Wednesday marks the first key date for Yankees fans en route to the 2021 season opening for real.
Pitchers and catchers reported to camp on this gorgeous morning, bringing with them renewed optimism for a season that should be slightly more normal than last year.
With their arrival came the Yankees’ official list of non-roster invitees, featuring 20 big-league veterans who’d been signed to minor-league contracts at some point during the offseason.
And, in typical 2020-21 fashion, the list came with one surprise.
While ticking through the list of names, from Kyle Barraclough to Nestor Cortes Jr., fans eyeballed one right in the middle that they hadn’t been warned about.
Derek Dietrich? The versatile infielder from the Marlins? The jacked guy from the Reds? One and the same.
Huh. When’d that happen?!
Out of nowhere, Derek Deitrich got an invite to Yankees’ camp.
Consider this the Yankees’ de facto announcement of the Dietrich signing, which is surprisingly low key considering he could actually steal the team’s final bench spot from Jay Bruce, who was also added this past week to provide lefty pop.
Dietrich has played first, second, third and across the outfield during his time in the bigs, and is best known for his outlandish personality and massive forearms, both of which were on display during his 2019 standout campaign in Cincinnati.
In 113 games that year, Dietrich hit just .187, but with a far more valuable 19 homers, .328 OBP and .790 slugging percentage.
Mix together the versatility, power, and domineering personality, and you have a combination that’s more likely to play than Thairo Estrada’s limited package. Even if Dietrich rides the Scranton Shuttle this year, he’ll be a valuable piece of insurance.
The final step of the Yankees’ offseason involved adding a few more lottery tickets who were willing to accept both minimal compensation and a lack of assurance about a big-league roster spot.
Dietrich fits that bill; he likely wasn’t going to receive any security after an abbreviated 2020 in Texas, and will swing out of his shoes to make an impression this spring.
Also notable on this list of NRIs? Reliever Nick Goody, formerly of the Yankees in 2015 and 2016, also appeared on it unexpectedly; he posted a 3.54 ERA in Cleveland in 2019, whiffing 50 in 40.2 innings pitched.
Catch the fine print at the bottom, too? 2020 Yankees first-round pick Austin Wells is among the prospects invited to big-league camp. He hasn’t played a professional game yet. Such is life, right?
Now, let’s welcome the rest of the roster to camp and let’s go win some games. Simple as that. Almost time.