Sometimes the best options aren’t always the most obvious ones. The Yankees have found success finding the right veteran on the free agent market and turning his fortunes around. Matt Holliday was supposed to be that guy in 2017, but a surprise sickness ended up costing him most of the season. Now, the Yankees have the chance to try again with Matt Adams.
Just a few years ago, Adams was making his way to becoming one of the best young talents in the game. In 2013, at just 24, he gave the Cardinals a 135 wRC+ performance, and then followed it up with an above-average 116 wRC+ over a full season the following year. The 2015 season ended up being a year lost to injury, and by 2016, St. Louis was likely over him after he hit .249/.309/.471.
In 2017, Adams came out of the gate with a disappointing first month before he was cast off to the Atlanta Braves. He rebounded and ended up hitting .271/.315/.543 with his new team and slugging a career-high 20 home runs on the year. In the end, even that performance didn’t impress the Braves enough to hold onto him, and the team non-tendered him this winter.
Now that he’s sitting on the free agent market, with one last year of arbitration still due to him, the Yankees have an opportunity to nab him for cheap. Adams is due somewhere between $3-4 million this season in arbitration, which is about the same cost Brian Cashman already paid for Chris Carter, but he comes with a little bit more upside. If the Yankees were to take him as a serious possibility, there will have to be some ground rules, though.
Heading into his age-29 season, Adams is a first baseman in name only. He has spent his entire career in the National League thus far, and it has hurt him. In his big 2013 and 2014 seasons, he was worth just 3.6 WAR total, thanks to his abysmal play in the field. If he were to come to the Bronx, the Yankees would be able to park him in the designated hitter role, where he belongs, and he would only have to concentrate on hitting.
The thing about Adams, though, is he’s a left-handed version of Chris Carter, just with far less dramatic numbers. He doesn’t walk, still strikes out a lot, and doesn’t hit nearly as many home runs. That being said, Adams is a much more talented hitter, with the ability to hit to all fields and a power bat that has a tendency to pull, giving him the perfect opportunity to do more for himself inside the friendly confines of Yankee Stadium.
The Yankees could use another bat, but with very little wiggle room, and a healthy Greg Bird, there’s not much in the way of room on this roster. If Cashman targets Adams, it’s as a low-risk, high-reward signing that could give the team an everyday DH who can easily be jettisoned if things don’t work out in the end.