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Once a Yankee: 10 stars you forgot wore pinstripes

@williamfleitch
March 13, 2019

There is a long, rich history of the Yankees bringing in veterans who made their name with other teams at the tail ends of their careers -- often for such a short amount of time that you might forget they ever played for New York at all. Today, we take

There is a long, rich history of the Yankees bringing in veterans who made their name with other teams at the tail ends of their careers -- often for such a short amount of time that you might forget they ever played for New York at all.

Today, we take a look at 10 such Yankees, those who had outstanding careers elsewhere and sneaked into pinstripes toward the end. You probably don't remember that any of these players were Yanks; with some of them, it even seems wrong that they were ever part of the team. But Yankees they were.

We limited ourselves to players in the 2000s, by the way. The recency won't make it much easier to remember.

Lance Berkman, 2010
The Astros -- beginning their transition from the old guard to the young, stacked 2017 World Series champions we know today -- sent Berkman to the Yankees at the Trade Deadline for a pair of Minor Leaguers, one of whom was Mark Melancon. Berkman only played 37 games for the Yanks, and they weren't particularly impressive ones: He had just one homer and hit .255. He launched a big home run in the American League Division Series against the Twins, however, but New York declined his option in the offseason. It worked out just fine for Berkman: He signed with the Cardinals and won his first and only World Series the next year.

Jose Canseco, 2000
Even though Canseco was still a productive hitter -- he had 46 homers for the Blue Jays in 1998, which had to have been the quietest 46 big flies Canseco was capable of hitting -- he bounced around from team to team in the last five years of his career: From 1994-2001, he played for the Rangers, Red Sox, A's, Blue Jays, Devil Rays, White Sox and, yes, the Yankees. The Yanks were the least remarkable of his stops, where he hit six homers in 37 games and was unable to make the postseason roster for the ALDS and AL Championship Series. He got one at-bat in the World Series against the Mets and struck out. It didn't stop him from picking up his second World Series ring.

Matt Holliday, 2017
After eight productive years, the Cardinals didn't offer Holliday a contract following the 2016 season. He immediately picked up with the Yankees, and for a while, hit the ball like crazy. He had 11 homers during the first two months of the season and was briefly the Yanks' best hitter. After the All-Star break, though, injuries grabbed him again, and he barely played until September. He was left off the ALDS roster, but he went 0-for-3 in the ALCS loss to Houston. In 2018, Holliday was back in that Rockies uniform we all know and love, and he may have one more midseason comeback left in him.

Kenny Lofton, 2004
One of the more exciting players during his prime -- and a player who should probably get more Hall of Fame consideration -- Lofton spent nine of the first 10 full seasons of his career in Cleveland, save for a brief cameo season in Atlanta. Then he became a world traveler, playing for the White Sox, Giants, Pirates, Cubs, Phillies, Dodgers, Rangers, Indians (again) and Yankees from 2002-07. The Yanks actually signed him to a two-year deal in December 2003 -- and he was so excited to be a Yankee he said he'd be willing to "park cars" -- but he mostly backed up Bernie Williams and played just 83 games. He hit a memorable homer in the notorious '04 ALCS against Boston, but New York traded him to Philadelphia that offseason.

Andrew McCutchen, 2018
Sure, you can remember that Cutch played for the Yankees now; it just happened. But in five years, will you be able to recall his 25 games in the Bronx? He was solid for the Yanks, all told, hitting five homers and putting up a .421 OBP, though his 2-for-15 performance in the ALDS against the Red Sox wasn't particularly helpful.

John Olerud, 2004
Like Lofton, another 2004 cameo, Olerud was released by the Mariners in July. The Yankees picked him up, desperate to hold off the rampaging Red Sox however they could. Olerud had a nice little uptick for the Yanks, putting up a .280/.367/.396 slash line in 49 games and launching a homer (also like Lofton!) in the '04 ALCS. The Red Sox must have been impressed: They signed him for '05, his final season.

Jesse Orosco, 2003
Of all the names on this list, Orosco surprised me the most: I couldn't believe the Mets legend would ever wear a Yankees uniform. He did, though, for 15 entirely unproductive games in 2003, at age 46. Orosco was barely hanging on in '03, pitching for three teams -- the Padres and Twins were the others -- and he did not perform well for any of them. Fifteen of his record 1,252 appearances were with the Yanks, but he only threw 4 1/3 innings, giving up six runs (five earned).

Ivan Rodriguez, 2008
After Jorge Posada had season-ending surgery on his shoulder in July, the Yankees needed a catcher -- so, being the Yanks, they went out and got a Hall of Famer, trading Kyle Farnsworth to the Tigers for Rodriguez. Pudge wasn't much for New York, alas, hitting just .219/.257/.323, and the club didn't re-sign him that offseason. That ended up being the first year the Yankees missed the postseason since 1994.

Kevin Youkilis, 2013
It feels morally wrong, honestly, to type this, but it's true: Youk finished his career as a Yankee, playing his final 28 games in pinstripes. Injuries ravaged the last year of Youkilis' career, ending it early when he was just 34. It is worth noting that Youkilis was fully aware of the ramifications of signing with the Yanks, letting Boston fans know when he signed that he would always "be a Red Sock" and "I'll never be Alex Rodriguez." Other beloved Red Sox who had cameos with the Yankees: Derek Lowe and Doug Mientkiewicz.

Todd Zeile, 2003
Zeile was in the "Professional Hitter" phase of his career when he signed with the Yankees before the 2003 season, saying he wanted to win a ring alongside his friend Robin Ventura before his career ended. He didn't last long: The Yanks designated Zeile for assignment that August -- a month after they traded Ventura -- and he finished the season with the Expos before playing one final season with the Mets in '04.