Thirteen players on the Yankees 2015 postseason roster were developed by other teams. In fact, and this might shock you, the Yankees have a bit of a reputation for reaping the performance of players drafted and/or developed elsewhere. However, Transaction Boulevard isn’t a one-way street. There are seven former Yankees on other teams’ postseason rosters this October, and that's not counting relievers Randy Choate and Chad Qualls, who were left off their teams' respective playoff rosters. In this piece, I take a look at all seven active players, ranking them in terms of their importance to their current team, and their potential (from lowest to highest) for impacting their new squad’s postseason performance.
Ross Ohlendorf, RHP - Texas Rangers
A big, physical righty relief arm, Curtis Ross Ohlendorf appeared in 21 games this season for the Texas Rangers. He notched a 3.94 ERA, a figure that was undoubtedly inflated by his most recent appearance last Saturday when he allowed 5 hits and 3 runs in just two-thirds of an inning to the Angels. Remarkably, Ohlendorf made Texas’ postseason roster after not pitching in the major leagues at all last season. But without many dependable arms in what amounts to an extraordinarily young bullpen, tabbing the experience of Ohlendorf for the roster makes some sense. Ohlendorf is a sinker/slider guy, topping out at 93-94, who relies on his ability to generate ground balls. It is worth noting, however, that he had the highest strikeout rate of his career this year. He punched out 19 batters in 19 big league innings. But despite the improved whiff rate, he’s essentially their last resort and I wouldn’t be surprised if Ohlendorf didn’t throw a single pitch in this series.
Yankee fans might remember Ohlendorf, the Princeton alum, from his season and a half in pinstripes oh-so-long ago. Acquired alongside Luis Vizcaino and Alberto Gonzalez from Arizona in the 2007 deal that shipped Randy Johnson back to the desert, Ohlendorf pitched a grand total of 46 1/3 innings spread over 31 appearances (3 starts) during his time in pinstripes. He compiled a 6.53 ERA as the Yankees’ long reliever in 2008 before being shipped off to Pittsburgh alongside fellow mediocre pitchers Jeff Karstens and Daniel McCutchen (plus then-top prospect Jose Tabata) for Xavier Nady and Damaso Marte. Ohlendorf spent two surprisingly solid seasons in Pittsburgh’s rotation but has struggled with injuries and reduced effectiveness for the better part of the last four seasons. Although he’s hardly more than a footnote in Yankees history, Ohlendorf is notable in that he was involved in two of the team’s biggest trades of the last decade.
PS – What are the chances a team would have two clearly unrelated McCutchens at the same time??
PPS – This was written before Ohlendorf and his Paul Byrd-esque, arm-waving windup notched the extra inning save in Game 2 of the ALDS against Toronto. Naturally.
Bartolo Colon, RHP - New York Mets
With the retirement of Tim Hudson, Big Bad Bartolo Colon assumes the top slot on the career wins leaderboard for active pitchers. Sporting a 218-154 career mark, the portly right-hander is at or near the top of nearly every conceivable statistical category among active arms. He’s fourth in innings (2,980 2/3), third in starts (467), and third in strikeouts (2,237). He’s also second in earned runs allowed (1,314), and third in losses (154). With all those wins and losses, Colon is entering Cy Young territory. Yet it was exactly a decade ago, 2005, that Bartolo captured the annual pitching award named for the old-timey hurler when by going 21-5 for the Angels. Ahh, the good ol’ days when "men were men" and 20 wins actually meant something. It was a simpler time…
Bartolo has enjoyed astonishing longevity for someone who’s listed at 5’11", 285 pounds. Breaking into the major leagues with Cleveland in 1997, Colon joined a rotation that included a 38-year-old Orel Hershiser and a roster that included a 38-year-old Julio Franco. Who would have thought that he’d still be rolling along, nearly two decades later?
