Expanded rosters in April and the new 13/13 split of 26-man rosters coming in May means that the Yankees can carry an extra bench piece than in previous seasons, and the likely beneficiary of these changes might just be a veteran the Yankees picked up on a minor league deal. Marwin González has paired a brilliant spring with strong defensive versatility, and entering this week, he had the inside track on that last bench spot. On Monday, he was told by Aaron Boone that he’s made the team.
2021 Stats: 911 G, 307 PA, 5 HR, .199/.275/.304, .259 wOBA, 58 wRC+, -0.7 fWAR.
FanGraphs Depth Chart Projection: 23 G, 98 PA, 3 HR, .233/.300/.369, .293 wOBA, 85 wRC+, 0.1 fWAR.
So let’s get the bad out of the way first. González was truly bad last season, the continuation of a three-year offensive decline. A 1.231 spring OPS is nice, don’t get me wrong, but 21 trips up to bat pales in comparison to the 969 plate appearances taken over the past three seasons — a stretch in which González has managed just a .661 OPS.
The real benefit to Marwin breaking camp with the club is his versatility. The only positions he didn’t play in 2021 were catcher and center field, and while he doesn’t steal the show at any position, he also doesn’t hurt you. Given the questions, both around infield defense — cough, Gleyber Torres — and outfield health risks, carrying a player who really can do it all defensively is an obvious plus. The Yankees won’t necessarily have to turn to Torres to fill in for Isiah Kiner-Falefa since they’ll have González in tow.
We know the Yankees already have a high opinion of designated rest days. They’ve been doing it for a couple seasons, and with the compressed spring training, I think we’re likely to see even more designated rest for individual players. This all means that guys who we might think of as backups or “rovers” “like DJ LeMahieu and González, will probably be playing more than just making rare cameos.
However, I certainly would trust DJ to hit better than Marwin, and while it’s obviously less important for your bench pieces to swing a big stick, if the Yankees are going to give González three starts a week, he can’t be a .579 OPS hitter like he was last year. The Yankees are already trading bad offense for good defense at a number of positions this season; adding another semi-regular to the defensive rotation will cost them as the year goes on.
So really, the question of Marwin González’s value is whether he can get back up to that 85-95 wRC+ level he’s been at multiple times before. I don’t think he’ll ever hit at a 144 wRC+ clip again, like he did in 2017, but if he can be at least un-unplayable, he fills a valuable rotational role coming off the bench.