If not for bad luck, Miguel Andújar could very well still be the starting third baseman for the New York Yankees. But an untimely shoulder injury has set him back significantly, allowing Gio Urshela to take his job and run away with it.
After Urshela established his stranglehold in the starting lineup two seasons ago, Andújar was displaced in 2020. Even worse, it happened during a pandemic-shortened campaign, leaving him with even fewer limited opportunities across the 60-game slate. How was he supposed to prove himself?
The Yankees really didn’t have much of an option though. They had no leverage in trade talks if they considered dealing him because he had just missed a full season and only had his rookie year under his belt. On the other hand, his defense was already shoddy at third base. Why did anyone think a utility role was appropriate?
There are a multitude of reasons why this is an issue. First off, the Yankees roster, from a defensive perspective, has never been more solidified than it’s been the last four years. On top of that, they’ve added guys like Jay Bruce, Derek Dietrich and Greg Allen as insurance in the event there are injuries or guys need days off.
Bruce and Dietrich were both signed to minor-league deals, but you’d probably expect one of them to make the team, which would further hurt Andújar’s chances of getting more playing time. Why? Bruce can play first base and outfield while Dietrich can play first, second third and a bit of outfield. And Allen can play multiple outfield spots.
And if Luke Voit has any say in the matter, he’ll be playing all 162 games if his body allows it. If the Yankees are leaning on the possibility that there will be “more opportunities” for Andújar simply because the slate of games has nearly tripled, it’s still not enough because the young slugger will need consistent at-bats in order to prove his worth or rebuild his trade value.
Andújar’s only shot feels like it’ll be filling in for Urshela if the Yankees opt to take it slow at the onset of the season as he works his way back from elbow surgery.
The Yankees made it clear that they wanted a defensive upgrade at third base and made the change at the drop of a hat when Urshela forced their hand. Clint Frazier emerged defensively in 2020 — manager Aaron Boone named him the starting left fielder on Wednesday — and that ostensibly gave the team an excuse not to spend excessively by bringing back Brett Gardner. Then, you have guys like Bruce and Dietrich, both of whom can play multiple positions, invited to camp.
So please tell us how any plan that doesn’t include trading Andújar is going to work?