Eric Chavez was known as an outstanding defender and clutch hitter over his 17-year career in the big leagues, including a brief cameo wearing pinstripes in the Bronx. The Yankees believe that he’ll be a valuable asset to their coaching staff this coming season.
Chavez was arguably the most recognizable name added as the Yankees formally announced manager Aaron Boone’s 2022 coaching staff this week, with the six-time Gold Glover and 2002 Silver Slugger Award winner tabbed as an assistant hitting coach.
“He’s someone that I’ve had interest in for a while,” Boone said on Wednesday. “I’ve envisioned this role of having a guy who can grow into a role, bring presence to the coaching staff and bring a presence to the room. I feel like he has a lot of things to offer. As we put him through the interview process, in a lot of ways, he blew me away.”
Following his final at-bat in 2014, Chavez served as a special assistant to Yankees general manager Brian Cashman before working with the Angels in a similar role from 2016-20.
Chavez played 171 games with the Yankees in 2011-12 following a stellar run at the hot corner with the A's (1998-2010). He finished his career with the D-backs (2013-14), retiring with a .268 average, 260 home runs and an .818 OPS (115 OPS+).
“He’s got a really good perspective on the game. He’s very open-minded,” Boone said. “He’s part of the hitting crew, but he’s going to be more than that. I kind of view him as a little bit of a Swiss Army [knife] where he’s going to have a lot of different responsibilities. He’s going to have his hands in a lot of different things.”
Other new faces on the staff include third base and outfield coach Luis Rojas, assistant pitching coach Desi Druschel, hitting coach Dillon Lawson, assistant hitting coach Casey Dykes and first base and infield coach Travis Chapman.
Returning from the 2021 staff are bench coach Carlos Mendoza, pitching coach Matt Blake, bullpen coach Mike Harkey and quality control and catching coach Tanner Swanson. Cashman said earlier this offseason that he planned to employ three hitting coaches and three pitching coaches, following an example set by competitors like the Astros and Braves.
“There’s plenty of responsibility for everyone, no matter how much you add,” Boone said. “To me, this is more about adding people that have a chance to really impact us.”
Though the MLB lockout prevents team personnel from contacting players, Boone said that he and his coaches are beginning to plan for 2022.
Boone recently met with Rojas at Yankee Stadium, where he and the former Mets manager (2020-21) walked the outline of the diamond while speaking about a variety of topics. Rojas spent the past 16 years in the Mets’ organization.
“We were on the field, talking through signs and different non-verbal communication type things,” Boone said. “We’ll get together as a staff probably at some point, maybe in the month of January, really diving into what we want Spring Training to look like.”
Mendoza is returning for his 14th season in the organization and third in his current role. Harkey will be back for his 13th season as bullpen coach, while Blake is entering his third season as pitching coach.
“Matt Blake, entering Year 3, I feel like he’s done a great job,” Boone said. “He continues to have such a bright future in this game. I’m looking forward to him having another year under his belt and really impacting, with bringing Desi on to assist both Harkey and Matt Blake.”
Druschel spent the past three seasons as the team's manager of pitching development. Lawson had been the Yankees' Minor League hitting coordinator for three years, while Dykes was the hitting coach for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre last season.
“Dillon has had a really strong impact on our Minor Leagues,” Boone said. “Some of the things he’s incorporated, we saw this year really take off post-COVID season across the board. All our levels were really dynamic offensively. Now we get to see it at the big league level and hopefully really have a positive impact on our offense.”