All the New York Yankee’s buzz is on batting champ DJ LeMahieu the team has everything on hold while the DJ negotiations plod along. The is no question that re-signing LeMahieu is the most important priority the Yankees have this offseason. But if they can’t sign him, believe it or not, it’s not the end of the world. If the Yankees continue to wear blinders for that possibility, they may wait to fill other holes until it too late to find quality players.
Today I explore bringing two players back to the Yankees that the Yankees know can play successfully at Yankee Stadium. One carries a risk, and the other doesn’t. The Yankees should bring back Didi Gregorius; this is especially true if they can’t sign LeMahieu. The fact of the matter is that the Yankees should never have let him walk, to begin with. After having successful seasons with the Yankees, Didi returned from surgery and didn’t perform as well as the Yankees hoped for, so they let him go to the Philadelphia Phillies.
After the second year from surgery, Didi returned to the excellent player he was with the Yankees. Last season Didi hit .284. To put that into perspective, with 100 at-bats or more, only DJ LeMahieu and Gio Urshela had a better batting average for the Yankees last season. Didi also hit 10 homers in the short season and drove in 40 Phillies. In a regular-season that over 100 RBI’s. What’s not to like with that performance? It’s something the Yankees certainly could have used last season. Another plus to bringing him back to the Bronx is his lefty bat for a lineup that is too right-handed heavy.
The New York Yankee fans love Gregorius, and he fits in beautifully with the team. Unfortunately for Didi, the Philadelphia Phillies can no longer afford him and his $14 million contract. The Phillies lost a lot of money last season and are basically dumping payroll, including the best catcher in baseball J.T. Realmuto. With the Phillies not wanting to pay Didi, his value on the open market is most likely reduced. Gregorius has lately been tweeting his thoughts of being open to returning to the Yankees. To me, this is a no brainer move.
The next bring back player will make some of you laugh, David Robertson. Yes, he has been with the Yankees twice already, and each time he left, the Yankees lost out. Here is where the risk comes in, D-Rob is now 36 years old and is coming back from Tommy John surgery, but in my opinion, the potential reward far outweighs the risk involved.
Let’s start at the beginning. Many newer Yankees fans hear the name David Robertson they think of a relief pitcher that has pitched for many teams. The fact is that D-Rob is a Yankee homegrown pitcher. The Yankees signed him in the draft of 2006. He worked his way up through the minor league system and made his major league debut for the New York Yankees on June 28, 2008; after mixed results, he was sent back down to Scranton Wilkes/Barre.
2009 would see Robertson go up and down between Scranton and the bigs. He had a good season with the Yankees, but he made his name in the 2009 postseason. Both in the ALDS and ALCS, he was called in with multiple players on base; he never allowed a run and got the win in both games. Robertson would pitch in relief for the Yankees as Mariano Riveras set up man through 2013 when Rivera retired. D-Rob became the Yankee closer in 2014; he saved 39 of 44 save opportunities. He made $5 million that year. The Yankees offered him a $15 million qualifying offer, which he refused.
Robertson signed a big-money deal with the Chicago White Sox, but when the Yankees were making a run on the postseason in 2017, the Yankees again called on Robertson to help them via trade. In his first game back after the trade, he struck out the side in the seventh inning to preserve a 5-1 win over the Mariners. He ended the regular season 5-0, giving up just four runs on the season. In the 2017 Wild Card Game, Robertson set career post-season single-game highs in innings pitched, with 3 1⁄3, and pitches thrown, with 52. He allowed no runs and earned the win.
In 2018 after another successful season with the Yankees, he became the only pitcher in major league history to average at least 10 strikeouts/9 innings pitched in each of his first 11 seasons. But after the 2018 season, Robertson would again be a free agent when the Yankees did not exercise his option. Before the 2019 season, he became a Philadelphia Philly for $23 million and a two-year contract.
Unfortunately, his time with the Phillies was not a productive one; he required Tommy John surgery and pitched in only seven games in 2019 and none in 2020. The Phillies did not exercise his $12 million option for 2021. For the Yankees, few pitchers have pitched better than David Robertson during the last 12 years. He has a 38-22 record with the Yankees with a tiny ERA of 2.75.
The New York Yankees could probably get both of these fine players for under $20 million. It’s an idea the Yankees should at least kick the tired on.