Since signing with the Mets two years ago, Colon has been remarkably consistent, posting near identical seasons in 2014 and 2015. At age 42, Colon delivered 194 2/3 innings, spread over 31 starts, at an ERA of 4.16. He’s no longer a strikeout pitcher (few 42-year-olds are), but he’s done a great job of limiting walks, issuing just 24 free passes this year. A FIP of 3.84 suggests that Large Bart actually threw a little better than his numbers indicate.
After a bit of uncertainty, it looks like Steven Matz will be ready to go come Game 4 of the NLDS. The rookie will get the start against the Dodgers and Colon will head to the bullpen. Given the ability of the Mets’ young hurlers to pitch deep into games and the tenuous idea of using a career starter who throws upper-80s fastballs nearly 85% of the time in high-pressure situations, I don’t expect Colon to be much of a factor in the first round. Should the Mets need long relief, they’ll be able to choose between Colon and southpaw Jon Niese. I’d expect matchups to determine if/when Bartolo is used in October.
Colon spent the 2011 season with the Yankees, making 26 starts and pitching to an even 4.00 ERA. The Yankees took a flier on the big fella, signing him for just $900,000 out of Venezuelan winter ball at the urging of bench coach Tony Peña. Injuries slowed him after his Cy Young season, and by the time he donned the Yankees’ slimming vertical stripes, Colon had made just 19 appearances in the previous three seasons, and none at all in 2010. Well, it’s safe to say the Yankees got their money’s worth. Bartolo helped the Yankees win 97 games and the AL East. Meanwhile, Colon used his successful season in New York as a springboard to a remarkable second career. This one’s a win-win. Put it in the books.
LaTroy Hawkins, RHP - Toronto Blue Jays
The 42-year-old righty is baseball’s second-longest tenured player (after A-Rod, of course). He made his debut alongside Kirby Puckett, Chuck Knoblauch, and the rest of the 1995 Minnesota Twins in a season that saw Mo Vaughn beat out Albert Belle and Edgar Martinez for the AL MVP. So yeah, it’s been a while.
When he’s not busy fending off the AARP, Hawkins was quietly effective after being dealt to Toronto alongside Troy Tulowitzki in late July. The veteran righty (and veteran is an understatement) logged a 2.76 ERA in 16 1/3 innings down the stretch, striking out 14 and walking just three. Like Texas, Toronto has a young, and largely playoff-untested, bullpen. But Old Man LaTroy is there to provide more than just stewardship. Dude can still ball out. Expect him in the sixth and seventh innings as part of a middle relief platoon of sorts with Aaron Loup and/or Brett Cecil. (Despite his Game 2 loss, Cecil's torn calf will probably mean even more exposure to Hawkins.) He mostly features a fastball/slider mix, though he’ll pepper in the occasional change. Incredibly, even as he approaches a half-century, the old fella can still sling it. He averaged a crisp 93 on the gun in 2015.
In his 21 seasons, Hawkins has played for 11 teams (including the Rockies twice). Fittingly, he put forward the worst performance of his career with the 2008 Yankees. Signed to replace the likes of Scott Proctor and Tom Gordon as Mariano’s appetizer, Hawkins coughed up a 5.71 ERA in 33 appearances. He also made the dire mistake of choosing to wear the sacred #21, which no other man had dared to don before or since. Hawkins was just trying to honor his hero, Hall of Famer Roberto Clemente, but the Yankee Stadium fans unfortunately would not allow it. After being booed off the field one too many times in the Bronx, New York sent Hawkins off to Houston at the trade deadline. Of course, he pitched to a sub-1 ERA in 21 innings with the ‘Stros in ’08, and since then has been a dependable bullpen arm for the Brewers, Angels, Mets, and Rockies before winding up north of the border this season.
So yeah, it didn’t work out, but he probably could have made a better choice of uniform number. Because that’s about the only thing I remember of LaTroy Hawkins, Yankee.
