If a time machine opened up in front of you in early April 2023 and told you that Jake Bauers would play over half the season on the Yankees big league roster, you would probably have some questions. The most likely way a guy who had been a stereotypical Quad-A player would get that much time on the roster is injuries or general meh-ness from the rest of the roster. Bad news is: in the case of the 2023 Yankees, it was both.
While Bauers had some moments, in general he was what you would’ve expected from said Quad-A type of player. He just played way more than we might’ve expected.
2023 Statistics: 84 games, 272 PA, .202/.279/.413, 12 HR, 89 wRC+, .297 wOBA, -0.5 fWAR
2024 Contract Status: Arbitration eligible
After a hot start — a 1.382 OPS in 24 games — down in Triple-A, the Yankees called Bauers up in late April, looking to help out a offense that was both meh and going through some injuries. His Yankee career then very nearly ended before it had barely started. In the bottom of the first of his first game with the team, he crashed into a wall in Texas, making an otherwise nice catch against the Rangers.
Bauers went down in a heap after sliding into the wall and had to helped off the field. For a moment, it seemed like he was going to see his Yankee career go the way of Dustin Fowler, where he would get hurt before his first at-bat with the team and never play for them again. However, Bauers only ended up missing a few days, and was back in the lineup for a full game on May 3rd, where he homered in a Yankees’ win.
As it turned out, Bauers would end up remaining on the roster for most of the rest of the year, save for an IL stint in July.
Offensively, he was not great, but fine for someone originally brought in as a Triple-A depth guy. He slugged 12 homers, and in general made a decent amount of hard contact over the season. His expected stats suggest he was a bit better than his final numbers actually were.
He certainly wasn’t someone you’d want hitting in a top six position in the lineup as much as he did. That being said, the Yankees having to rely on him as much as he did wasn’t his problem solely.
The one aspect of his game where you could say Bauers did struggle was on defense. A large part of that is down to the fact that he ended up playing 367.2 innings in the outfield. It’s certainly not as if he had never played the outfield coming into this season, but his natural position is more at first base. (Over 5000 career professional innings at first base, compared to 2500 in the outfield.) However, his -3 Outs Above Average in the outfield certainly dragged his overall defensive metrics down a bit. Even if you to go more on the eye test, there were some obvious clunkers in there.
As for the future, the Yankees could theoretically bring Bauers back, as he’s arbitration eligible for 2024. However, he was projected to get $1.7 million in arbitration, and it’s hard to imagine the Yankees bring him back for that price considering that he was at best “fine” in 2023.