Yankees Rumors: NYY showing interest in ideal clubhouse fit (with regressing bat)

Minor-league deal, potentially?
Seattle Mariners v Oakland Athletics
Seattle Mariners v Oakland Athletics / Lachlan Cunningham/GettyImages

Good news: The Yankees seem to understand the concepts of versatility, athleticism, and the importance of good character guys on a purposeful bench unit.

Bad news: They might've figured all this out a few years too late, targeting a player who would've been a stronger fit in 2021.

That year, A's do-it-all infielder Tony Kemp posted an .800 OPS/126 OPS+ in 397 plate appearances, playing the role of the spark plug with pop perfectly. Then 29, Kemp helped galvanize an 86-win Oakland team, earning his second of four consecutive Roberto Clemente Award nominations for his humanitarian efforts (a streak that persists today).

Now, Kemp's coming off a second consecutive down year that has muddied his reputation as a reliable bat somewhat. He hit .209 with a .607 OPS mark last year, his star potentially dimmed somewhat by the A's dismal straits. Why would a player like Kemp be energized enough to contribute when the stadium is barren and the point of winning is moot?

Hopefully, the version of Kemp the Yankees are currently pursuing is more akin to the battery pack than the dead bolt. According to FanSided's MLB insider Robert Murray, the Yankees are currently interested in Kemp -- as are the Toronto Blue Jays, Boston Red Sox, Pittsburgh Pirates and Cincinnati Reds.

Yankees could pursue Roberto Clemente Award nominee Tony Kemp

Sometimes, it's simpler than you want it to be. Kemp played with Gerrit Cole on the Astros. He's punished the Yankees over the years (well, mostly in 2021). He's a renowned positive force behind the scenes. He's a Vanderbilt Commodore, and has reportedly collaborated with Yankees top prospect Spencer Jones this offseason.

Have the dots always been there, or is he destined to be a Pirate, rendering this a fruitless exercise?

If the Yankees can nab Kemp on a minor-league deal and get him in the clubhouse for spring training, they should. The Yankees' best teams of the past three decades have always featured a purposeful bench mob replete with experienced veterans, rather than a slapdash collection of rookies and also-rans who simply couldn't snag starting roles and ended up left out. A bench is supposed to provide fresh looks. It isn't supposed to contain America's Most Terrified Kids.

That said, the return of someone like Gio Urshela -- who the team knows can handle third base -- might make more sense for this current iteration of the Yankees. Given the budget constraints we know they're currently operating under in their uncomfortable tax tier, this conversation might just boil down to "Urshela vs. Kemp + a reliable veteran reliever they desperately crave." Sign us up for the second option, in that case.