Three Under-the-Radar Free Agent Upgrades for the Yankees

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Mandatory Credit: David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports /

Sean Rodriguez

31-year-old utilityman Sean Rodriguez has quietly had a career year with the Pittsburgh Pirates this season, hitting .264/.345/.518 (126 OPS+) with an impressive 18 home runs in just 320 plate appearances. While some regression should be expected, Rodriguez is a very useful bench player who could probably be a passable starting infielder also.

The nine year veteran has an uninspiring career .233/.302/.390 (91 OPS+) batting line for the Angels, Rays, and Pirates, but his newfound power is intriguing if he can keep it up. He did show similar pop for Tampa Bay in 2014, hitting 12 homers and slugged .443 in 259 plate appearances, so it’s not completely unprecedented.

Rodriguez has also drastically improved his plate discipline, walking in 10% of his plate appearances, up from just 2.1% the previous year and 6.9% for his career.

Pittsburgh has used Rodriguez at every position but pitcher and catcher this season. He doesn’t have the range to play shortstop or center field regularly, but he’s competent at first, second, third, and the outfield corners.

So how would the Yankees use Rodriguez? Having a super-utility guy like Rodriguez would make it much easier to continue to carry three catchers without expanded rosters, making it viable for New York to rotate Gary Sanchez and Brian McCann between catcher and DH while still carrying a true backup backstop.

He would also provide a nice safety net against Chase Headley‘s decline and Starlin Castro‘s frequent slumps. Rodriguez signed for one year $2.5 million last winter. This time around, something like two years $10 million should get it done.