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The Yankees cannot ignore their lack of infield depth

Though there’s talent at the top, the Yankees are an injury away from having dangerously low infield depth.

Divisional Round - New York Yankees v Boston Red Sox - Game One Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

The Yankees’ infield has come a long way in recent years. From 2013-2017, the team shuffled through retreads like Brian Roberts and Lyle Overbay, average filler like Chase Headley and Stephen Drew, and short-term help in Martin Prado and Todd Frazier. The 2018 infield of Luke Voit, Gleyber Torres, Didi Gregorius, and Miguel Andujar was a dramatic improvement over those of years gone by.

The Yankees still have issues in the infield, though. The infield unit was already defensively challenged, and that was even before it lost its field general, Didi Gregorius, for an indefinite amount of time. Now, the Yankees are short a starting infielder and have very few convincing internal options.

The most likely scenario that happens is that Torres, a natural shortstop, moves from second base to short until Gregorius returns, if he even does. That moves the vacancy to second base, which, while an easier position to fill externally, is still a hole. The Yankees may as well be robbing Peter to pay Paul.

The Yankees only have seven healthy infielders on their 40-man roster. Three of those seven are exclusively corner infielders, and another one, Thairo Estrada, is a minor league infielder coming off of a season lost to injury. That leaves three healthy middle infielders on the roster – Torres, Tyler Wade and Hanser Alberto. Torres is a stud, but will just be entering his age-22 season. Wade and Alberto both have career OPS’s under .470 at the big league level. They could be useful as utility men, but are far from starting-caliber players.

Given the dearth of infield options the Yankees have, letting Ronald Torreyes go was a curious move. He shouldn’t be relied on as a starter either, but he has been more productive than Wade and Alberto and was a fit in the clubhouse. He shouldn’t be guaranteed a 25-man roster spot by any means, but he was probably worth keeping around as another depth option for the roughly $900,000 it would have cost to retain him via arbitration.

Beyond the middle infield, there are also questions to answer at first and third base. Luke Voit has made Greg Bird an afterthought at first base, but it remains to be seen if Voit’s 2018 performance is indicative of his true talent level or a player getting hot at the right time. At third base, Miguel Andujar had an amazing offensive rookie year in 2018, but his defense is a work in progress at best and a downright liability at worst.

No American League playoff team made more errors in 2018 than the Yankees, thanks in large part to 32 errors from Andujar and Torres. That won’t change unless these players clean up their defense. It’s certainly possible, but not bringing in any viable form of insurance for Andujar or Torres after just one year in the show would be foolish.

The Yankees have a big wish list for this offseason: they need starting pitching, relief pitching, and infielders. That won’t come cheap, but the Yankees won’t get where they need to be by pinching pennies. It’s all about spending resources wisely. If the Yankees think that signing Manny Machado is the answer, then they should do it. If they’d rather acquire two veteran infielders for the price of one, like Asdrubal Cabrera, Neil Walker, Adeiny Hechavarria, DJ Lemahieu, Jed Lowrie, or Josh Harrison, that’s fine too. The only thing the Yankees can’t do in regards to their infield is do nothing or get outspent on the guy they really want.

In all likelihood, Torres and Andujar will continue to grow as the future of the Yankees’ infield. Maybe one of Voit or Bird can be a league-average first baseman or better. Perhaps Gregorius comes back sooner than expected. However, the Yankees’ infield is in a potentially precarious position. They don’t have much depth, a problem that seriously affected the outfield last year. Regardless of if that means adding one Machado or two depth veterans, the Yankees will have to bolster their infield unless the team wants the infield equivalents of Shane Robinson starting games in the dog days when guys hit the disabled list.