2014 Statistics: 91 games, .237/.300/.360, 5 HR, 84 wRC+, 1.5 bWAR, 0.2 fWAR
2015 Contract Status: Retired
Well, Brian Roberts certainly did not have it easy this year. After 13 seasons as a member of the Baltimore Orioles, where he was once one of the best second baseman in baseball, Roberts became a free agent for the first time in his career. His struggles since a 2010 concussion saw him receive little interest on the market, and he ultimately signed with the New York Yankees for $2 million dollars and the impossible job of replacing Robinson Cano.
It turned out that Roberts wasn't good enough to block off prospects like Robert Refsnyder and Jose Pirela this season, but he can't be held accountable for roster decisions. In any case, even after he was cut, Stephen Drew was the primary second baseman for most of the remaining season whenever Martin Prado was needed elsewhere. Thus, it is important to leave out any consideration for prospects when evaluating Roberts in 2014. It is also unreasonable to turn this into a referendum on the decision not to re-sign Cano. Brian Roberts must be judged purely on his own performance. His only problem there being that his performance was really bad.
The 91 games Roberts played for the Yankees this year represents his highest yearly total since 2009. That's a positive. It's also the only positive from his dismal 2014. The only mystery for me is how the Baseball-Reference calculation of Wins Above Replacement came to plus 1.5, the FanGraphs number of 0.2 seems a far more intuitive fit. He provided well-below average production at the plate as exhibited by the above statline, and his fielding was nothing to write home about either; his -5.3 UZR in half a season of games fits in well with both the more conventional numbers (10 errors, 0.974 fielding percentage) and the eye test.
There is simply no sugar-coating this: Brian Roberts proved he was done as a regular player. There is nothing to qualify his below-average OPS+ and wRC+ and nothing to suggest he had the potential to rebound into something closer to his pre-2010 self. His isolated power, strikeout and walk rates were all around career norms. The one striking number was his batted average on balls-in-play (BABIP) being below league average, but as the below graph demonstrates, he hasn't matched league-average in BABIP since 2009.
It was hard to call the signing a mistake when it cost only $2 million dollars and ultimately wasn't the reason any prospects were blocked. However, it is now time to look somewhere else. New York isn't going to get Robinson Cano production from second base again in the near future, but it would be useful to see if someone can actually provide league average production with the bat as well as being a solid glove at a critical up-the-middle position.
Ultimately, Roberts has decided to retire after this season, ending a very solid 14-year career in Major League Baseball despite his sluggish, injury-hit finish.