Are The Yankees Trying To Avoid Paying Brian Roberts?

Roberts E vs TEX

In case you were wondering, yes. That was a play he should have made. Courtesy of Getty Images

This was supposed to be a post asking how much longer the Yankees could afford to keep trotting Brian Roberts out as their everyday second baseman.  It was supposed to be posted on Tuesday, but Mike Axisa beat me to the punch and said everything I was going to say so I scrapped the idea.  That’s blog life.  It happens.  But then I was struck with a new Roberts-centric idea based on what’s transpired over the last few days.  Buried in Mike’s post was this point about Roberts’ contract that I had totally forgotten about:

Roberts is about to start making some decent bucks through bonuses — he has already banked $350,000 in incentives and is two plate appearances away from another $250,0000 — so there is a financial incentive to make a change as well. The Yankees would pay Refsnyder through the end of the season less than the bonus they’d owe Roberts if he gets those next two plate appearances.

Not only is Roberts hurting the team’s chances to win by being on the field and in the lineup, he’s right on the cusp of getting paid some juicy additional coin to suck.  The 350k Axisa referenced came from 2 bonus clauses in his contract that triggered when he reached the 250 and 300-plate appearance plateaus (175k for each).  The bonuses jump to 250k for 350 and 400 PA, 300k for 450, and all that way up to 400k should he reach the 600 and 650 milestones.  You can check out all the details for yourself right here.  Knowing that and knowing that the team has held Roberts out of the lineup the last few games to rest him for “soreness” and being “beat up”, it raises the question as to what the true motivation is behind the decision.

Consider that Roberts himself told reporters yesterday he doesn’t feel that bad and didn’t ask for the days off.  Consider that the Yankees have replaced him at second with Brendan Ryan, a much better glove man to be sure, but as a hitter someone who can very easily be worse than Roberts’ 81 wRC+ level of production.  Consider that Roberts had already gotten 4 days off this month before the decision to bench/rest him was made, the most he’s had in any 1 month since April, and in the last game he played he made his 348th plate appearance of the season, 2 away from the first 250k bonus plateau.

Consider also that Roberts has played in 91 games this year, the most for him since 2009.  In those 91 games and 348 PA, he’s posted offensive numbers that are at or near the bottom of every important statistical category among the 19 batting title-qualified second basemen.  His defense has been equally bad.  He’s up among the leaders in errors, most advanced metrics rate him below-average, and he’s looked increasingly bad over the last few weeks.

Simply put, Brian Roberts sucks.  He’s old, he’s broken down, and he’s not a good player anymore on either side of the ball.  He’s an everyday player who has no business playing every day and it’s not a matter of small samples or bad luck.  He’s had plenty of time to come around and show the Yankees something and he hasn’t done it.  They’ve probably gotten more from him in terms of games played than they ever anticipated, and now that they’ve seen firsthand how little he’s brought to table in those games, they might be re-thinking those bonus clauses they worked into his contract.

I’m not saying for certain that this is what’s going on, but all the circumstantial evidence adds up to it being a very real possibility.  I mean, it’s not like the Yankees have been running Roberts ragged all year.  He’s gotten a fair amount of days off and Joe has always been good about giving him time when he has been sore, like earlier in April when he had the back problems.  Now all of a sudden he’s so beaten up and tired that he has to be given multiple consecutive days off and the timing of that decision just happens to coincide with him reaching an easily-achievable performance clause?  Come on.

To be clear, I don’t have a problem with it at all if that’s what’s going on.  I don’t care what explanation the Yanks give for getting Roberts out of the lineup as long as he’s out of the lineup.  If they want to replace him with Ryan, Kelly Johnson when he comes off the DL, Jose Pirela, Rob Refsnyder, whoever.  As long as it’s not Roberts, I’m cool with it.  But I do think there is more to this than him simply being “sore” and if there is then it makes the decision to sign him in the first place look even worse.

Born in Dover, Delaware and raised in Danbury, Connecticut, Brad now resides in Wisconsin, where he regularly goes out of his way to remind Brewers fans that their team will never be as good as the Yankees. When he’s not writing for IIATMS, he likes to spend his time incorporating “Seinfeld” quotes into everyday conversation, critiquing WWE storylines, and drinking enough beer to be good at darts.