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Which Yankees had the best reunion tours?

Several Yankees have come back for a second stint with the Bombers. Some have panned out, while others never should have returned.

New York Yankees v Seattle Mariners Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images

The New York Yankees love to help out their former players, sometimes offering them a second chance to put on the pinstripes. The most recent example of this was the Yankees re-acquiring David Robertson in a trade not even three years after letting him walk in free agency. Unfortunately, Robertson is gone again, and, entering his age-34 season, does not appear likely to return to the Yankees.

Robertson’s encore run with the Yankees was almost as successful as his first, a true rarity among players who are brought back for a second stint. In that respect, which other players have had the best return trips to New York, and who should have kept their bags packed?

Impactful Reunions

The most notable Yankee to return home is Andy Pettitte, who actually pitched for the Yankees over three separate stints. In the first, Pettitte established himself as a front-line starter. After the Yankees foolishly let him go play for the Houston Astros from 2004-2006, they corrected their error by bringing him back from 2007-2010, an era that included one more All-Star Game appearance and ultimately, another World Series ring for Pettitte.

After retiring for one year, Pettitte returned once more to the Yankees from 2012-2013, and went out with a bang, a complete game victory over his hometown Astros. Pettitte’s three stints with the Bombers were all effective, which is why his number 46 will never be worn again by any Yankee.

David Wells pitched for 10 teams, but is best remembered as a New York Yankee. His two tenures as a Yankee never had a dull moment, and included a perfect game, an All-Star nomination, and a 3rd-place finish in Cy Young voting. Wells went 68-28 as a Yankee, and was never scared of a big moment.

Finally, there’s Alfonso Soriano. From 2001-2003, Soriano was a sparkplug atop the Yankees’ lineup as a 40-homer, 40-steals threat. He was the centerpiece of the Alex Rodriguez trade, and had solid years in Texas, Washington and Chicago before ending his career where he began from 2013-2014. He hit 17 home runs and drove in 50 runs in his first 58 games of his second stint, and was still a fearsome part of the lineup at age 37.

Worth bringing back, but not quite as good the second time

Tino Martinez was another legacy Yankee let go far too early. While Jason Giambi replaced Martinez capably with the bat, he certainly couldn’t field like him, which led to the Yankees reacquiring Martinez in 2005. He didn’t play much, but provided some pop off the bench. Most notably, he hit eight home runs in eight games in May of 2005. That stretch alone made re-signing Martinez worth it for many fans.

One of the best stories of the 1990s Yankees was their signing of Dwight Gooden, who came back from a broken past to help the Yankees win two World Series. Doc threw a no-hitter his first time in pinstripes, but was still solid at age-35 in 2000 as a spot starter and long reliever. Gooden went 4-2 with a 3.36 ERA for the Yankees the second time around, and beat his former team, the New York Mets, in the World Series before retiring.

Finally, with the Yankees desperate for starting pitching in 2007, George Steinbrenner talked Roger Clemens, 44 years old at the time, to come back. Clemens went 6-6 over 17 starts, but bombed in the playoffs and cost the Yankees over $1 million per start. Clemens’ first go-round was far more successful.

Two-Time Busts

Unfortunately, there are also a few two-time Yankees that were bad on both occasions. The most notable is probably Javier Vazquez. He started strong in 2004 and actually made the All-Star team, but faded badly down the stretch and fell out of the postseason rotation.

After the Yankees traded him for Randy Johnson in 2005, Vazquez put up solid numbers, which convinced Brian Cashman to trade for him again in 2010. His second stint went even worse, and saw him again demoted to the bullpen and left off the postseason roster. Vazquez was useful for several other teams, but just didn’t work out in the Bronx, twice.

The Yankees didn’t come up with too many hot pitching prospects in the mid-2000s. One of them was Tyler Clippard. He came up as a spot starter in 2007 before being dealt to the Nationals. Clippard went on to make two All-Star teams, and the Yankees gave him another shot in 2016. His first year was fine, but the wheels came off in 2017 to the tune of five blown saves and seven home runs allowed in just 36 innings. He was dealt to the White Sox in a trade that netted the Yankees David Robertson, Tommy Kahnle and Todd Frazier.

The final two-time bust for the Yankees is Nick Johnson. Noted for his patient batter’s eye, Johnson just couldn’t stay healthy. He had one good year as a Yankee in 2003, but was traded the next season for Vazquez (go figure). Johnson was re-signed in 2010, but only hit .167 with two home runs in 24 games. He somehow put together a .388 OBP, walking twice as many times as he got a hit (24 walks to 12 hits in 24 games).