The Yankees have a minor league deal in place with center fielder Ender Inciarte, according to the team’s transactions log at MLB.com (hat tip: Lindsey Adler of The Athletic, on Twitter). Their transaction log also indicates that right-hander Vinny Nittoli, outfielder Blake Perkins and infielder Wilkerman Garcia have signed minor league deals (or, in Garcia’s care, re-signed). Inciarte was able to sign a minor league deal because he did not finish the 2021 season on a team’s 40-man roster or 60-day injured list.
Inciarte is the most recognizable name of the bunch — a former All-Star center fielder and three-time Gold Glove winner with the Braves. Acquired by Atlanta alongside Dansby Swanson in the heist that sent Shelby Miller to the D-backs, Inciarte was outstanding in his first three seasons with the Braves, hitting at a .287/.342/.391 clip with elite defense and plus speed that provided plenty of value on the basepaths. His 2016 season was impressive enough that the Braves wasted little time in inking him to a five-year, $30.525MM contract extension that bought out all four of his arbitration years — Inciarte was a Super Two player — and one free-agent year, with an option for a second.
Unfortunately for both Inciarte and the Braves, by the midway point of the contract, things turned south — though not necessarily through any fault of Inciarte. While he largely replicated his 2016 production in 2017-18, Inciarte went down with a lumbar strain early in the 2019 season and missed more than two months while nursing that back injury. He returned from the IL in mid-July but was back on the shelf less than a month later, this time owing to a hamstring injury that kept him out for the final six weeks of the season.
Inciarte’s bat cratered in the 2020 season, and he didn’t rebound much in 2021 before another hamstring injury cropped up. Atlanta eventually designated him for assignment and released him this past summer, in what was the final year of that five-year extension. While Inciarte latched on with the Reds on a minor league pact, he didn’t return to the Majors last season. On the whole, since that strong run from 2016-18, Inciarte owns a meager .223/.306/.338 batting line through 450 trips to the plate at the MLB level.
The Yankees’ outfield mix is already rather crowded, with Joey Gallo, Aaron Hicks, Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton all locked into outfield/designated hitter time next season. It’s not certain whether Brett Gardner will return to the Bronx once again, but if he signs elsewhere or calls it a career, that’d greatly improve Inciarte’s odds of breaking camp with the Yankees and earning an Opening Day roster spot.
As for Nittoli, the 31-year-old righty made his MLB debut this past season after an eight-year odyssey that included stops in Seattle (where he was a 25th-round pick), the then-independent St. Paul Saints (now a Twins affiliate), the Blue Jays and the D-backs. Nittoli found his was back to the Mariners in minor league free agency last season, and while his call to the Majors was exceedingly brief — just one game and one inning — it nevertheless marked the type of feel-good story of hard work paying off that so many sports fans love to see.
Nittoli returned to the Saints after being cut loose by the Mariners, this time as a member of the Twins’ Triple-A affiliate rather than a team in the independent American Association. He did not, however, end up pitching in the big leagues with Minnesota. Nittoli was quite home run prone in 2021, leading to a bloated 5.05 ERA in Triple-A, but he also posted an outstanding 51-to-10 K/BB ratio in 41 innings. Overall, he carries a career 4.61 minor league ERA with a 25.2% strikeout rate and a 7.3% walk rate.
Perkins, 25, was one of three players sent from the Nationals to the Royals in 2018’s Kelvin Gutierrez trade. The former second-round pick (2015) never really found his footing in the Royals organization and became a free agent after a 2021 season that saw him hit .202/.319/.332 in 280 Double-A plate appearances.
Garcia, 23, has spent his whole career in the Yankees organization and batted .234/.288/.318 in the low minors. He spent the 2021 season on the minor league 60-day injured list and hasn’t played in a game setting since 2019, when he spent the bulk of his time in Class-A Advanced.