Bader claimed off waivers by Reds

'The opportunity has just been incredible. And I've loved every second of it'

August 31st, 2023

DETROIT -- was in the Yankees’ lunch room on Tuesday afternoon at Comerica Park when he saw his name flash across the bottom of the screen.

New York had placed him on waivers.

Bader was gone two days later, scooped up by the Reds, who were looking to add outfield talent during a final push for the postseason that saw them one game out of an NL Wild Card spot entering play on Thursday.

“Regardless of what happened or may happen,” Bader said, “just getting the opportunity to play in this uniform ... just everything that's happened has been an absolute blessing. An absolute gift.

“I’m a New York City kid, and I never in a million years thought I’d play in the big leagues, let alone for the New York Yankees. So, the opportunity has just been incredible. And I've loved every second of it.”

At 10 games out of a postseason spot, the Yankees have begun to shift focus away from their immediate future and more toward their long-term goals. More often than not lately, New York has opted to give its young talent playing time, allowing guys like Oswald Peraza and Everson Pereira to gain invaluable experience as they build toward 2024 and beyond.

With that, though, comes tough decisions involving odd men out. On Wednesday afternoon, sources said Jasson Domínguez, the Yankees’ No. 2 prospect and MLB’s No. 78 overall prospect by MLB Pipeline would be promoted on Friday and make his MLB debut sometime during the upcoming series in Houston. The highly touted center fielder’s imminent promotion all but sealed Bader’s fate, as he patrolled center and a move would need to be made to make room for Domínguez.

New York also announced on Tuesday that it had released outfielder Josh Donaldson.

Bader joined the Yankees in a 2022 Trade Deadline deal that sent Jordan Montgomery to St. Louis.

Bader was fresh off an NL Gold Glove Award-winning season with the Cardinals in 2021, and he came lauded by general manager Brian Cashman for his outfield defense. At the time, the Yankees were looking to move Aaron Judge out of center field to help save his legs in preparation for a deep postseason run.

Sprinkle in a little nostalgia -- the 29-year-old Bader was born in Bronxville, N.Y., and raised in the shadow of Yankee Stadium -- and the trade seemed to be a fit on all sides.

Bader had two hits and three RBIs in his Yankees debut on Sept. 20. Then came the 2022 postseason, and with it, Bader’s five homers in nine games before New York bowed out in the AL Championship Series against the Astros.

But after that, as Montgomery flourished with St. Louis, Bader’s career never quite took off the way anyone had hoped.

A lot of that was due to myriad injuries. Including Tuesday, Bader had appeared in just 97 games during his year-plus tenure with New York, with plantar fasciitis, a left oblique strain and a right hamstring strain each preventing him from gaining much momentum at the plate.

He had a .240/.278/.365 slash line in 84 games with the Yankees this season.

Bader is set to become a free agent at season’s end, and because the Reds plucked him from waivers, the Yankees are relieved of the remainder of his $5.2 million contract. He's now also eligible to appear on Cincinnati's postseason roster should the team claim a berth.

“[Bader is] one of the best center fielders, if not the best defensive center fielder, that I've played with, and I’ve played with some good ones,” Yankees ace Gerrit Cole said. “... I hope he gets to keep pursuing his dream of winning a World Series. He certainly deserves it.”