A hallmark of the "fin de siecle" and post-millenial Yanks has been the spare parts the team has found to complement the core of the club. From Charlie Hayes through Karim Garcia to this year's batch of veteran talent, the Yankees have spent a lot of time picking through ash heaps to find players who still have something to offer a major league team and/or contribute to a championship run.
We are far enough into the season now to have seen each of the "new kids on the block" strut his stuff, except Freddy Garcia, who is being pitched to us as a "back of the baseball card" type of guy, so maybe he can be judged on that or we can leave him out of the mix for now. Here is the question:
Which of the major pickups will prove to be the biggest/most important contributor to the team this year?
Russell Martin - Catcher
So far, he makes the Yankees look like geniuses. Easily the best 8/9 hole hitter in the majors. BoSox kicked his tires but opted to stay with Saltalamacchia (just hearing that name makes me wonder what's for dinner) as their catcher of choice. Martin has progressed fairly rapidly in learning to handle the staff, has shown no ill effects from the hip issue he had and his defense has been solid.
Gustavo Molina - Catcher
His presence has allowed the Yankees to accommodate the injury to Cervelli, who was looking primed to have an up year compared to the 2010 campaign, and keep the baby backstops down on the farm until they have grown to maturity or can be used as trade chips for Hernandez when Seattle's season inevitably goes south. Possibly even more importantly, he keeps Posada away from the tools of ignorance and saves Joe G. the headache of explaining to any and all that Posada should not be catching at all this season. Upside of Gustavo - he is a catcher named Molina. Downside of Gustavo - he is not related to the catchers named Molina.
Eric Chavez - 3B/1B/DH
Chavez was simply the best defensive 3B for an incredible stretch. Then his body gave out and removed him from the list of suspected PED consumers. His inability to stay healthy and on the field sank his stock faster than a tech company in the late 1990s. He has pretty much admitted that he is no longer a starter and is glad to have the chance to ride major league pine and contribute every so often. Unlike a lot of aging veterans, he seems comfortable from the start with his backup role. His defense at 3B and DH won't be a question, but 1B is something he is still learning.
Andruw Jones - OF
As a 19 year old rookie, Jones and the Braves faced the Yankees (homering against St. Andy, no less) in the Yankees' first world series since the 1981 six-game set against the Dodgers. Like Chavez, Jones had simply been the best at his position (CF) for a number of years but then his production fell off of the table, as well, also removing him from the list of suspected PED users. This year he appears to be in better shape than recent years and seems to have adapted to his fourth outfielder role fairly smoothly. He has already shown power and clutch hitting against left-handed pitching and demonstrated he still has wheels enough to get the job done in the OF. He is a definite defensive upgrade over Marcus Thames (himself a great pickup for last year's team).
Bartolo Colon - RHP
One imagines that in a previous lifetime Colon was a matador. Of course, these days he just looks like he ate a few choice cuts from the demised animal. However, don't let the girth of Bartolo fool you. This is a Cy Young winner from the 2005 season who fell on some tough times but has picked himself up off the mat in an admirable fashion. His story is well known as to how he got to the Yankees. Having not pitched in the majors for several years, Colon was spotted by Tony Pena in the winter leagues and given high marks. Colon was easily the surprise of the Tampa season, allowing for the dismissal of Mitre (thank the stars!) and forcing a real decision regarding the fifth starter spot. He has since taken over the long relief role in the pen and has shown life on a fastball that has Phil Hughes wondering if he and Colon are starring in the remake of "Prelude To A Kiss" with Hughes playing the part of Meg Ryan and Colon as the gross old guy.
Freddy Garcia - RHP
See second paragraph above.
Millwood and the recently signed Silva have been left off because they did not break camp with the team and, in the interests of full disclosure, I don't see them being all that key to the team's success. Of course, I very well could be wrong so feel free to include them in your analyses.
Finally, there seems to always be the possibility that the Yankees will find someone in the middle of the season, especially as teams fall out of contention and want to relieve their payroll burden. However, this post is plenty long enough as is. Perhaps there will be another predicting who the Yankees will pick up before the trade deadline later in the season.