The New York Yankees didn’t really have the opportunity in December, January, or February to improve their big-league roster in any discernible way beyond lobbing minor-league contracts at wild card options.
Though they took advantage of that market in some capacity, there were a few opportunities where they could’ve gone further to secure bonafide talent at the cheapest possible price.
Before we dive into three options the Yankees could’ve chosen to shore up some problem areas, it’s worth reassessing who they did sign and send to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
New York’s most important and memorable addition was bringing former Braves Gold Glover Ender Inciarte into the fold, putting immediate pressure on a now-healthy Aaron Hicks to hold onto his center field reps. Again, Inciarte isn’t the high-profile addition most fans were eyeballing, but he’s a recognizable name who’s recently played the position at a high level.
Beyond Inciarte, prognosticators have their eyes on reliever Jimmy Cordero, who’s attempting to bounce back from Tommy John surgery after showing eye-popping peripherals with the Chicago White Sox (before a backslide). Additionally, former top prospect infielder Jose Peraza should get a chance to make an impression in Spring Training (though he’s behind Oswaldo Cabrera on the theoretical depth chart), and catcher Rob Brantly, who made a few MLB appearances in 2021, has also been brought back for depth purposes.
So has catcher David Frietas, an option we’re less familiar with behind the plate.
Something has gone very haywire if anyone’s season is either made or broken with an offseason minor-league contract lob, but typically a contributor or two can be secured during this process. The importance was magnified this offseason, too, considering it was the only game in town for so long.
The Yankees didn’t strike out, and Cordero and Inciarte will likely both play a role in 2022. These three pieces would’ve also been worth the minuscule investment, though.
3 players Yankees should’ve signed to minor-league contracts
3. Yairo Muñoz
Call it a personal prospect crush or what have you, but Yairo Muñoz, a versatile infielder with sneaky pop who starred for the Cardinals before dominating for the Triple-A Red Sox, could easily be a valuable big-league contributor next season.
If so, he’ll be doing it for the Philadelphia Phillies; they made the addition back on Feb. 12, signing Muñoz ex-Worcester teammate Josh Ockimey as well.
Muñoz emerged for the 2018 Cardinals at the age of 23, triple-slashing .276/.350/.413 with a 108 OPS+. His defense left something to be desired and occasionally looked like a spooked freshman, but that seemed like plenty to build off of.
Unfortunately, that building hasn’t occurred at the MLB level. Muñoz was squeezed out of St. Louis’ crowded infield picture after 2019, and despite an impressive empty-season 2020 (.333 average in 12 games), he was instructed to do his bidding at Triple-A in 2021.
It, uh, went well.
Muñoz set records with his 35-game midsummer hitting streak, topping Dom DiMaggio’s record for the Red Sox organization. Overall, he slashed .308/.341/.444 with eight more homers, and will serve as valuable upper-level versatility for a Phillies system that needs bodies.
The Yankees could’ve also used the same Triple-A depth, especially after cutting Tyler Wade and Andrew Velazquez loose.