The New York Yankees' coaching staff silently reached critical mass this offseason in terms of contract expirations, which Brian Cashman appears to have defused nicely, inking catching coach Tanner Swanson and pitching coach Matt Blake under the radar.
Remember when new addition Tommy Kahnle dropped the Blake extension news live on Twitch, before anyone else could get to it? Remember when Blake showed up at Carlos Rodón's press conference? Good times; keeping their pitching coach was arguably the most important non-Judge objective of the Yankees' offseason.
Only one vacancy remained after the Swanson news dropped; the assistant hitting coach role, formerly occupied by Hensley "Bam Bam" Meulens, was up for grabs after Meulens was promoted to the full-time hitting coach role with the Colorado Rockies.
Last season, the Yankees' hitting coach search was dramatic, with Eric Chavez accepting a position, resigning in a flash, and defecting to the Mets instead.
This time? The Yankees moved in silence like lasagna, bringing a surprise name from the deep past back to the forefront.
On Monday morning, the team announced they'd hired Brad Wilkerson to fill the role. Among the last surviving Expos draft picks? Mr. National before Ryan Zimmerman?? Where's he been?!
Yankees Assistant Hitting Coach Brad Wilkerson: Where's he been? What's his deal?
If you lost track of Wilkerson's career -- and shame on you, if you did! -- he ended it with 122 career homers and a 105 OPS+ relative to his era. While the Expos' front office was ripping seats out in the dead of night and plotting transportation to RFK Stadium, Wilkerson was carrying that offense, ripping 32 bombs with a 120 OPS+ during the franchise's final season in Montreal.
He never played in MLB again after the 2008 season, scuffling in Seattle and Toronto at the age of 31. He didn't hang 'em up until after attempting a comeback with the 2010 Phillies, which stalled out in spring training.
Luckily, bigger things were still ahead of Wilkerson, something we definitely knew before 11:00 AM EST on Monday, Jan. 30.
Turns out, he pulled a Jeff Saturday, coaching a middle school baseball team in 2014 and parlaying it into a thriving career in the industry. Wilkerson has long coached with USA Baseball, earning a Volunteer Coach of the Year designation in 2014. He reached the collegiate ranks in 2020, working with Jacksonville University prior to this big break; the team won the Atlantic Sun Conference under Wilkerson's tutelage during the 2020-21 season.
What else, what else ... oh, he was named a Kentucky Colonel back in 2006, the highest honor one can receive in Kentucky, ranking just below "Great Horse".
Bottom line? The Yankees haven't received the benefit of the doubt in, say, the left field chase, but if they're targeting a somewhat-forgotten name to join the coaching staff and learn from the incumbent "Hit Strikes Hard" innovators, they probably see something very interesting in Wilkerson. We're excited to learn how he fits in -- unless he becomes a Met under Chavez in a week.