Despite my own personal, irrational dislike of Brock Holt over the past few years, last winter, I advocated for the Yankees to bring the longtime member of the Boston Red Sox to the Bronx to serve as a much-needed veteran utilityman. At the time, Tyler Wade and Thairo Estrada were the team’s primary bench pieces, and neither inspired much confidence.
Sound familiar? Much has changed over the past 12 months, but that need certainly has not gone away.
Holt would fill that need rather nicely. His bat has never been particularly strong — he’s posted an OPS+ above 100 only twice in his career, in 2018 and 2019 — and he’s never ranked well in hard-hit rate (25.9 percent in his career, 18.1 percent in 2020) or exit velocity (career-high 87.9 MPH in 2018 is still below the MLB average of 88.3). Over the course of his nine seasons, however, he has consistently gotten on base: from 2014 to 2019, he posted an OBP of .342, and only in 2017 did he reach base at a clip worse than .322. That .342 OBP would rank seventh among qualifiers on the 2020 Yankees, between Brett Gardner and Luke Voit.
Of course, Holt’s 2020 season is one that he certainly would want to forget. After signing a one year, $3.25 million contract with the Milwaukee Brewers in the offseason, he posted a .100/.222/.100 slash line in 16 games, a dismal -8 OPS+ that got him designated for assignment on August 22. While he did do better in limited action as a member of the Washington Nationals after signing with them on August 29th — .262/.314/.354, or a 78 OPS+, in 20 games — his final season totals represented his worst offensive campaign since 2017. His exit velocity was down, from 87.5 to 84 MPH, his xSLG dropped from .371 to .291, his xwOBA from .318 to .262, and he mustered only one barrel in 72 batted balls.
Holt’s true value, however, does not come with his bat, but rather, with his glove. Over the course of his career, he has played substantial innings at every position except center field. Holt has posted positive a DRS at the corner outfield spots over his career, and he’s serviceable at first base, second base, and third base, albeit without being elite. He has also demonstrated an ability to play a competent shortstop in a pinch (-2 DRS, 5.2 UZR/150, 3 OAA in 398 career innings).
If he hits only as well as he did with the Nationals, Holt represents an upgrade for the Yankees over Tyler Wade and Thairo Estrada, who posted a 66 and 29 OPS+, respectively. Last winter, following two strong seasons, he managed to sign only a $3.25 million contract in mid-February; in a depreciated market and after one of the worst seasons of his career, it’s unlikely that he will sign anything close to that, and may even have to accept an incentive-laden minor league deal with an invitation to spring training. At this price, the Yankees should definitely be in on Holt, for while he will definitely not raise the team’s ceiling, he will certainly augment the bottom of the roster and provide additional insurance against inevitable injuries.