Former Yankees Transitioning into New Roles, Teams

nick-swisherWith the Yankees currently in Cleveland for a four-game series, players and fans alike were able to get an up-close look at Nick Swisher donning an Indians uniform in Monday’s 11-6 win over the Tribe.  Swisher, now the starting first baseman in Cleveland, went 1-3 yesterday with two walks and a run scored.  With a first-inning single off of Hiroki Kuroda, Swisher brought his average up to an even .200.  Through seven games, he is 5-25 with one RBI and three runs scored.

After seeing Swish in another uniform, this article will take a look at other teams that are currently employing ex-Yankees and report on how the former Bombers are doing thus far in 2013.

Eric Chavez, who ended up playing much more of a role for the Yanks in 2012 than anyone expected, is settling into his new role as backup/platoon third baseman for the Arizona Diamondbacks.  With Martin Prado splitting his time between third base and the outfield, Chavez has already started two of the D-backs’ seven games at the hot corner.  Playing in a total of four games, the 35-year-old is 3-12 with three runs scored.

Considering the fact that manager Kirk Gibson has already been tinkering with the lineup and defensive layout quite often, Chavez could potentially see consistent on-field time in the near future.  While Prado is the starting third baseman – according to depth charts – he has started two games in the outfield already.  Although it is still very early on in the season, if rookie outfielder A.J. Pollock continues to struggle (currently hitting .176), Gibson will have no choice but to consider putting Prado in the outfield more often, leaving third base open for Chavez.  And Yankees fans know all too well what he can do with a “limited” role at third base – Chavez ended up playing in 113 games for the Yanks last year, hitting .281 with 16 homers and 37 RBI.

Joining Chavez in Arizona this year is another player that should be familiar to Yankees fans.  Eric Hinske only played in 39 games for the Yankees in 2009, hitting a forgettable .226 with seven home runs and 14 RBI.  However, the veteran gave the Bombers a powerful bat off the bench, and his ability to play third, first and all three outfield positions provided the team with some versatility.  Hinske also made the Yanks’ postseason roster that year, getting only one at-bat in Game 5 of the World Series (he earned a walk and scored a run).

After earning a World Series ring with the Yankees in 2009, Hinske spent the following three seasons with the Braves.  With the Diamondbacks, Hinske is the backup first baseman behind Paul Goldschmidt and is again fulfilling an off-the-bench role with his new team.  Hinske has had only five at-bats with Arizona this year, but has made the most out of them.  On Sunday, he ended an extra-inning game against the Brewers with a pinch-hit two-run homer in the eleventh inning.

Rafael Soriano, someone else who is used to ending games, also has a new home in 2013.  After Mariano Rivera tore his ACL in May of 2012, Soriano stepped in as interim closer and performed exceptionally well, earning an ironic total of 42 saves.  With Mariano returning for his final season in 2013 and effective closers being a hot commodity in Major League Baseball, the Yankees could not afford to bring Soriano back.  The two-year, $28 million deal given to him by the Nationals currently makes Soriano the highest-paid reliever in the majors.

Soriano is 2-3 in save opportunities with his new team.  He recorded his two saves against the Marlins before blowing his third opportunity in a game against the Reds.  In that game against Cincinnati, Soriano not only gave up an uncharacteristic home run (he gave up only six all of last year), but he also gave up a triple and allowed a run to score on a wild pitch (he had three wild pitches in 2012).  Despite Soriano’s blunders, the Nationals eventually won the game in extra innings.

It’s obviously still very early, but it will be interesting to see just how Washington will handle their bullpen hierarchy if Soriano continues to struggle.  Housing ex-closers Drew Storen (43 saves in 2011) and Tyler Clippard (32 saves in 2012), the Nationals’ pen certainly contains guys that are more than capable of closing games.  The Nats are paying Soriano a ton of money, so he will have to be absolutely horrific in order to receive a demotion, but this situation is worth keeping an eye on in the future.

Raul Ibanez, whose playoff heroics provided Yankees fans with some hope and excitement during an otherwise dreadful postseason, is now with the Seattle Mariners.  The 40-year-old has started three games with the M’s so far (two in left field; one at DH) and is 1-11 (.091) with three strikeouts.  With the Mariners’ excess of offense, it remains to be seen how many starts Ibanez will get this year.  Ibanez is a competitive guy who plays with all he has, so whichever role he settles into in Seattle, he should be able to help the team out in multiple ways.

While Raul’s .091 average is not very pretty, at least he has a hit.  Russell Martin, who signed a two-year, $17 million contract with the Pittsburgh Pirates over the offseason, is still looking for that elusive first hit.  Through six games with his new team, the catcher is 0-20.  While he has walked four times and even stole a base last night in the Pirates’ 5-3 win over the D-backs, the .000 average and OBP below .200 were surely not part of Martin’s plans for the beginning of the season, especially after hitting a career-low .211 with the Yankees last year.

Martin is a stellar receiver and will surely be an upgrade on defense for the Pirates.  Still, though, the Pirates did not guarantee him all of that money solely on his presence and expertise behind the plate; they are hoping he rebounds from his .211 average, 95 strikeouts, and .311 OBP (all career-worsts).

Russell Martin drew the ire of fellow Canadians when he backed out of playing for Team Canada in the 2013 World Baseball Classic, yet he is not the only ex-Yankee dabbling in international politics.  After being granted free agency, Andruw Jones and Casey McGehee both joined the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles of the Japanese Pacific League.

On a team that also features Kaz Matsui, both former Yankees are doing very well, albeit just six games into their season.  Andruw Jones is 6-17 (.353) with a home run, four RBI, and a team-leading .577 OBP.  McGehee currently leads the team in batting average (.389) and has six RBI to go along with his .522 OBP.  Based on their numbers, it seems as though both players have settled into their new team and country quite nicely.

Although the players mentioned in this article are no longer in pinstripes, they were all solid contributors to the Yankees at some point (okay, maybe not so much McGehee).  Bronx Baseball Daily wishes them well as they take on new roles in new cities and, in some cases, countries.

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One Response to Former Yankees Transitioning into New Roles, Teams

  1. Tanned Tom says:

    Stupid signing by the Pirates. Martin's numbers have been on the decline for 5 years, now 0 for 20? They get what they deserve for signing him. And he gets what he deserves by turning down the 3 year/$20 mil he was offered in 2012. Enjoy the Pits loser.