New York Yankees Should Have Passed on Brian Roberts

Jonathan Cullen@@jcullen71Senior Writer IDecember 30, 2013

The Yankees will gamble on Brian Roberts returning to form.
The Yankees will gamble on Brian Roberts returning to form.Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

The New York Yankees recently signed free-agent second baseman Brian Roberts to a one-year contract worth $2 million. The deal was first reported by Fox Sports' Jon Morosi. The Yankees must hope that the former Baltimore Orioles star can regain his previous form and replace some of the production that Robinson Cano has taken to the Seattle Mariners.

Cano, in a deal first reported by ESPN Deportes' Enrique Rojas, left the Yankees over length of contract and money. It's a deal that all of the parties involved will likely end up regretting, but it has left the Yankees with a glaring hole at second base.

I am all for trying to find bargains and giving players coming off of injury an opportunity, but the Yankees should have passed on signing Roberts at this point in his career.

After the 2009 season, you could have made the argument that Roberts was one of the best second basemen in baseball. He hit 16 home runs, knocked in 79 runs, stole 30 bases and had a slash line of .283/.356/.451. 

Since that 2009 season, Roberts has fallen off the cliff as a player mainly due to his inability to stay on the field because of injuries.

Roberts has played in only 192 of a possible 648 games, less than 30 percent of the games the Orioles played, due to a multitude of injuries. He dealt with two concussions, hip surgery and hamstring surgery over the past four years.

The Orioles invested $40 million into Roberts over his last four seasons in Baltimore, getting very little in return on their investment. Given the Yankees' problems with an aging roster and injuries last season with older players like Derek Jeter and Mark Teixeira, it's surprising that Yankees general manager Brian Cashman viewed Roberts as a solution to New York's offensive woes.

The 36-year-old Roberts played in only 77 games last season and provided little indication that his injury issues were behind him. One of Roberts' strengths used to be his ability to steal bases. He ended last season with 278 career stolen bases.

But in the last four years, Roberts has managed to steal only 22 bases.

The Yankees could have gone outside of the organization to fill the second base spot by trade. New York has pieces like Brett Gardner, Ichiro Suzuki and Austin Romine, players who could have been dealt to bring back pitching and a stop-gap second baseman.

Acquiring a player like the Kansas City RoyalsEmilio Bonifacio might have been a better short-term option. Bonifacio is projected to earn $3.3 million by MLB Trade Rumors' Tim Dierkes and is currently viewed as a backup in Kansas City.

Bonifacio is not a perfect option, but the 28-year-old would have provided New York some much-needed youth, speed and athleticism at the bottom of the order. With the other bats that New York has acquired this winter, Bonifacio's lack of power would not have been a big problem.

If Roberts was brought in on a minor league deal with an invite to spring training, it would have been a little bit easier to understand the Yankees' mindset. Instead, New York will likely open the 2014 season using a combination of Roberts and Kelly Johnson at second. Johnson played only 22 games at second base last season. 

New York now faces entering the 2014 season replacing their best player with a player who has had a hard time staying on the field. The Yankees are also waiting for the outcome of Alex Rodriguez's appeal of his 211-game PED suspension. The Record's Bob Klapisch tweets that MLB is expecting a decision on A-Rod's appeal by early January.

If the Yankees are smart, they'll continue looking for a better Opening Day option at second base.


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