Yankees: The Most Unlikely Journey Of Journeyman Pete Kozma

Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports
Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports /

The Yankees added the unlikeliest of all players to their roster yesterday. In fact, he was once touted as the Worst Player In The National League. I kid you not.

When the Yankees signed Pete Kozma to a major league contract yesterday, the folks over at Pinstriped Alley must have thrown a party. Because it was back on December 15, 2016, that Jason Cohen wrote a piece for them titled “Prepare Yourself For When Pete Kozma Makes The Yankees“.

And maybe the boys over there were just having a bit of fun in the dark days of the off-season. But that wasn’t the first time Kozma’s name has been thrown around the block a bit.

In July of 2015 when Kozma was with the St. Louis Cardinals, a story appeared in SB Nation’s Viva El Birdos with a sub-headline that read

“How bad has the infield utility man been this season? Close your eyes and imagine. It’s worse than that.”

The story goes on to argue, quite seriously, that, hands down, Kozma is the worst player in the National League. And they back it up with:

"If weighted on-base average is the best overall measure of batting skill, Pete Kozma is the worst hitter in the National League. If wRC+ is the best measure, he’s still the worst hitter in the National League. Michael Wacha, Lance Lynn, Tim Cooney and Tyler Lyons all best him by both measures. In fact, were Kozma’s 2nd half to mirror his first, his would be among the Top 10 worst seasons in terms of wOBA for any player with that many plate appearances since 1970. He is currently the only player in the league with at least 70 PAs and an isolated power of zero."

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Nevertheless, the Yankees must have seen something they liked in Kozma this spring because he will now be joining Ronald Torreyes as the temporary replacement for Didi Gregorius, as well as a swing man in the infield. Gregorius, who, along with Tyler Austin, was placed on the Disabled List on Sunday, is expected to be out until Mid-May.

For Kozma, who hasn’t played in the major leagues since 2015 when he hit .152 for the Cardinals, with two RBI in 76 games. Kozma himself was rather ho-hum  about his promotion telling Brian Hoch of MLB.com:

"“That’s why we’re all here in Spring Training, to make the team,” Kozma said. “I feel like if I can play short, I can play just about anywhere.”"

Joe Girardi liked what he saw from Kozma this spring and he fits into that veteran mold that Girardi likes so much to balance the presence of Torreyes. Girardi tells Hoch:

"“We have Torreyes and Kozma, and I just want them to be themselves,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “Don’t go out and try to be Didi, just go out and try to be yourself. I think those two guys really understand that pretty well. I haven’t seen them try to do too much at any point.”"

The major leagues, of course, are littered with good-field but no-hit shortstops. Hall of Famers like Luis Aparicio and Phil Rizzuto are not remembered for their bat, but for the balls that stuck like glue to their glove.

And on the rare occasions that Kozma will actually play in a game, the Yankees have the kind of lineup now where they can pick up a guy like Kozma, or for that matter, even Torreyes.

And so, the spring ends with one of those feel good baseball stories about a journeyman ballplayer who is now wearing the pinstripes for the New York Yankees. Nice.