Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Yankees to Sign the Nick Johnson of Second Basemen

A scene that has been repeated far too many times for Brian Roberts

UPDATE - Fox Sports' Jon Morosi is reporting that Roberts and the Yankees have agreed to a one-year, $2MM deal.

Brian Roberts was once a great player. Once being the key word in that sentence. He was also once a healthy player. Once upon a time in Baltimore, Roberts was an All-Star and a Yankee killer.

Sadly, Roberts has become a perennial member of the 15- and 60-day disabled lists. Perennial is the key word in that sentence. Desperate to find a full-time second baseman or someone to split time with Kelly Johnson at the position, the Yankees appear ready to sign Roberts to a one-year, low money incentive laden deal.(Per Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal)

Unfortunately this is not 2009, the last year in which the Yankees won the World Series and the last year that Roberts played a full season. He appeared in 152 games spread out from 2009-2013 due to a myriad of injuries, the most dangerous of which have been concussions and concussion syndrome.(It's also put Roberts at greater risk for future concussions.)

Roberts is a former first round pick (50th overall out of U. of South Carolina in 1999), a two-time All-Star who combined some pop with speed - he stole 50 bases in 2007 and 40 a year later. The now 35-year old Roberts was at his best in the period from 2005 through 2009 when his average slash line was .294/.369/.451 (.820 OPS). His year usually produced 13 home runs, 64 RBI, 36 steals (in 44 attempts), 45 doubles, and 99 runs scored. He was the catalyst of the Orioles lineup.

An abdominal strain in 2010 was the first major injury Roberts suffered in the last four seasons. It kept him out from April to July and limited him to 59 games. He also suffered from a herniated disc in his back during Spring Training that season. (Many Orioles and Yankees fans recall a September, 2005 collision at first base with Bubba Crosby that dislocated Roberts' left elbow, but he recovered nicely from it during the off-season.)

In May of 2011, Roberts hit the back of his head sliding into first base and suffered a concussion. He was out the remainder of the season and didn't return until June of 2012.

Roberts hurt his groin in early July and was placed back on the DL. At the end of the month he opted for season ending hip surgery. During the off-season he also had surgery to repair a sports hernia. He played in 17 games, the lowest number of his career.

In April, 2013 Roberts made another trip to the DL after he ruptured a tendon in a portion of hamstring behind his right knee and underwent surgery. It kept him out of Major League action until the last day of June. He managed to play 77 games, the most of the four year stretch of injuries and surgeries, but his production was far below the norm. (.249/.312/.392)

The spin on this move will be that it is low cost, low risk/high reward, but the chances of Roberts staying healthy are less than 50/50. Why not go out and make a bolder move for a bigger, healthier fish (e.g. Rickie Weeks) then continue to flounder at the position.

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