As soon as the Yankees finalized the deal to send Chase Headley back to the Padres, the talk of the offseason revolved around Miguel Andujar. The Yankees almost definitely wouldn’t go into the season without a backup plan, right? Todd Frazier, who the Yankees enjoyed having last year, was available, so were Neil Walker and Mike Moustakas. The whole offseason went by and it looked more and more like Andujar was going to be given his chance.
Then, Brandon Drury came along.
In a three-team trade that involved the Rays, the Yankees were able to get Brandon Drury from the Diamondbacks in exchange for Nick Solak and Taylor Widener (who will widen our Taylors now?). While Drury only played one game at third last year, it’s his natural position and the Yankees said that his focus will be there. Not only was he focusing on third base positionally, Brian Cashman even went out of his way to say Drury had “a leg up” in the competition.
“To be intellectually honest about it, Drury’s going to have a leg up given the fact he’s had two years of major-league experience that he can fall back on, plus postseason experience, and all those things will serve him well,” Cashman said.
However, just because he’s the favorite, doesn’t mean the competition is over. Especially if Miguel Andujar has something to say.
There’s a reason that Andujar is competing for a job with the Yankees instead of prepping for life in Pittsburgh. The Pirates wanted Andujar in a potential Gerrit Cole trade and the Yankees balked at the idea. They clearly value Andujar greatly and think he could help the Yankees. After his comments about Drury above, Cashman had this to say about Andujar:
“But you’ve got a young buck in Andujar that is an exciting talent. Andujar is a high-end, skilled player that we think is going to have a long, successful career in the big leagues, and we believe it’s going to be with us.”
The praise for Andujar has continued since spring training started.
Aaron Boone said this about Miguel Andujar this morning: "He really impacts the ball." After his walk-off homer last night, Andujar just impacted another — in a major way. It went through some trees past the LF wall, and bounced off an adjacent roof. #blast— Coley Harvey (@ColeyHarvey) February 27, 2018
A lot of folks might have been disheartened at the Drury acquisition, but Andujar seems to be fueled by it. So far this spring, Andujar is slashing .400/.400/1.100 with two home runs, including a walk-off home run on Monday night.
Most people believe that Andujar has a bat that can play in the majors. The biggest question about him has been his defense, specifically his footwork.
“The skill set, I don’t think there’s any question it’s there,” Boone said before the game. “He’s got the footspeed, the athleticism, the arm strength, all the traits you like out of a third baseman. But I think it’s continuing to really get consistent with his footwork that will allow him to be consistent on that side of the ball, and I feel like I’ve seen strides there.”
If he can improve there, the consensus is that he can definitely stick around. He has the tools to succeed, if he can just be adequate on the defensive side, I’m sure it’s something the Yankees can live with.
While Drury has the “leg up” in the competition, that’s mainly just about his experience in the majors than anything else. Obviously the Yankees see a lot in Drury, but it’s not like he’s someone who has just been handed a job. Drury is still competing and Andujar is doing everything to remind everyone that he’s still just as much a part of this.
The leg up is important, but it’s not vital.
There are service time implications with Andujar, so it’s not that clear if he’d break camp with the Yankees. They’d almost be doing themselves a disservice by not getting the extra year out of Andujar and Gleyber Torres. Once they’ve reached the point where that doesn’t matter though, it’s all fair game. Even if Andujar doesn’t crack the Opening Day roster, the job’s still his for the taking.
Miguel Andujar is not going down without a fight. He has hit well so far this spring and as long as he continues to do so, he’s going to give the Yankees something to think about. He’s not going to let Brandon Drury stand in his way, nor will he step aside to clear a path for him. If Drury wins the job, Andujar will make sure he earns the job. As long as Andujar makes the choice difficult, he’s doing his part correctly.