November is the time of year when major league rosters experience a lot of turnover. New players must be protected from the Rule 5 Draft, and the 60-man injured list goes away crowding 40-man rosters immediately following the World Series. Numerous players end up on the waiver wire, and available for trades as teams try to protect as many current and future assets as possible. This is what happened last November, when the Yankees acquired two players who never played a game for the franchise, but showed that the front office was quick to set a productive floor of talent on the roster, before they entered the free agent market.
Hanser Alberto was acquired off waivers from the Texas Rangers on November 2. Alberto was coming off a 2018 where he hit .330 in 101 games with the Rangers’ Triple-A affiliate. He struggled at the major league level, never producing above a 28 wRC+ in three seasons of short stints with Texas. Out of minor league options, he was put on waivers and promptly claimed by the Yankees. Alberto’s defensive versatility was most likely on the Yankees mind when they claimed him, as he played five different positions in 2018 between the minors and majors. The Yankees by this point knew that Didi Gregorius was going to miss a significant portion of the season, and adding quality infielders would be a priority.
The Yankees did not stand still and accept Alberto as their only piece of middle infield depth. The signing of Troy Tulowitzki in early January still did not end Alberto’s time with the team, but he was deemed expendable as the Yankees closed in on a contracts with DJ LeMahieu, and Zack Britton over the next two weeks. Alberto landed with the Baltimore Orioles and put together a fine season, finishing among the American League leaders with a .305 batting average. While a low walk rate and limited power showed the limits of his offensive production, he played solid enough defense at second base and third base that Baseball Reference credited him with 3.1 bWAR.
In another November transaction, the Yankees traded Drew Finley, a former third round pick who had not seen his ERA finish under six for two straight seasons, for outfielder Tim Locastro from the Dodgers. Locastro played in 21 major league games over the two preceding seasons, but had performed well at the minor league level. Locastro also possesses the ability to cover all three outfield positions. Once again, he was an early offseason addition to set the floor of the 40-man roster, and not to be relied on as a major contributor. Locastro, unlike Alberto, had one more year of minor league options, but as the offseason played out, he still did make it to spring training with the Yankees. In need of roster spots for free agents in mid-January, Locastro was designated for assignment three days after Alberto’s release, and traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Assigned to the Triple-A Reno Aces orginally, Locastro was recalled several times during the season, and played in 91 games for a surprising Arizona team that stayed in the hunt for a Wild Card spot much of the season. In those 91 games he was credited with 0.9 bWAR, and was able to record a .357 OBP. He also played over 110 innings at all three outfield positions, including outstanding defensive metrics for his work in right field.
Players like Locastro and Alberto will come and go this offseason. The Yankees analytic department is likely looking for just these types of players as they try to improve the talent level at the bottom of the roster. After seeing players like Luke Voit and Mike Tauchman excel for the Yankees after being overlooked or blocked in their previous organizations, players like Locastro and Alberto serve as another measure of success for the Yankees’ front office. If free agency had not landed players like DJ LeMahieu or Troy Tulowitzki, then these guys would have been showing their value in the Yankees lineup and would have contributed to the next man up mentality.