as the leadoff hitter, and since has moved to the third spot in the lineup and hasn't missed a beat. He has already made a handful of excellent plays in center field.

    The only thing Ellsbury has yet to do is homer, but the Yankees as a team seem to be going through a power outage.

    Fans began to worry early when he missed time in spring training due to an injury, but it hasn't affected him so far.

    Grade: A+

Brian McCann, C

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    Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

    How Acquired: Signed a five-year, $85 million contract.

    The Yankees wasted no time this winter in signing Brian McCann. After two seasons of getting nothing offensively out of their catcher position, they knew this was the easiest decision they would make all offseason.

    McCann is a sure lock for 20-plus home runs with a batting average over .250. Which is why McCann's early-season struggles is a pause for concern.

    McCann is homer-less and batting .167 so far this year. He really hasn't hit the ball all that hard period and hasn't had many good swings.

    Also troublesome is he isn't drawing any walks. So far this season he has only one.

    Baseball is a long season and this could easily just be a bad stretch for McCann. As a catcher, he has many other responsibilities to go along with hitting, but he was paid to hit.

    Until he starts hitting, his grade will suffer.

    Grade: D-

Masahiro Tanaka, SP

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    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    How Acquired: Signed seven-year, $155 million contract.

    Masahiro Tanaka was the Yankees' golden goose this offseason. They needed him more than just about any other team, and the Yankees were willing to pay for him.

    With the expectations and anticipation for his season, Tanaka through two starts has shined. Tanaka is 1-0, has struck out 18 batters in only 14 innings and opponents are hitting just .236 against him. He has put the Yankees behind early in each of his starts by giving up the long ball. 

    However, Tanaka has shown tremendous fortitude and confidence and only got stronger has the game went on.

    It could have been easy for him to fold up in his first start after Melky Cabrera took him deep as the first batter of the game.

    Tanaka recovered and went on to win that game.

    In his first home start, Tanaka struck out 10 hitters.

    Tanaka would be getting a perfect score if he could get off to better starts in games, but I'm sure the Yankees couldn't be happier with his performance.

    Grade: B+