There’s typically two types of non-roster invites that teams have at major league camp in spring training. One is the prospects, whether they be highly-rated ones that a team is giving major league experience to, or randoms that are around for depth.
The other kind is assorted veterans. Whether they be career minor leaguers who’ve maybe gotten a cup of coffee in the bigs or semi-notable names nearing the end of their career, you can find plenty filling out the bottom of the lineups of every spring training game. Odds are these players aren’t going to make a major league rosters without injuries, but they’re needed to provide minor league depth. You also occasionally get the ones trying to showcase themselves to get a job somewhere, even if it’s not the team they’re playing with in February.
This year’s crop of that category includes the likes of Chris Iannetta, Zack Granite, Nick Tropeano, and Dan Otero, among others. There is technically a road for each of them to end up in New York, but it’s more unlikely than not. However as we saw last year, it’s not impossible.
Last year, we saw some people we would have never expected end up in the majors due to injuries. Despite that, there were still some names from the baseball recent past who went to spring training with the Yankees, only to not end up in New York. Let’s look back at some of those names and see where they are now.
Once upon a time, Ryan Lavarnway was a top 100 prospect for the Red Sox. Various outlets had him in the 90s in 2012, the year after when he broke into the majors with Boston. His initial stint in 2011 went okay, but in 46 games with the Red Sox in 2012, he hit .157/.211/.248. After that season, he played just 34 games for them before he was jettisoned. He has since become a journeyman, having stints in Baltimore (where he had a 2 OPS+, 2!), Atlanta, Oakland, and Pittsburgh.
The Yankees signed him to a minor league deal in November 2018 and he went to spring training the following spring. He hit well in Tampa, however, Gary Sanchez had multiple IL stints last year and Lavarnway never sniffed the majors with them. He did go to triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, and while the Yankees did eventually release him, he was picked up by the Reds and played in the majors. However, he didn’t even end the season there, as he made the cross-Ohio move and finished 2019 in the Indians’ organization.
As for 2020, Lavarnway signed as a non-roster invite with the Marlins, where he is the fourth catcher listed on their depth chart behind fellow Yankee legend Francisco Cervelli among others.
In spite of all the chaos and the injuries going on in the majors, Billy Burns played the entire 2019 season in triple-A in the Yankees’ organization. After a spring where he OPSed .378, it wasn’t the most shocking thing that he got stuck behind the likes of Mike Tauchman.
He became a free agent after the 2019 season where he finished with 69 hits. As of yet, no team had picked him up, and he hasn’t updated his Twitter since October.
It was a similar story for Drew Hutchison. The former Blue Jay had a 4.32 ERA in eight innings with the Yankees in spring, but was sent to triple-A. He did worse there, and eventually found himself released. The Twins and Angels also gave him a shot with their triple-A teams, but he didn’t crack the majors with either of them, and is now seemingly out of organized ball.
Last but certainly not least on our look back is Danny Farquhar.
After spending part of the 2012 season in the Yankees’ organization, Farquhar went on to give some solid bullpen years to the Mariners and Rays before joining the White Sox in 2017. In April 2018, he collapsed in the dugout after pitching and it was revealed that he suffered a brain hemorrhage caused by an aneurysm.
Obviously when something like that happens, the first priority is the person’s actual health as opposed to whether or not they can play a sport. Thankfully, Farquhar recovered enough to not only get back to good health, but in January 2019, he began the comeback trail when he signed a minor league deal with the Yankees.
He threw just two inning in spring training and did not make the team, but was sent to triple-A. There, Farquhar appeared in two games, before the Yankees decided to release him. He announced his retirement shortly after that. Now, he is going down the coaching route as he will be a pitching coach for a minor league team in the White Sox organization.
You may have completely forgotten (or never known) that these guys ever had stints with the team. However, these type of players are an important part of the spring training ecosystem.