The Yankees announced this morning that they have signed Chris Denorfia, who is a 35-year-old outfielder, to a minor league contract with an invitation to big league camp. He will give the team depth in the outfield and has experience playing left field, centerfield and right field, which means that he can be a versatile asset off of the bench.
Denorfia, who is from Connecticut and entering his 11th MLB season, spent last season with the Chicago Cubs and before that he played with the Seattle Mariners, San Diego Padres, Oakland Athletics and Cincinnati Reds. He has played in at least 103 games in each of the last five seasons, and his best season of his career was in 2013 when he had a solid .279 average in 144 games with 132 hits, 10 homers, 47 RBIs and 11 steals.
Last season with the Cubs, Denorfia had .269 average in his 212 at-bats with three homers, 18 RBIs, 18 runs scored and a .319 on-base percentage. In his career, he has 587 hits, 41 homers, 196 RBIs, 56 steals, a .272 average and a .330 on-base percentage. He is very reliable defensively as he has only made 14 errors in his career and didn’t make a single error in his 431 innings in the outfield last season.
It is not a guarantee that he will make the team after spring training, but if he does, he will be fifth on the depth chart behind center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury, right fielder Carlos Beltran, left fielder Brett Gardner and athletic back-up outfielder Aaron Hicks. He has mainly served as a back-up outfielder in his career and that is what he would be if he made the team.
He has an opt-out clause in his contract should he not make the MLB roster after spring training in order to be able to be signed to another team’s MLB roster instead of being sent to Triple-A Scranton. Denorfia was brought in to help bolster the right-hand-hitting outfield depth in the Yankees system.
Mason Williams and Slade Heathcott are two other candidates to be the fifth outfielder after Hicks. If Denorfia performs very well in March it could make sense to have him on the roster so that Williams and Heathcott can play everyday at Scranton. However, Williams and Heathcott both played well last season when replacing injured Yankee outfielders and will likely serve a role at some point this season as well.
Heathcott, who is 25 and made his MLB debut last season, was 10-25 (.400) with two homers, six runs scored and eight RBIs. He also has a lot of range in center field and right field. Williams, who is 24 and also made his MLB debut last season, was 6-21 (.286) with one homer, three RBIs and three runs scored. Williams hit a homer during his first MLB game on June 12.
The Yankees now have a grand total of 70 players in big league camp. That number will go down gradually as the days get closer to April and the beginning of the season.
Denorfia would be the option if Girardi decides to go with experience and Williams or Heathcott would be the option if he thinks they would not benefit from anymore time in the minors. However, it is possible that neither Denorfia or the young outfielders will make the opening roster since Dustin Ackley can be a back-up in the outfield as well as in the infield.