On June 30, the Yankees acquired Eric Hinske from the Pirates in exchange for two minor leaguers. The move came just days after Xavier Nady‘s attempt to rehab from a torn UCL was pronounced a failure, and that the outfielder would undergo his second Tommy John surgery. Hinske, who had signed a one-year deal with the Pirates over the off-season, wasn’t hitting the cover off the ball in Pittsburgh, but that didn’t concern the Yankees much. They wanted a bat with some pop off the bench, and Hinske provided just that.
At the Pocono Record, Justin Rodriguez has interviewed Hinske to talk about the Pirates, the Yanks, the AL East, and the perception of Hinske as a good luck charm. It’s a quick read that shows off Hinske’s loose personality, but there is one item of particular note. Apparently, the Yankees did pursue Hinske over the off-season, but he signed with the Pirates in late January.
Why would Hinske sign with the lowly Pirates over the powerhouse Yankees? He wanted regular playing time. This is something we constantly cite in explaining why it is difficult for the Yankees to assemble a deep bench. On a good team, Hinske is a bench player. At the time, the Yankees had Johnny Damon, Nick Swisher, Xavier Nady, Mark Teixeira, and Alex Rodriguez playing his four main positions (LF, RF, 3B, 1B). How much playing time would he realistically have gotten if those guys stayed healthy? Very little, which also raises the question of why the Yankees pursued him in the first place.
When Hinske didn’t get regular playing time in Pittsburgh, he asked General Manager Neal Huntington for an out. He granted just that, allowing Hinske to fill a similar role on a much better team. Not that he has a problem coming off the bench. “You can make a decision to be a miserable person or make a decision to help the team win,” he said in the interview. It sounds and looks like he’s fitting right in with the Yanks. While he’s not a big reason for the Yankees surge, he does provide valuable bench depth which allows Girardi to give his veterans a day off. You might not see that in the box score every day, but it’s fair to say that having Hinske as the first bat off the bench is a bit better option than, say, Gardner, who was their first option earlier.
Again, the interview is worth a read.