Over the last two years the Yankees have been pretty good about dipping into their farm system whenever a position player need arose. Last year Slade Heathcott and Greg Bird got opportunities, most notably. This year Ben Gamel and Rob Refsnyder were the go-to options before the trade deadline sell off. Whenever possible, the Yankees went young.
It wasn’t always possible, however. Inevitably, the Yankees ran into a few instances in which they didn’t have a young player available to plug a roster hole. That led them to call up a journeyman veteran or pick up someone off the scrap heap. The Yankees did this a few times this past season, and you know what? It worked out pretty darn well in some instances.
On August 13th, the Yankees released Alex Rodriguez because they had no room on their roster for a right-handed platoon DH. On September 14th, the Yankees signed Billy Butler because they needed a right-handed platoon DH. Baseball, man. I like to think the front office conversation went like this:
Hal: “Brian, get me a butler.”
Hal: “Wait no I meant …”
In all seriousness, the Yankees signed Butler because they used Austin Romine at DH against Clayton Kershaw earlier that day. They had no one else to fill that role. The Yankees were trying hard to stay in the wildcard race and Butler was freely available — the Athletics released him a few days earlier — so they picked him up for the pro-rated portion of the league minimum.
Butler’s first few days in pinstripes were rather productive. He went 1-for-3 and drove in two runs in his first game. The next day he smacked a two-run pinch-hit home run. Four days later he ripped a pair of doubles. Butler went 8-for-18 (.444) with two doubles and a homer in his first week as a Yankee. Pretty nice for a cost nothing pickup.
The Yankees fell out of the rate in late September and Butler’s playing time diminished. Tyler Austin and Refsnyder got those at-bats instead. Butler went 10-for-29 (.345) with those two doubles and one homer in 12 games with New York. He became a free agent after the season — I’ve seen some confusion about this, the fact his A’s contract ran through 2017 means nothing to the Yankees, they’re not on the hook for that — and there’s basically no reason for the Yankees to bring him back.
The Yankees were dealt a pretty significant blow in February, when Bird injured his shoulder working out and needed surgery. His season was over before it even had a chance to begin. The team signed Parmelee to effectively replace Bird as the Triple-A first baseman, but that’s it. He was only going to help the big league team in an emergency.
That emergency came in early June. Mark Teixeira landed the disabled list with a knee problem, so the Yankees were down their top two first baseman. Third string first baseman Dustin Ackley was hurt too. First base duties fell to Parmelee and Refsnyder. On June 8th, in his first start as a Yankee, Parmelee went 3-for-5 with a double and two home runs in the team’s comeback win over the Angels.
Once healthy, the Yankees sent Parmelee back to Triple-A, where he remained the rest of the season. Overall, he went 4-for-8 with a double and two homers with the Yankees while putting up a .248/.335/.449 (124 wRC+) batting line with eleven homers in 64 games with the RailRiders. Parmelee hit a three-run home run in the Triple-A Championship Game to help Scranton to a win.
After the season Parmelee became a minor league free agent. I suppose the Yankees could bring him back to be their Triple-A first baseman again next year, but guys like this tend to be one and done. Parmelee will look for more playing time elsewhere and the Yankees will find someone else to play first for Scranton.
At one point in June the Yankees were down to their fifth string first baseman. Teixeira (knee), Bird (shoulder), Ackley (shoulder), and Parmelee (hamstring) were all hurt. The job was Refsnyder’s. After Parmelee’s injury, the Yankees scooped up Davis just to provide some veteran depth at first. Ike had opted out of his minor league deal with the Rangers a few days earlier.
Davis appeared in only eight games with the Yankees — four starts and four appearances in relief of Refsnyder — and he went 3-for-14 (.214) with one walk, five strikeouts, and no extra base hits in those eight games. He did actually drive in a run though. In his very first at-bat in pinstripes, no less.
Infield depth was a big concern coming into Spring Training, so much so that the Yankees signed three veterans to minor league deals: Solano, Pete Kozma, and Jonathan Diaz. All three spent the entire minor league regular season with Triple-A Scranton. Solano was the RailRiders’ best hitter from start to finish, putting up a .319/.349/.436 (124 wRC+) batting line with an International League leading 163 hits.
The Yankees didn’t plan to call the 28-year-old Solano up, but when Starlin Castro felt a tug in his hamstring running out a double in mid-September, their hand had been forced. Solano appeared in nine games with the Yankees, including six starts, and he went 5-for-22 (.227) at the plate. One of the five was a home run.