Yankees sign 2022 Cleveland playoff hero who walked them off in surprising move

Did we even know this dude was available?!
Division Series - Cleveland Guardians v New York Yankees - Game Five
Division Series - Cleveland Guardians v New York Yankees - Game Five / Elsa/GettyImages

2023 was as unkind to Cleveland Guardians outfielder Oscar Gonzalez as 2022 was generous, as the hulking slugger seemingly turned from peppy Spongebob to world-weary Squidward overnight. Now, it's the Yankees' job to bottle Gonzalez's effervescence and see if they can recapture what made him a playoff monster last October against (sigh) them. It was against them.

In 2022, Gonzalez seemed to be an emergent, hulking righty outfielder whose offensive prowess helped cancel out his shaky defense. The 24-year-old's legend grew in October, but it began early in the regular season; his 125 OPS+, .296 average and 11 homers in 91 games already provided reason enough to believe in his potential excellence.

Unfortunately, his two playoff walk-offs -- a home run to end an extra-inning thriller against Corey Kluber and the Rays, his heartbreaker against Clarke Schmidt -- weren't enough to set Gonzalez up to build on his success the next season. The outfielder spent most of the next year at Triple-A, hitting a woeful and powerless .214 in 53 big-league games (at Columbus, he hit a familiar .287 with 13 bombs).

Now, with two minor-league options remaining, he heads to the Yankees on a whim just before the Winter Meetings. It's difficult to argue with his potential as a fifth outfielder, especially since fans of the team have been gutted by his theatrics first-hand.

Yankees sign Cleveland Guardians cast-off Oscar Gonzalez

Of course, it was Gonzalez's hit that led to Luis Severino questioning why Clay Holmes couldn't have been used over Schmidt in a time of crisis. Severino's Yankee tenure officially ended earlier this week when he signed with the Mets. It's a shame they couldn't overlap in the organization, even by just a few hours (and, yes, we know Sevy's time on the roster technically ended months ago).

Gonzalez is a longshot to contribute meaningfully this season, but is an extremely likely name to surface at the first sign of injury (if he doesn't sneak his way onto the Opening Day roster). It was eye-opening to learn Cleveland had already cut bait so soon after he established himself as a local folk here and, at the very least, this shows the Yankees are looking for intriguing ways to build up their depth as they chase far bigger fish and try to fry them. Some of the smaller fish just so happen to live in a Pineapple under the sea.