Mark Reynolds, 1B/3B - St. Louis Cardinals
A platoon corner infielder if there ever was one, the righty-swinging Reynolds is likely to be the Cards’ first bat off the bench in October. This season, Reynolds played in 140 games, slashing .230/.315/.398 and swatting 13 homers. With Matt Adams missing several months, the 32-year-old Kentuckian was pressed into more playing time than the Cardinals had anticipated, playing first base full-time until the acquisition of Brandon Moss in late July. But even with Adams omitted from the NLDS roster, Reynolds’ role is still primarily as a pinch-hitter. The rookie Stephen Piscotty appears to be manager Mike Matheny’s choice at first base, relegating Reynolds and his career .143 postseason batting average to the role of bench jockey, John Lackey’s mole fluffer, and late-inning, free-swinging hero.
Throughout his nine-year career, Reynolds has done two things extremely well: hit home runs and strike out. Case in point: 2009, when a 25-year-old Reynolds blasted 44 dingers and led baseball with a record 223 strikeouts as a member of the Diamondbacks. Between 2008 and 2011, Reynolds was the whiffing image of a Three True Outcomes hitter, averaging 35 homers, 208 strikeouts, 74 walks, and a .229 batting average during that timeframe. He’s remained occasionally productive as a part-time player since then, and his massive power always makes him a threat to capitalize on pitchers’ mistakes.
Reynolds was briefly a Yankee, picking up 110 at-bats in 36 games with the team platoon during the final six weeks of the 2013 season after being released by the Indians. Platooning with Lyle Overbay at first base, he did Mark Reynolds things, batting .236/.300/.455 while hitting six bombs and limiting his strikeouts to under one per game (31). Though some fans pushed to retain the slugger, doing so never seemed to be much of a priority for the front office. Reynolds signed a one-year deal with the Brewers for 2014 where he again paired with Overbay. Unsurprisingly, he blasted 22 round-trippers while his batting average dipped below the Mendoza Line.
Tyler Clippard, RHP - New York Mets
Okay, now we’re in impact player territory.
Few remember that Clippard actually broke into the bigs as a member of the Yankees’ rotation. In fact, I still have the ticket stub from his major league debut—-May 20, 2007 against the Mets at Shea Stadium. That day, Clippard fired six strong innings and earned the win. He struck out six while walking three and allowing just one run: a solo home run to David Wright. Unfortunately, it was mostly downhill from there. The bespectacled righty made five more starts for the team in 2007, generating a 6.33 ERA in 27 innings before being dealt to the Nationals the following winter for the immortal Jonathan Albaladejo.
Washington put Clippard in the bullpen full-time in 2009 (coincidentally, the same year Albaladejo collected his World Series ring). The switch to the pen allowed him to play up his changeup and mitigated his lack of a third pitch. Suddenly, he became dominant. Clippard enjoyed six seasons in Washington as arguably baseball’s best non-closer relief pitcher. In 454 innings, Clippard punched out 522 batters while keeping his ERA around 2.65 and making a couple of All-Star teams. But Washington sent Clippard to Oakland last winter in exchange for Yunel Escobar.
Since he was acquired by the Mets on July 27th for minor-league righty Casey Meisner, Clippard has been solid in an eighth inning role, accruing a 3.06 ERA in 32 1/3 innings. Though at age 30, Tyler’s performance has regressed a touch from his 2014 dominance, he’s still an above-average late inning arm. Clippard tops out in the low-90s. His arsenal is almost entirely fastball/changeup, though he has incorporated both a cutter and a splitter this year. The key to beating Clippard is aggressiveness. Hitters can’t allow him to get ahead in the count and utilize his high-70s changeup. That thing is the stuff of legend.
Curtis Granderson, RF - New York Mets
The Grandy Man Can….Ohhhhh the Grandy Man Cannnnn……
The now-34-year-old Granderson walloped 84 homers for the Yanks in 2011 and 2012, the very most in baseball. That doesn’t even feel like real life at this point.
