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Yankees sign Brian Roberts: A history of injury


To fill in their vacant hole at second base, the Yankees signed, not Omar Infante, not Mark Ellis, but Brian Roberts, a man who has played in less games over the last three years (133), than Robinson Cano played in 2013 alone (160). This was the Yankees' big signing to fill in for what they lost. A league-average switch-hitter, who, of course, can't hit lefties (92 wRC+) and hasn't been worth over 1.0 WAR since 2010. Of course this is who the Yankees signed.

At the very, very least, you can say they got him at a bargain. He signed a one-year, $2 million contract, but will likely spend most of the 2014 season on the disabled list. You don't believe me? I'll show you:

In 2010, Roberts got as far as April 9, before he suffered an abdominal strain and missed 84 games, returning by July 23. It was a season marked with plenty of injury, as he suffered a herniated disc in spring training, missed time with a hip strain, and then went down with a concussion.

In 2011, his season was over by May 16, missing 122 games after suffering a second concussion. He didn't return until June 12, 2012 and then his season ended by July 1 when he needed labrum surgery on his right hip, costing him another 84 games. In 2013, he lasted four days before he needed to undergo surgery to fix a hamstring tendon, missed 79 games, and then came back on June 30.

The biggest problem is that when he's finally healthy and able to produce, he hasn't been very good. In 192 games, Roberts has hit only .246/.310/.359 since 2010. He was a slightly above-average hitter over the four years before the injuries started, but that's when he was in his late-20's to early-30's, now he's 36 and unlikely to do much better.

This is just another in a long line of oft-injured bargain signings that end up being a flop. Nick Johnson was signed in 2010 and played until May 7 before he needed wrist surgery. Eric Chavez came in 2011 and missed 72 games between May 5 and July 26 after he broke his foot. He missed only a few games in 2012 between a concussion and back injury, but the Yankees got lucky there.

Feeling like these signings were working out so well, Brian Cashman decided to double down in 2013 and rely heavily on Kevin Youkilis and Travis Hafner. Youk was gone by April 20 due to a bulging disc, returned for one game, reaggrevated the injury, and didn't return until June 1. By the 13th he needed season-ending back surgery, missing a total of 111 games. Hafner surprisingly lasted much longer, though injury may have hampered his effectiveness. He struggled with shoulder tendonitis in May, but then was gone by July 26 with a rotator cuff strain, only returning for the last game of the season.

It seems like Brian Roberts will just be the next to be added to the large pile of bones out back. There's nothing wrong with making high-risk signings, but you can't depend on them. The Yankees seem to think you have to. Johnson and Hafner were expected to be the full-time DH, Chavez was meant to backup Alex Rodriguez, Youkilis was supposed to be the starting third baseman. Now Roberts is supposed to be the, what, starting second baseman? That should turn out well.