Eight games into Spring Training, the New York Yankees sit at 4-3-1, including a frustrating 15-0 blowout against the Phillies. With many new faces around the organization, the Yanks are still solidifying their 40-man roster. One of the players fighting for a spot on it is veteran utility-man Derek Dietrich.
Dietrich has been a well-known depth option around the league for the last few years. Recently, he has had stints with the Reds and Rangers, those coming after his six seasons in Miami. Though he has not had any truly amazing seasons (no All-Star games), his best season likely came three years ago in 2018, his last year with Miami. Is it realistic to think the Yankees can bring back that guy?
Dietrich’s Career Path
The Tampa Bay Rays selected Derek Dietrich in the second round of the 2010 draft. Dietrich played A and AA ball in Tampa for three years before the Rays traded him to the Marlins for 3B Yunel Escobar. That year (2013), following some injuries on the Marlins’ roster, Dietrich was called up to play for two months. The next season, double-D began the season as the Marlins’ starting second-base man.
Unfortunately, that stint did not last long either, as he was optioned back to AAA in June. Finally, in June 2015 he was brought back up and stayed for a few years. He never had any dominant seasons, but his last few years in Miami showed potential, racking up an OBP over .330 and an .OPS over .750 for three consecutive years. Still, due to strikeout problems and no superstar qualities, it did not make sense for the Marlins to keep him, and they DFA’d him in November of 2018.
Since then, Dietrich has had brief stints with Cincinnati and Texas, and though with far less playing time his .AVG has faltered, he has shown the occasional pop in his bat. Thus, it makes sense the Yankees invited him to Spring Training this year as a non-roster invite.
Where Dietrich Stands Now
Dietrich only has one hit so far this spring; even though it is a homer, he still has a long way to go. After back-to-back seasons with an AVG. below .200, it is clear he needs to figure how get the best of his Marlins and Reds/Rangers self. That likely means somewhere around a .25o average and an .800 OPS. The good news is that he hit a career high 19 homers in 2019, the last full season, indicating a change in his play-style. Furthermore, manager Aaron Boone and GM Brian Cashman have started to revamp the organization to be a hub of analytics. So, if there is a way Dietrich can fix himself, it would likely be with the Yankees.
Does Derek Dietrich Fit on the Roster?
The Yankees roster is very interesting this year. On the one hand, DJ LeMahieu and Gleyber Torres can play multiple infield positions, Miguel Andujar can play IF and OF, and there is a clear surplus of outfielders already. On the other hand, most of those players play one position better than most others. Furthermore, the only other depth piece that plays multiple positions is Tyler Wade, yet his inconsistent bat is hard to keep in the lineup.
Therefore, having a veteran/utility presence like Dietrich on the bench may not be the worst idea. It is no secret the Yanks lack vets outside of Brett Gardner which can have a surprisingly large impact on locker-room, especially during slumps. Moreover, the Yankees know better than anyone the value to having versatile backups in case of injury. Hopefully, the injury-plague that has loomed over the Bronx the past few seasons will leave. But should it not, Dietrich could be a “next man up”.
Don’t get me wrong, I do not think Dietrich should be added to the Opening Day roster. But letting him go to the alternate site/AAA for a month or two to allow him to fix his bat could go along way. The Yankees have recent success with players who are close to success (Gio Urshela, Luke Voit, Mike Tauchman, to name a few). If the Yankees try to do the same with Dietrich, what is the worst that can happen? Best case scenario, we get another steal for cheap to contribute to ring number 28.