The Chicago native has amassed quite a respectable career since becoming a full-time player in 2006. He’s got 263 homers, 141 steals, and 84 triples. He has made three All-Star teams, collected a silver slugger, and even finished fourth in MVP voting in 2011. He’s been the speedy, slick-fielding, rookie centerfielder for a Tigers team that reached the World Series in 2006; he’s been a middle-of-the-order bopper for some great Yankees teams; and he’s been a powerful leadoff threat and veteran leader for one of the most likeable, upstart teams of this century. In his time in baseball, Curtis has done basically everything except for winning a championship.
The Mets inked him to a four-year, $60 million contract before 2014 and after a down season last year, Granderson rebounded to slash .259/.364/.457 for the Amazin’s this year, crushing 26 homers from the leadoff spot in the batting order. Of course, young pitching identifies the Mets, but Curtis brings 131 at-bats worth of October experience to what is already a veteran lineup. With two more years left on his deal, the Mets hope Granderson can continue his productivity as he approaches his late thirties.
Curtis came to the Yankees in a rare win-win-win three-team trade with Detroit and Arizona in the offseason following the 2009 season. The Yankees, looking to upgrade at center field, the one weak spot in their lineup, acquired Granderson from the Tigers while relinquishing Austin Jackson, Ian Kennedy, and Phil Coke. Kennedy and Edwin Jackson joined the Diamondbacks while Max Scherzer and Daniel Schlereth went from the desert to the Motor City. Of course, Kennedy went on to win 20 games with Arizona in 2011 and Max Scherzer became…well…Max Scherzer. See? Win-win-win.
PS – Curtis is truly one of the "good guys" in baseball. His kind personality and off-the-field charitable efforts make him an athlete truly worth rooting for. Curtis! You’re something sort of Grandish!
Russell Martin, C - Toronto Blue Jays
…Which of course brings us to the top spot on our list. The only one of these guys to make the All-Star team in 2015, Martin batted .240/.329/.458 during his first season with Toronto. Of course, he was instrumental in leading the Jays to their first division title and playoff appearance since 1993.
A decade into his big league career, and Martin already has quite a resume. He’s just three stolen bases away from joining Carlton Fisk and Ivan Rodriguez as the only catchers with 100 home runs and 100 steals. He has made the playoffs in eight of his ten seasons and is the first catcher in history to do so with four different teams. He’s been the vocal leader on two different teams that ended historical playoff droughts (the 2015 Blue Jays and 2013 Pittsburgh Pirates). He has a Gold Glove and a Silver Slugger in addition to four All-Star nods. He draws walks and limits strikeouts, and that dude is tough as nails behind the dish. If Toronto is to advance in the postseason, they’ll need Martin to have a good series--not just with his bat, but defensively as well.
Toronto’s Game 2 and Game 3 starters, Marcus Stroman and Marco Estrada, are both young pitchers without postseason experience. The Jays also have a young, inexperienced bullpen that includes a rookie closer, Roberto Osuna. These young arms will depend on Russell to guide them through the game, steering them toward confidence and winning pitches.
Inexplicably, the Dodgers non-tendered Martin following a 2010 season where the Montreal native he was hampered by injuries. New York signed him on the cheap and reaped the benefits. In his two seasons in pinstripes, Russell muscled 39 homers, 35 doubles, and drove in 118, typically hitting from the nine-hole. He drilled a walk-off home run on June 10, 2012, taking Jon Rauch deep to left field, giving the Yanks a 5-4 Subway Series victory.
Ownership got stingy with Martin after the 2012 season and refused to match Pittsburgh’s two-year $17 million offer. It was a terrible move both in hindsight and in regular sight—particularly since the Yankees used the money to pay Kevin Youkilis, Ichiro Suzuki, and Vernon Wells. Martin went on to have two great seasons with the Pirates before returning to his native Canada on a five-year, $82 million contract with Toronto.