With the New Year rapidly approaching, the Yankees had no shortage of areas to fill, both in terms of player personnel side and the coaching side. However, in the midst of the lockout, teams may not add nor even contact players, but are free to fill the latter vacancies.
That’s exactly what the Yankees did this afternoon, rounding out their major league coaching staff by hiring Eric Chavez and Casey Dykes as assistant hitting coaches and Travis Chapman as the first base and infield coach. They were revealed as part of the team’s general announcement of the 2022 staff:
The Yankees today announced the 2022 coaching staff under Manager Aaron Boone. A prior version of this graphic erroneously omitted Quality Control and Catching Coach Tanner Swanson. pic.twitter.com/fBlaTpEi8f— New York Yankees (@Yankees) December 21, 2021
Speaking with reporters earlier in the month, Brian Cashman identified his coaching corps as an area he would prioritize upgrading following the departures of hitting coaches Marcus Thames and P.J. Pilittere, third-base coach Phil Nevin, and first-base coach Reggie Willits. It is easy to understand why the first three were let go, following the almost team-wide offensive regression under Thames and Pilittere and the at-times questionable send decisions by Nevin. Thames subsequently accepted an offer to become the Marlins hitting coach, Pilittere joined the Rockies, Nevin was hired as the Angels’ third-base coach, and Willits departed for a voluntary assistant coach position at his alma mater, the University of Oklahoma.
As for the new hires, Yankees fans will remember Chavez from his many years as a playoff rival in Oakland, and for his two-year stint with the Yankees in 2011-12. He played 171 games as Alex Rodriguez’s backup at third, batting .274/.338/.445 with 18 homers and 63 RBI. The six-time Gold Glove winner was also a member of the front office for a year in 2015 as a special assignment scout, his first job after retirement. Chavez has spent the rest of his post-playing days in the Angels’ organization, including a stint as manager of the Triple-A Salt Lake Bees in late 2018.
The Yankees originally hired Casey Dykes as a minor league hitting coach in September 2019, and he served as the hitting coach for the Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders in 2021. The Moonlight Graham-esque Travis Chapman is also an internal promotion, having served in various coaching roles for both Scranton and the Yankees’ former Low-A affiliate, the Charleston RiverDogs.
New York will hope this slate of fresh faces can help the Yankees’ hitters rediscover the offensive production that was missing for large stretches of the 2021 season. Perhaps familiarity between some of the younger players with their former minor league coaches is just what the doctor ordered. Time will tell.