These sneaky minor-league deals during the MLB lockout … they can maybe make a difference! Maybe.
On Thursday, as New York Yankees fans have been dying for any bit of fun baseball news surrounding their team, it was revealed on the team’s transaction page that they added a former All-Star and Gold Glover while big-league transactions are suspended.
Former Atlanta Braves center fielder Ender Inciarte has agreed to a minor-league contract with the Bombers and you can consider us … intrigued. The Braves cut ties with him during the 2021 campaign, but it’s clear that was needed given the relationship was souring for years.
Inciarte, once upon a time, was among the pieces headed to Atlanta in the blockbuster Shelby Miller trade with the Diamondbacks (how old are we now?) and was viewed as a potential franchise cornerstone. Instead, Dansby Swanson took the reins and Inciarte’s decline got progressively worse.
When we were wondering who could potentially displace or split time with Aaron Hicks in center field come 2022, Inciarte certainly was not on the radar, and for good reason.
The Yankees don’t need another cheap flyer option to fill high-leverage major-league reps. But looking at Inciarte’s previous MLB experience, it’s hard to not view this as a positive addition during a time when the team can’t make real ones.
Could Ender Inciarte joining the Yankees actually result in a good match?
Inciarte was a serviceable player as early as 2019, but his shortened 2020 was awful and that continued into 2021 (with a COVID diagnosis to boot). He was released after being designated for assignment in late July while he was hitting .215 with a .592 OPS through 52 games (mostly part-time action). He then joined the Reds but never made it to the MLB roster.
It was obviously for the better since the Braves ended up winning the World Series with a completely new cast of outfielders, but a lefty bat that used to feature heavy contact, a baserunner with penchant for stealing bases, and a Gold Glove-caliber defender in center field? Not a bad risk to take, even if it seems like his best days are far behind.
Then again, he’s only 31 years old, so perhaps a rebirth is in the works if he finds the right setting/environment.
Inciarte highlighted a number of MiLB transactions for the Yanks, which also included infielder Wilkerman Garcia (a former Yankees top prospect) and pitcher Jimmy Cordero (who last pitched in 2020 with the Chicago White Sox).
Inciarte remains the highlight here given his upside and potential to rediscover himself on a contending team. His career year came in 2017, and if he can hit anywhere near .265 and steal around 15 bases, this would be a coup for the Bombers who are looking for any sort of positive production out of center field that doesn’t require the services of Aaron Judge.