The Yankees may have their primary focus on the top remaining free-agent players on the market, but signing low-key options to minor-league deals is always a solid strategy that can pan out at an extremely cheap price point.
General manager Brian Cashman has brought in several players who have struggled in the most recent past but have decent qualities the Yankees can build upon. One of his latest signings, first baseman Jake Bauers, is coming off a difficult campaign with the Cleveland Guardians and Seattle Mariners.
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The Yankees are taking a gamble with Jake Bauers:
Over 115 games and 315 plate appearances in 2021 (his last active season), he hit .209 with a 29% on-base rate, four homers, and 19 RBIs, including a 24.8% strikeout rate. He recorded a career-low 63 wRC+, indicating he was 37% worse than the average MLB player.
At 27 years old, though, the Yankees may be able to tweak a few things to try and extract value, especially considering he’s a lefty and only 27 years old. Defensively, he recorded a perfect fielding percentage in 2021 across 54 games at first base, enjoying two defensive runs saved above average.
Having proven Bauers can hold his own on the defensive side, the Yankees need to help resurrect his bat, which has seen lofty strikeout rates throughout his career. In two of his three Major League seasons, Bauers has recorded double-digit walk rates, showcasing a bit of patience but underwhelming power, featuring a 5.4% barrel rate and 36.6% hard-hit rate in 2021. His max exit velocity was 112.3, with an average EV of 88.1 mph. There’s a lot left to be desired with his swing, which is where hitting coach Dillon Lawson comes into play.
Am I saying that Bauers can develop into a quality contributor moving forward, absolutely not. However, he has the tools the Yankees look for, and they have the coaches he desperately needs to find his game once again.