There's a certain stigma that comes with being a veteran pickup for the New York Yankees. Their recent history has been littered with stopgap solutions to fix roster deficiencies probably highlighted by the $12 million they dumped down the toilet for the services of Kevin Youkilis (.648 OPS for the Rakuten Golden Eagles, ouch) in 2013. So when you spend the gross domestic product of a small nation to revamp your roster but bring in the fragile and aged Brian Roberts not on a flyer, but to be entrenched as your starting second baseman, eyebrows will be raised. And it certainly doesn't help matters when the guy hits like a pitcher through the first three weeks of the season.
With Yangervis Solarte swooping in and hitting so well and taking over third, Mark Teixeira back at first and Derek Jeter more entrenched than an oak tree at short, it seemed only logical to plug in Kelly Johnson at second nearly every day. After all, as of April 21st Roberts was sporting a .156/.278/.222 batting line while Johnson had already smacked three dingers and had an OPS over 200 points higher. However, Joe Girardi is a manager that follows whims and hunches that are not always easy to discern so Roberts stayed while Johnson was relegated to part-time duty. Like many of you, I was less than thrilled by this development.
In what I assume was a deliberate effort to make me feel stupid, Roberts has been awesome since that point. In his last 13 games Roberts is hitting .340/.389/.440 with an OPS of .829. His incredibly clutch homer on Tuesday to win the game was only the cherry on top of what has been an outstanding stretch. He's upped his wRC+ to 88 for the season, which is just about serviceable for your average second baseman. He had been working walks all season at a good pace (11.0 BB%) and now he's combining it with actual base hits. With Roberts hitting, Solarte breaking out of a recent slump and Brendan Ryan back from injury, things are looking up for the Yankees patchwork infield. If Derek Jeter is shaking off his cobwebs as well things are really in order.
Of course, you can never rest easy with Roberts due to his injury history and recent seasons of poor hitting. And that faith that Girardi showed in sticking with Roberts now could mean that he's staying with him until the bitter end no matter how he performs which could definitely be troublesome down the line. But there's always the trade deadline and Johnson still looms, so hopefully the Yankees can squeeze out every little bit of value that Roberts has until the other shoe drops and he breaks or goes the way of Vernon Wells. Or he keeps being great and there's nothing to worry about, but I'm not going to keep my hopes up for that scenario.
Regardless, Roberts has already shown to be one of the more helpful bargain pickups the Yankees have made in recent years just by virtue of helping the team for an extended period of time. And being responsible for the Yankees play with the most Win Probability Added so far this year is no small feat, assuring that he's already made an indelible mark on the 2014 season. Let's see if he's got more in store.