On any given day, the Houston Astros can turn to Chas McCormick, Yainer Diaz, or Mauricio Dubon for a spark off the bench. Atlanta Braves manager Brian Snitker can point to Travis d'Arnaud, Kevin Pillar or Nicky Lopez. The Phillies have Edmundo Sosa and Jake Cave available for defensive mixes and matches.
Aaron Boone and the Yankees? They have ... whatever kind of, sort of looked like a starter back in May. "Hey, did we try that guy in the lineup? Did it work? Not at all? Alright, well ... that's our bench now."
Hey, we get it. If the Yankees don't want to spend on anyone, why would they want to spend on someone whose job, explicitly, is to back up the people who really matter? Some teams still take their benches seriously, though, stocking them with a chemistry-building mix of trusted veterans and rookies who could use a "rep share" arrangement to work their way into the regular lineup.
There is no excuse for the Yankees not to build up their depth next season rather than trying to "fix" or "save" Quad-A assets. There has never been, and will never be, a season where New York's regular starters, like Giancarlo Stanton, DJ LeMahieu and Anthony Rizzo, make it through entirely unscathed. There will be backups used before the end of April. And those backups had better be capable.
Now, Brian Cashman and Co. should definitely consider going further than just adding bench pieces. A serious contender wouldn't enter the season with Everson Pereira or Jasson Dominguez penned into the starting lineup. They would enter the season feeling confident about Pereira and Dominguez, but with a non-Greg Allen backup plan in place. The Yankees should certainly entertain more traditional fourth outfielder types like Mark Canha and David Peralta, too, bringing in winning Glue Guys in the process.
But these bench artisans should not be ignored at the back end of the Yankees' free agent frenzy. If Hal has any second thoughts, just show him the price tag.
4 bench players Yankees must sign to shore up depth in 2024
Elvis Andrus, SS
Does Elvis Andrus want to come back for another go-round and play his typical brand of firebrand offense/solid defense at the age of 35? Would he rather start for an also-ran or play mentor for a contender?
Andrus has a very similar defensive profile to Yankees budding Gold Glover (people are talking!) Anthony Volpe. His range is still special (88th percentile OAA), but his arm is well below-average (17th percentile). That means he's had to become adept at tips and tricks in order to survive -- and thrive -- in this league into his late 30s. Volpe could certainly benefit from being under his wing.
The veteran is no longer an offensive star, and power-based metrics have never loved him much anyway, but for a low, low salary (he made $3 million last season, which is sure to decrease in 2024), the Yankees could receive ~1.0 bWAR (he's at 0.9 right now), a .250 average, speed, and a more natural backup shortstop than Isiah Kiner-Falefa (at, again, half the price).