Promise me this. Look me in the eyes and promise me you saw Ian Hamilton coming when the Yankees inked him to a minor-league pact prior to the 2023 season. Pledge you knew -- just knew -- that Lucas Luetge would have an outsized impact on the big-league club after joining the team on a whim following several years out of the league.
You didn't. You didn't know. But the Yankees saw something.
Each and every season in recent years under Brian Cashman and Matt Blake, a name or two emerges from the ranks of the minor-league deals to wow at spring training, either with a new pitch (Slambio!) or with refined versions of their existing arsenal. Love him or hate him, even closer Clay Holmes was roster fodder once upon a time, traded over from the Pirates on a lark because Pittsburgh didn't want to deal with his 4.93 ERA/1.43 WHIP. It's barely a "hot take" to predict the Yankees will end up relying on a name that emerges from their fleet of minor-league pacts in 2024.
After checking the Yankees' minor-league transactions log, three names immediately jump out as potential contributors -- and that doesn't even include Matt Gage, the intriguing lefty who was just picked up and traded for Caleb Ferguson. Yeah, the signings went pretty deep.
Here are three names the Yankees' next gem could be, but who are we kidding? It'll probably be someone even more random and harder to spot.
3 forgotten relievers who could be Yankees' next Ian Hamilton on minor-league deals.
31-year-old Nick Burdi -- not to be confused with his brother Zack -- was (say it with me now) a Pittsburgh Pirate, once upon a time.
Burdi, the Minnesota Twins' second-round pick in the 2014 draft, ran into injury issues and was eventually thieved by the Bucs in the 2017 Rule 5 Draft. To say he's dealt with "poor injury luck" would be the understatement of the millennium. During his time in the 'Burgh, he underwent surgery to relieve thoracic outlet syndrom, which is often a killer for pitchers of all shapes and sizes. He then recovered from that ... only to trip directly into Tommy John surgery at the end of 2020, the second such procedure of his career.
To add injury to injury, he made a stunning comeback with the Cubs last season, only to see his big-league promotion felled by an emergency appendectomy. The fact that he made it back at all from a second Tommy John/thoracic outlet is noteworthy. Making it back by whiffing 19 men in 10 2/3 innings at Triple-A Iowa with a 3.38 ERA? That takes guts. Burdi's career isn't over quite yet, and if any team's going to reap the rewards from his pedigree this year, it'll be the Yankees.