2013 Statistics: 142 games, .240/.295/.393, 24 2B, 14 HR, .303 wOBA, 86 wRC+, 0.0 fWAR
2014 Contract Status: Free Agent
Lyle Overbay was never supposed to be part of the plan for the 2013 New York Yankees, unlike other debatable acquisitions who were planned in the off-season (see: Ichiro Suzuki, Kevin Youkilis). The Yankees already had a reliable first baseman going into Spring Training in Mark Teixeira. Tex only turned 33 in April, and he had been remarkably healthy throughout the first decade of his MLB career, playing in 1,497 games from 2003-12, more than all first basemen in baseball except for Albert Pujols and Miguel Cabrera. However, a "pop" in Teixeira's wrist during WBC batting practice forced him to miss the start of the season, and the Yankees were forced to scramble for a replacement. Dan Johnson slumped horribly in March, and Juan Rivera's defense seemed highly concerning, so the Yankees turned to outside the organization for help.
The lefty Overbay was once a fine hitter, a doubles machine for the Brewers and Blue Jays, but since the end of the 2010 season, he had fallen on hard times. He jumped from the Pirates to the Diamondbacks to the Braves over the next two years as his production quickly declined despite superb defense. The Red Sox offered him an invitation to Spring Training this year to compete for a first base job backing up Mike Napoli. Boston decided that they were comfortable with Mike Carp and Daniel Nava occasionally playing first base instead of Overbay though, so he was cut toward the end of camp. He considered retirement at age 36, but desperate for a first baseman, the Yankees gave him a call and offered him a three-day tryout for the starting first base job while Teixeira mended. Suddenly, "Lyle Overbay, retired 12-year veteran" became "Lyle Overbay, 2013 Yankees' Opening Day first baseman." That sentence was the 2013 Yankees in a nutshell.
Like several of the Yankees' veterans, Overbay surprised fans at the beginning of the season with a terrific start. Through the season's first month and a half, he hit .266/.301/.500 with ten doubles and six homers in 38 games, a 43 double/26 homer pace that seemed reminiscent of his earlier prime. He forced the Yankees to think twice about ditching him with Teixeira soon to return, and they decided to hold onto him. It was a wise move because Tex's wrist soon shut him down for the season. The Yankees would have been without a first baseman had they cut Overbay. Unfortunately, Overbay's hot hitting did not continue after the month of May ended.
During the next two months, Overbay's pace slowed, as he hit nine doubles and four homers to go with a less impressive .253/.311/.393 triple slash. Lefties unsurprisingly dominated him all season long; he was just a complete give-up at the plate, batting .190/.232/.284 with a 35 wRC+ against southpaws. These problems were more acceptable when he was still mashing righties, but he was not doing quite so well against them anymore. When a viable platoon alternative to Overbay at first base against lefties emerged in mid-August with the Indians' release of Mark Reynolds, the Yankees jumped at the opportunity.
Now, Overbay was no longer playing against lefties at all, but that did not help his performance one bit. During the season's final two months, he hit a minuscule .214/.282/.291 with just five extra-base hits in 44 games. Fatigue likely set in for Overbay, who appeared in only 65 games in 2012 and 121 games in 2011. His mark of 142 games played in 2013 was the most he had in three years, and it really showed in August and September.
D+ is frankly a generous grade for him, but in a dire first base situation, Overbay did about as much as he could for the Yankees at this stage in his career, so it's unfair to blame him too much for his contributions to this disappointing season. Teixeira's injury put them in a bind, and the Yankees were forced to make the best of a bad situation. Overbay was exactly a replacement-level player by Fangraphs WAR, epitomizing mediocrity. Unfortunately for the Yankees, there just weren't great alternatives at first base to Overbay for the majority of the season until they acquired Reynolds.
Given his gradual decline in production and retirement contemplation before the season, 2013 might be the end of Overbay's career. If it is, a ledger of 13 seasons, 342 doubles, 147 homers, a 106 wRC+, 11.5 fWAR, 17.1 rWAR, and a career .267/.348/.434 triple slash is a worthy of applause. Perhaps as a bench player he could catch on somewhere else for a 14th year. While it wouldn't be the worst thing for the Yankees to bring him back as Teixeira's backup who cracks the lineup every now and then and pinch-hits against righties off the bench, they could almost certainly do better than him. It's time to move on; Overbay is just another part of the frustrating 2013 season that the Yankees should try to forget.
One last time though: