In a span of 12 months, Yankees’ third baseman Miguel Andujar has gone from runner-up for the Rookie of the Year award to a question mark for the team’s 2020 season. Andujar will likely be on a field playing baseball next year. It remains to be seen, however, if he’ll still be in Yankee pinstripes.
What a difference a year can make.
A shoulder injury cut short Andujar’s 2019 season, as he underwent season-ending surgery in May. The Yankees successfully filled the void with Gio Urshela taking over at third base. Urshela’s production with the bat and glove, opened eyes around the town. It also gave General Manager Brian Cashman reason to take a moment of pause and consider the what-ifs for when Andujar returns next year.
There’s nothing wrong with having options, the Yankees are a team that always seem to keep a few on standby. In 132 games played, Urshela hit 21 home runs and posted a .314 batting average in 2019. Not bad for a player signed to a minor-league deal with an invite to Spring Training. It was Urshela’s play on the field at third base, however, which brought a sense of calm this team didn’t have with Andujar there.
While Urshela’s 2019 was impressive, it’s understandable to question if his production is sustainable. He posted career highs in batting average, home runs, and runs batted in (74). However, he also received almost a full season of regular time in a loaded starting lineup. Urshela, prior to joining the Yankees, saw limited action with Cleveland and Toronto respectively. Was his strong play in 2019 a product of hitting in such a talented lineup? Or was it because he was given a chance to play daily? These are legitimate questions for the Yankees to consider this winter.
Andujar’s defensive liabilities put him in the mix of trade rumors after the 2018 season, and that’s even after almost winning the American League Rookie of the Year award. It’s his bat, however, that makes this an intriguing dilemma for the Yankees.
In 2018, Andujar hit 27 home runs in 149 games. He posted a .297 batting average with 92 runs batted in. He doesn’t turn 25 until March which means there’s still a substantial amount of potential worth tapping into.
What the Yankees should do this off season, and most likely will do, is cover all their bases with Andujar. This means Cashman is right to consider a position change for him, perhaps in the outfield or at first base. He’s also right to consider a spring training competition at third base with Urshela.
Then there’s always the designated hitter position. The Yankees have always found ways to maximize this spot in the lineup to get offensive-minded hitters, with defensive liabilities, their time to shine with the bat. Andujar could be ideal in this role, while playing the field on a limited basis, if his defensive skills don’t improve.
The wild card in all this is the possibility of trading Andujar this winter. He’s expected to be back on the field for 2020,healthy and ready to play. There will be teams curious to see what Cashman could want back in return for Andujar. Starting pitching remains a sore spot for this team but expectations are the Yankees will address that in free agency. Andujar, however, could also be moved to replenish young prospects.
Andujar’s offensive pop, along with his youth, makes for a good problem to have next spring when players report for Spring Training. Then, of course there’s the fact that Andujar and Urshela would provide a much more cost-effective solution for third base. Money and focus can then be allocated towards the starting pitching. For those reasons alone, the Yankees should proceed with caution this winter when teams begin calling about him.
Listening to what teams may have to offer isn’t foolish, it’s just good business, but Andujar’s potential is enough where Cashman and manager Aaron Boone would be justified in waiting until spring training to see just how good a dilemma they have.