Yankees sign power-hitting infielder who resurrected career in Korea

Minnesota Twins v Los Angeles Angels
Minnesota Twins v Los Angeles Angels / Ronald Martinez/GettyImages

He might not be as versatile as Wednesday's minor-league deal signee Josh VanMeter (yet...), but the Yankees brought another Triple-A slugger into the fold on Thursday, as well as a player who found an extra gear overseas in 2023.

Needing a replacement at Triple-A Scranton Wilkes-Barre for disrespected slugger Andres Chaparro (at the very least), the Yankees made another minor-league splash on Thursday afternoon, inking infielder José Rojas to a deal. The contract has very similar stipulations to VanMeter's; Rojas will earn slightly less if he makes the majors ($100,000).

While Rojas' time with the Angels in 2021 and 2022 was less than distinguished (-1.7 career bWAR at the MLB level), he showed off plenty of power in the high minors, clubbing an impressive 31 dingers, 39 doubles and seven triples in a standout 2019 season at Triple-A Salt Lake, good for a .938 OPS in the admittedly hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League.

Like many promising players on the cusp, though, the COVID pandemic-related deletion of 2020 in the minors halted his progress, resulting in nothing but a few underwhelming big-league stints. At the age of 30, he took his talents to the KBO last winter, a decision which paid off once again (as it so often does) with another MLB shot.

Yankees sign former Angels, KBO slugger José Rojas

In recent years, we've heard much more about pitchers going overseas to resurrect their profiles (Merrill Kelly, Erick Fedde, Josh Lindblom). When hitters sign for big money in Korea, it often seems like they're looking to safely mash homers as a sideshow -- in other words, they've found an easy revenue stream.

Rojas clearly sought more opportunities stateside instead, coming off a season where he hit 19 homers with an .819 OPS in 122 games with Doosan. Those aren't eye-popping numbers, which could reflect both the improved level of competition in Korea or a recurring deficiency in Rojas' swing, which hasn't been fully recaptured since 2019.

Regardless, the Yankees have spent the early part of January collecting warm bodies, and they've gotten themselves another potentially hungry contributor here. At the very least, Rojas will get to experience what it's like to play Triple-A baseball without the thin west coast air he's used to.