The Yankees have agreed to minor league contracts with right-hander Art Warren and first baseman/outfielder Jake Bauers, as first indicated on the transactions log at MiLB.com. Warren’s contract is a two-year minor league deal that includes an invitation to Major League Spring Training in 2024, I’m told.
Warren, 30 in March, spent the past two seasons with the Reds and is expected to miss the 2023 season after undergoing surgery to repair the UCL in his pitching elbow back in September. Given that lengthy recovery period, the Reds non-tendered him earlier in the offseason. He’ll now latch on with a new club in hopes of rehabbing his arm and pitching his way into the Yankees’ bullpen plans in 2024, when he’s back at full strength.
While the 2022 season wasn’t a good one for Warren — 6.50 ERA, career-worst 13.3% walk rate and 1.50 HR/9 — it’s fair to wonder how much his elbow’s health (or lack thereof) contributed to those struggles. Warren’s average fastball sat at 95.3 mph with Cincinnati in 2021 but dipped to 93.6 mph in 2022, and his overall results in a healthy 2021 showing were outstanding. The 6’3″, 230-pound righty parlayed a big strikeout rate in Triple-A into a Major League look with the Reds and delivered a 1.29 ERA with an eye-popping 41.5% strikeout rate in 21 innings of work. Only four pitchers (min. 20 innings) managed to top Warren’s 19.2% swinging-strike rate in 2021: Liam Hendriks, Raisel Iglesias, Josh Hader and Jacob deGrom. Suffice it to say, when healthy, there’s plenty of intrigue surrounding Warren’s raw stuff.
Warren didn’t get a look in the Majors until his age-26 season with the Mariners, in part due to injuries, and he didn’t pitch in 2020 due to the canceled minor league season. The recent elbow issue will further cut into his opportunities, and he’ll be 31 by the time he has a legitimate chance to make the Yankees’ roster in 2024. If he makes the team at that point, he’ll be controllable for five years before he can become a free agent. For now, he won’t earn service time on the minor league deal but will be able to rehab at the Yankees’ facilities and with their training and medical staff.
As for Bauers, it’ll be his second stint with the Yankees, who signed him to a minor league deal last offseason as well and ultimately traded him to the Reds in exchange for cash over the summer. The 27-year-old former top prospect didn’t crack the big league roster with either club, hitting .226/.352/.406 with the Yankees’ Triple-A club and just .135/.276/.271 with the Reds’ top affiliate.
Bauers has appeared in parts of three Major League seasons, spending time with Tampa Bay, Cleveland and Seattle, but he’s managed a tepid .213/.307/.348 batting line in 1126 plate appearances. He’ll give the Yankees a left-handed depth option at first base and left field down in Scranton.