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Yankees Potential Free Agent Target: Brock Holt

The former Red Sox utility infielder is no longer the supersub he was with Boston, but might be a worthwhile gamble on a minor league deal.

Texas Rangers v Baltimore Orioles Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

More than 10 weeks into the lockout now, and so far, nothing has changed. Rob Manfred has continued to spout his disingenuous lies, Major League Baseball has repackaged the same proposal in four different ways, and both the fans and the players’ union are waiting for real progress in the negotiations. That also means that the Yankees roster has not changed at all, which means that the team still needs to fill the hole at shortstop, get a lefty bat, and add a pitcher.

Oh, and considering the fact that they have exactly four infielders on the 40-man roster with major league experience — Luke Voit, Gleyber Torres, Gio Urshela, and DJ LeMahieu (no, Miguel Andújar does not count) — they probably should also add a veteran utility infielder.

The Yankees entered both the 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 offseasons with Tyler Wade and Thairo Estrada as the team’s primary bench pieces. In both winters, I advocated that the Yankees add Brock Holt, as I lacked faith in both. Of course, neither are now on the 40-man roster, with a pair of top prospects with minimal experience at Triple-A, Oswaldo Cabrera and Oswald Peraza, currently filling the role of infield depth. Hypothetically, this is the perfect time for the Yankees to bring in the former Red Sox All-Star — yep, that’s still weird to say — however, much has changed over the last two seasons.

When Holt hit free agency in 2019, his value was at an all-time high. He had just posted his second consecutive season with an OPS+ above 100 and an on-base percentage above .360, and over the course of that year, he demonstrated competent defensive ability at first base (0 Defensive Runs Saved, 0 Outs Above Average in 24 innings), second base (4 DRS, 5 OAA in 469.1 innings), third base (0 DRS, 1 OAA in 22 innings), shortstop (1 DRS, 1 OAA in 33 innings), and in both corner outfield positions (-1 DRS, -2 OAA in 78.2 innings). He turned this into a one-year, $3.25 million contract with the Milwaukee Brewers for 2020 with a team option for 2021.

Holt’s 2020 was an absolute disaster, however, as he slashed just .211/.283/.274 (52 OPS+) in 36 games between the Brewers and Washington Nationals. Because of this, he only received a minor league deal with the Texas Rangers, and although he made the team out of spring training as the Opening Day third baseman, he did nothing to put his career back on track. Splitting the hot corner with Charlie Culberson and rookies Yonny Hernández, Andy Ibañez, and Anderson Tejeda, his .209/.281/.298 slash line (61 OPS+) was lower than every full season since 2017. Playing exclusively at third, he continued to flash the leather (4 DRS, 1 OAA), but that’s about the only positive thing he did in 2021.

At this point in his career, Brock Holt is a strong defender at third who has a good track record, but limited reps in recent years at other positions, and whose performance at the plate compares unfavorably to four National League pitchers with at least 30 plate appearances — Jacob deGrom’s 112 wRC+, Max Fried’s 77, Huascar Ynoa’s 67, and Germán Márquez’s 65 are all higher than his 2021 wRC+ of 62. On a major league deal, bringing in Holt would be a mistake. But as I always say, there’s no such thing as a bad minor league deal, and if the Yankees want to gamble that his winter with Mookie Betts and spring training with new hitting coach Dillon Lawson can help bring his back closer to league average, then by all means, they should bring him in for spring training.

Whenever that happens, of course.