The Most Important 'Glue Guy' on Every MLB Roster
Winning a World Series isn't always about having the most star power.
Over the course of a 162-game season, teams need players who do the intangible things on the field and in the clubhouse. That can mean being a veteran voice on a young club or being ready to play various positions, or it can be as simple as being a well-liked teammate who can lighten the mood when the grind starts to take a toll.
Ahead, we've highlighted the "glue guy" on every MLB roster who is critical to their squad's success despite not being a star-caliber performer.
This was a subjective exercise, so feel free to offer your thoughts in the comments.
Let's get to it.
Baltimore Orioles: 1B Trey Mancini
One of the highlights of the first week of the season was Mancini's return to the field after he was diagnosed with colon cancer in March 2020. Before he was sidelined, the 29-year-old had emerged as one of the few constants on a rebuilding team with a ton of turnover. He could be to the O's what Freddie Freeman was for the Atlanta Braves during their rebuild.
Boston Red Sox: INF/OF Enrique Hernandez
Despite never landing an everyday position in his first seven seasons, Hernandez was a hot commodity on the free-agent market and signed a two-year, $14 million deal. His versatility and clubhouse presence are why he was in demand, as he was a key piece behind the scenes and on the field for the Los Angeles Dodgers in recent years.
New York Yankees: OF Brett Gardner
The longest-tenured player on the roster, Gardner took a pay cut and a role reduction to return for his 14th season. The prototypical grinder, he has piled up 43.4 WAR during his time in pinstripes. "There is a blue-collar way that he goes about his business. I think that's infectious," manager Aaron Boone told reporters after Gardner re-signed in February.
Tampa Bay Rays: INF/OF Mike Brosseau
Center fielder Kevin Kiermaier summed up Brosseau's value in September, per Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times: "Everyone loves him. He comes in the clubhouse every day and he has the ability to make people smile and he just has that fun energy about him. I told him a couple weeks ago, 'Please don't ever lose that, because it's something where you really do lighten a room, and it's not easy to do that.'"
Toronto Blue Jays: UTIL Joe Panik
On a young team, Panik is one of the few players with significant postseason experience. The 30-year-old was the second baseman for the San Francisco Giants when they won the 2014 World Series. He has become a utility infielder, but he's an invaluable voice in the clubhouse.
Chicago White Sox: INF/OF Leury Garcia
It's a luxury to have a player who can play six different positions. In 2019, Garcia notched a career-high 140 games and hit .279 with 38 extra-base hits and 15 steals while playing every spot except first base and catcher. Acquired in the 2013 deal that sent Alex Rios to the Texas Rangers, he has been a staple on the South Side.
Cleveland: C Roberto Perez
Aside from a 24-homer season in 2019, Perez has been a light-hitting platoon catcher, but his stretches well beyond his stats. The two-time Gold Glove Award winner is an anchor for the pitching staff and in the clubhouse. "He's one of the very best, and it's kind of proven itself out the last couple of years," manager Terry Francona told reporters in March. "His ability to care about getting his pitcher through an inning or a game or a tight situation—they believe in him so much, and they should."
Detroit Tigers: INF/OF Niko Goodrum
On Sunday, Goodrum started at second base and batted third. Then he spent two days on the bench, followed by a start at shortstop while batting eighth Wednesday and a start in left field penciled with the No. 2 spot in the batting order Thursday. A second-round pick in 2010 who didn't debut in the majors until 2017, he has developed into the versatile stopgap every rebuilding team needs.
Kansas City Royals: OF Jarrod Dyson
A 50th-round pick in 2006 who carved out a role as a fourth outfielder and stolen base threat during the Royals' rise to World Series champs, Dyson returned to Kansas City this offseason after four years away. It's a different team than the one he left, with a young core building toward the future, and he now fills the role of veteran leader. "He's somebody that you want around," general manager Dayton Moore told reporters in March. "I felt Jarrod Dyson would be a heck of a coach someday; I've known that a long time. But he's got a lot left as a player."
Minnesota Twins: UTIL Willians Astudillo
A fan favorite and an infectious clubhouse presence, La Tortuga can catch, play the infield, play some outfield and flat-out hit. The 29-year-old is 7-for-23 this year, and he's played catcher, first base, second base and third base in his nine games. The fun he brings with him every day can go a long way during a long season.
