The New York Yankees are close to signing 36-year-old second baseman Brian Roberts according to Ken Rosenthal. The deal is reportedly a one-year deal worth $2 million with incentives. Roberts represents the best available free agent second baseman after Mark Ellis signed with the St. Louis Cardinals and Omar Infante signed with the Kansas City Royals. The move certainly doesn’t bring stability to the position given Roberts’ age and injury history but the Yankees do have Kelly Johnson, Brendan Ryan, Dean Anna and even Eduardo Nunez who could see time at second this season.
At one time, Roberts, who spent 13 seasons with the Baltimore Orioles, was considered one of the best second basemen in the game. He was a doubles machine, twice leading the American League in that category and eclipsing 50 or more doubles three times in his career. He owns a career .278/.349/.412 slash line which is pretty good for the position. However, Roberts hasn’t appeared in more than 100 games since 2009.
Injuries have taken a toll on Roberts. His injuries have ranged from a severe concussion to the nagging injuries that befall middle infielders like a strained hamstring last season and a strained abdominal muscle in 2010. However, Roberts is the best among a dried up crop and he should, at least, represent an upgrade over any in-house options the Yankees had like Nunez, Jose Pirela and Corban Joseph. Even having Ryan play there every day would have been a hole in the lineup. At least, with Roberts in the mix, the Yankees can platoon guys around and rest players as needed.
In Roberts’ last full season, his age-31 season, he appeared in 159 games, smacked 56 doubles, 16 home runs, stole 30 bases and slashed .283/.356/.451. Those days are gone but in limited duty, perhaps a platoon of Roberts, Johnson and Anna or Nunez, Roberts can be effective.
After returning from injury last season, Roberts hit .253/.321/.404 in his final 252 plate appearances. Those numbers aren’t quite Robinson Cano but they aren’t horrible either, especially given the in-house options.
There is a lot to like but also a lot of questions. Roberts is, as everyone knows, old and fragile. He can still swing a bat from time to time and should be, at the very least, a decent platoon player. However, the Yankees can’t expect much out of him at this point. Anything he offers is a plus. Maybe the Yankees, and Roberts, will get lucky and he will be healthy the entire year and he can play 140 games at second and smack the ball around. That likely won’t happen though.
Adding Roberts to an infield that already has a lot of age and injury questions in Derek Jeter, Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez doesn’t exactly make Yankees’ fans bubble over in excitement but it was the best they could do at this point.