Yankees: Miguel Andujar is more than trade bait heading into 2020 season

Miguel Andujar #41 of the New York Yankees stands in the dugout. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
Miguel Andujar #41 of the New York Yankees stands in the dugout. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /

Don’t sleep on New York Yankees third baseman Miguel Andujar in 2020.

About two weeks ago, it marked one year since Miguel Andujar was able to play in a regular-season game and don the pinstripes of the New York Yankees.

It was two years ago when Andujar was touted as a critical piece to the Yankees’ success. With a little work on his glove at third, Andujar projected to be a high-average, power threat at the hot corner.

A torn right labrum early in the 2019 season halted all thoughts of Andujar’s longterm role on the Yanks. At the time, losing “Miggy” for the entire season felt like a significant blow for New York. Andujar came in second in American League Rookie of the Year voting in 2018 and was arguably better than budding superstar Gleyber Torres in their first stints in the Bronx.

Out of nowhere, Gio Urshela transformed from a glove-first, bottom-of-the-order third baseman to a .300 hitter and one of the heroes of the injury-plagued 2019 campaign. Suddenly, Andujar was pushed into the background.

In just two seasons, Andujar went from a vital contributor to a luxury. Instead of fans fantasizing about what his return to the team would look like, trade speculation surrounded Andujar this past offseason.

Heading into 2020, Andujar’s future in pinstripes is cloudy. Urshela stole Andujar’s job out from under him with a tremendous 2019 campaign. If Urshela can come close to replicating his production at the plate again, Andujar will have his work cut out for him if he will once again man the hot corner every night.

However, it remains to be seen if Urshela has truly transformed as a hitter. A cold streak in 2020 could yet again open the door for one of the Yankees best hitters just two seasons ago.

In 2018, Andujar hit .297/.328/.527 with 27 homers and 92 RBI. Andujar also topped Joe Dimaggio’s Yankees rookie record for most doubles in a season (47) It will be hard for manager Aaron Boone to not want that type of production in the lineup. If Andujar is looking strong at the plate, Boone will likely try to find him a spot in the lineup every chance he gets.

Miguel Andujar may be able to help Yankees at 1B or LF

Although it’s too early to tell how seriously the Yankees took Andujar’s reps at first base and left field this spring, Andujar does have a few spots he can potentially fill if an injury occurs. The Yankees do have depth at those positions with Mike Ford and Mike Tauchman on the bench, if needed, but if Andujar is hitting like he did in his rookie campaign, that bat cannot stand idly by.

Versatility could play a role in getting playing time. Although his bat will more than likely force the Yankees to get him in the lineup, the potential for him to play multiple positions could have him play a similar role to that of DJ LeMahieu a la 2019.

Now, to expect Andujar to find himself in the MVP conversation is foolhardy. But think back to the beginning of last season when LeMahieu was viewed as a utility piece who would fit into the lineup multiple times a week.

A few weeks into the season, LeMahieu was an everyday player. Plans often change in a blink of an eye during the course of a Major League Baseball season.

On paper, Andujar looks more like a role player than a critical member of the team. That could all change quickly if an injury or an early-season slump occurs. The talent is there and the 25-year-old barely scratched the surface in his rookie campaign.

At the moment, Andujar is on the backburner. The infield appears set with Urshela, Torres, LeMahieu and Luke Voit at first base.

Andujar will need some breaks but it is still far too early to write Andujar off and ship him away as part of a blockbuster trade deal. An injury or poor play following a career year would propel Andujar back into the mix.

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As quickly as Andujar saw himself fall out of the lineup, he could find himself right back in the middle of it in 2020.