Houston Astros: C Jason Castro
The Astros might not get a ton of offensive production from their catchers this year, but Jason Castro can team with 2017 Gold Glove winner Martin Maldonado to provide stellar defense and veteran leadership at the most important position on the field. "Adding somebody of Jason's character, his reputation, his knowledge of [pitching coach Brent Strom] and the pitching staff was a priority, so that makes me feel a lot better about the roster," general manager James Click told reporters after Castro signed a two-year, $7 million deal in January.
Los Angeles Angels: C Kurt Suzuki
At the age of 37 and playing for his fifth team, Suzuki has seen most everything at this point in his MLB career. The Angels signed Jason Castro last offseason in an effort to add a veteran voice to the clubhouse and an anchor to the pitching staff, and Suzuki was inked to a one-year, $1.5 million deal in 2021 to serve a similar purpose alongside Max Stassi at the catcher position.
"It takes a lot of toughness and durability to catch 13 seasons in the majors. There's not a lot of guys that have been able to accomplish that," general manager Perry Minasian told reporters.
Oakland Athletics: RHP Yusmeiro Petit
Swingman Yusmeiro Petit has made a career out of being ready for whatever role is thrown at him, from starting to answering the call in high-leverage situations. Despite a budget crunch, the A's brought him back on a one-year, $2.6 million deal. "You look at the numbers and they tell the tale as far as production goes," manager Bob Melvin told reporters in March. "He means much more to this team: the respect he gets in the clubhouse and his leadership qualities. For a guy that doesn't say a whole lot, this is a guy that everybody looks to."
Seattle Mariners: RF Mitch Haniger
A 6.5-WAR player in 2018, Haniger missed a significant chunk of 2019 and all of 2020 because of injuries, and now the team features reigning American League Rookie of the Year Kyle Lewis and rising prospects Jarred Kelenic and Julio Rodriguez. Despite taking a back seat in terms of profile, Haniger is a veteran leader. "He definitely does it the right way and I respect what he does," teammate Dylan Moore told Jim Caple of SportspressNW. "If you have any questions at all, he's always available."
Texas Rangers: 3B Brock Holt
Holt has squeezed the most out of his 5'10", 180-pound frame in a 10-year career that includes a 2015 All-Star nod when he filled a super-utility role for the Red Sox. In the middle of a youth movement, the Rangers brought him aboard on a minor league deal. "I want our guys to really learn from him," manager Chris Woodward told reporters. "This is a championship player. This is what that preparation and work looks like. They come in all shapes and sizes. It's invaluable, really, for us to have around."
Atlanta Braves: RHP Josh Tomlin
A staple in the Cleveland rotation early in his career, Tomlin has become an invaluable swingman and multi-inning weapon. "He brings instant credibility," manager Brian Snitker told reporters in February 2020. "He's been through the wars, he's been a successful pitcher for a long, long time, and I think they appreciate and respect the way he goes about it on a daily basis [with] the professionalism, the dedication he has to the game and respect that he shows the game."
Miami Marlins: SS Miguel Rojas
It was a bit of a surprise when the Marlins signed Rojas in September 2019 to a two-year, $10.3 million extension with a club option for the 2022 season. On the surface, he was little more than a placeholder at shortstop, but he means far more to the team. "He's taken on a leadership role in the clubhouse. He's taken on a leadership role in the community, in the media," CEO Derek Jeter said, per Jordan McPherson of the Miami Herald in October. "Since we took over three years ago, I've had plenty of conversations with Miggy. He's been very vocal about the fact he wanted to be with this organization because he trusted what we were going to do and what we are doing. When you have players like that, who are your best players, believing what you're going to do, it goes a long way in that clubhouse."
New York Mets: OF Kevin Pillar
In his lone season with the Giants in 2019, Pillar won the team's Willie Mac Award, given annually to the club's most inspirational player. He has since become a fourth outfielder, but his leadership qualities make him a big part of the clubhouse culture wherever he goes. "I think I'm naturally born to be a leader," Pillar told reporters in February 2019. "I go about my work and I go about my play wanting guys to see the way I work, to see the way I play and kind of try to lead by example."
Philadelphia Phillies: OF Matt Joyce
An All-Star in 2011 during his prime with the Rays, Joyce has seemingly embraced his journeyman status in recent years, making good on one minor league deal after another. He was an important veteran leader for the upstart Marlins a year ago, and now he's part of an experienced Phillies bench that also includes Andrew Knapp, Ronald Torreyes and Brad Miller. The 36-year-old is the consummate teammate.
