Utilityman Steve Pearce is a perfect fit for the New York Yankees roster and will likely once again be one of the most underrated free agents available.
It has been estimated in recent years that one win above replacement level (WAR) costs a team $8 million on the free agent market. An everyday player should cost about two WAR, which means that a solid regular will typically cost somewhere around $16 million annually. Yankees players like Brian McCann, Brett Gardner, and Chase Headley are right in that ballpark.
One guy who has dramatically out-performed his annual salary in recent years is utilityman Steve Pearce. This 33-year-old impending free agent has had to settle for modest one year deals each of the last three offseasons despite being one of the more dangerous sluggers in the American League East during two of his last three campaigns.
All told, Pearce accumulated 7.8 wins above replacement according to Baseball-Reference, meaning he was worth about $62.4 million over that span. How much green did he actually take home? Just $9.1 million, and that is without ever having the security of a multi-year deal.
This season Pearce hit .288/.374/.492 with 13 home runs and 35 RBI in 302 plate appearances for Baltimore and Tampa Bay. He did miss significant time because of a strained flexor mass in his right elbow, but underwent surgery in September, and is expected to be ready to begin spring training.
While some may point to the injury as worrisome, I would counter that it will be yet another reason why the perpetual underdog Pearce could be had on another one year deal this winter. Even if they had to stretch to two years to land the veteran, it would be worth it, because his versatility means he won’t be blocking anyone.
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Pearce would give the Yankees a proven power bat to slot into the middle of their lineup next year as insurance against youngsters like Aaron Judge and Greg Bird struggling. He could also act as a platoon partner for Brian McCann at DH and Brett Gardner in left, while also spelling Starlin Castro at second occasionally.
If the Yankees are going to carry three catchers next year, they are going to need a super-sub like Pearce, and it doesn’t hurt that he also would significantly beef up their lineup in the process.
The team actually picked up Pearce briefly back in 2012 before he was claimed on waivers by the Orioles. Of course he almost immediately broke out after leaving the Bronx. He’s a guy I keep wishing New York would go after. Maybe this will finally be the winter.