This has been a brutal week for the Yankees in the injury department. Yesterday morning, Giancarlo Stanton went on the IL with a biceps injury. Aaron Hicks reportedly has yet to resume baseball activities. Most disconcertingly, Miguel Andujar injured his shoulder diving into third base on Sunday evening.
The team hoped the injury would prove to be minor, but reports indicate Andujar suffered a torn labrum and could require surgery. Bryan Hoch reports via Twitter that the Yankees will proceed cautiously for the next two weeks before making a decision, but a season-ending trip to the operating table is clearly within the realm of possibility now.
After a spring of frustrating, but small, injuries, this profiles as the first major blow to the Yankees, one that could shape the season in a more profound way. The team did lose Luis Severino in spring training with a worrying shoulder injury, but they remain hopeful his absence will be minimal. CC Sabathia continues to recover from multiple offseason surgeries, but he was always expected to miss time to begin the year. Hicks and Stanton, if all goes according to plan, should return in a few weeks.
Andujar is the first domino that could fall for the entire season. The Yankees clearly had high hopes for the 24-year-old third baseman, notably showing little interest in superstar infielder Manny Machado this winter. They put their faith in Andujar after a strong rookie campaign in which he hit .297/.328/.527 with 27 home runs. This ailment threatens to rob Andujar of a crucial season of development, when he could be refining his discipline at the plate and improving his defense at the hot corner.
It also robs the Yankees of a promising young bat, likely pushes DJ LeMahieu into the starting lineup, and strains their depth even more. Without Andujar, it will be harder to let LeMahieu play a utility role, possibly adding pressure to Troy Tulowitzki’s workload. In order to give Tulowitkzi a breather, the Yankees may have to plug Tyler Wade into the lineup after Wade was recalled from Triple-A in the wake of Andujar’s injury. Wade impressed in spring training, but has a woeful 25 OPS+ in 124 big-league at-bats, and has yet to prove ready for a major role.
Andujar’s injury far from dooms the Yankees. However unlikely, it’s possible he won’t require surgery, and if he does, the team does have ample depth on hand. Yet that depth was already under duress to begin with, and a season-long absence from Andujar would continue to erode the team’s margin for error. The Yankees will still expect to win the AL East, and they absolutely have the talent to do so. They’ll just have to do it without the third baseman they expected so much out of in 2019.