5:30pm ET: The Yankees just announced the deal. Good timing. Burns did receive an invitation to big league Spring Training. He’s the super early favorite to be 2019’s designated September pinch-runner.
5:29pm ET: According to Jon Heyman, the Yankees have signed outfielder Billy Burns to a minor league contract. He has big league time and I assume the deal includes an invite to Spring Training. Burns joins catcher Ryan Lavarnway, infielder Gio Urshela, lefty Rex Brothers, and lefty Danny Coulombe as minor league contract depth pickups this winter.
Burns, 29, had himself a nice little season with the Athletics in 2015, hitting .294/.334/.392 (102 wRC+) with 26 steals and +3 WAR in 555 plate appearances. He was unable to build on that and has spent the last few seasons shuttling back and forth between Triple-A and the big leagues with the A’s and Royals. Burns is a career .270/.308/.353 (81 wRC+) hitter in nearly 900 MLB plate appearances.
Last year Burns managed a .255/.314/.316 (68 wRC+) batting line in 425 Triple-A plate appearances with Kansas City, and they did not give him a September call-up. Over the last three seasons he’s authored a .271/.339/.321 (78 wRC+) batting line in almost 900 Triple-A plate appearances. Burns is a switch-hitting speed and defense type. A switch-hitting version of a poor man’s Brett Gardner, basically.
The Yankees had to find Triple-A Scranton a center fielder this offseason and that led them to Burns. For all intents and purposes, he is the new Shane Robinson. Hopefully we don’t see Burns nearly as much as we saw Robinson. The Yankees still figure to add a journeyman innings starter on a minor league deal for the RailRiders at some point, otherwise they might be done with minor league signings.