Washington Nationals: 2B Josh Harrison
Harrison joined the Nationals last season, and he now fits perfectly in the void left by the retired Howie Kendrick. The two-time All-Star second baseman is off to an 8-for-15 start. "He's fun to be around," manager Dave Martinez told reporters in September. "He understands the game. He's a true constant every single day. You never have to tell him to be ready. He's always ready, no matter what. ... For me, that's what you want on this team. He fits in."
Chicago Cubs: RF Jason Heyward
The speech Heyward gave his teammates during a rain delay in Game 7 of the 2016 World Series has become legendary, and his time on the North Side will be remembered fondly by anyone who looks beyond his massive contract. With three years left on the pact, he could be an important figure during a transition period in the coming years.
Cincinnati Reds: C Tucker Barnhart
The writing is on the wall. Even with his hot start at the plate, it's only a matter of time before Barnhart cedes playing time to top prospect and catcher of the future Tyler Stephenson. Regardless, the two-time Gold Glove winner is a central voice in the clubhouse and a leader in the dugout as one of the best in the business at handling a pitching staff.
Milwaukee Brewers: C Manny Pina
Pina endured a long minor league journey before carving out a role with the Brewers in his age-29 season. His role has changed from year to year, and he's now the backup to Omar Narvaez, but he brings a consistent presence. "Manny has a good day every day," manager Craig Counsell told reporters. "That's his personality. Every day's a good day, no matter what it brings. I really think that's a key to his success."
Pittsburgh Pirates: 2B Adam Frazier
In truth, there is no glue guy on the roster. The Pirates are a mess, and it wouldn't be surprising if Ke'Bryan Hayes were the only player left standing a couple of years from now. With his defensive versatility and solid hit tool, Frazier is the type of do-it-all player who fits on virtually any roster, so he's the de facto pick.
St. Louis Cardinals: C Yadier Molina
Is there really any other answer? Some may still consider Molina a star despite his diminished production, but there was simply no excluding him. No player has more influence on the culture of their team, and no player has a greater intangible impact on the game than the future Hall of Famer. And the respect for Yadi stretches well beyond his own dugout. "That guy could punch me in the face and I'd still ask him for a signed jersey," Reds outfielder Nick Castellanos told reporters after a recent benches-clearing incident between the teams.
Arizona Diamondbacks: LF David Peralta
Peralta has been a leader since at least 2016, and the front office didn't hesitate to lock him up with a three-year, $22 million extension prior to the 2020 season even after his down year in 2019. The 33-year-old will be an important mentor for rising outfielders Alek Thomas, Corbin Carroll and Kristian Robinson.
Colorado Rockies: RHP Daniel Bard
A dominant reliever early in his career with the Red Sox, Bard lost his command during the 2012 season, but he never stopped grinding on the road back to the big leagues. Last year, he played his way onto the roster and became the closer in his first MLB action since the 2013 campaign. Such perseverance can be infectious.
Los Angeles Dodgers: INF/OF Chris Taylor
There is little doubt Mookie Betts is the dominant voice in the Dodgers clubhouse, and there is no shortage of star power on a stacked roster barreling toward another World Series trip. After Enrique Hernandez walked in free agency, the versatile Taylor became even more important. On a club with so much talent, he goes about his business and produces while playing all over the field.
San Diego Padres: RHP Emilio Pagan
"In a group that's not unused to changing bodies, a lot of guys were crushed we traded Emilio," Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto told Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle in 2018. "He's an unbelievable guy, a tremendous human being, he does all the right things. I said when we made that deal it was probably the most painful trade we've made, because of the person." Pagan has continued to make that sort of impact with Oakland, Tampa Bay and now San Diego. A recent story by Dennis Lin of The Athletic only further illustrated what a good person the hard-throwing reliever is.
San Francisco Giants: INF Tommy La Stella
In a slow-moving market wherein one-year deals were the norm, La Stella signed a three-year, $18.8 million contract. It marked the longest deal handed out by general manager Farhan Zaidi since he took control of the front office in November 2018. La Stella has never been a star, and at 32 years old, he is not going to be. He is, however, the perfect player to build around thanks to his versatility, professional approach at the plate and winning background.