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How the Yankees’ lineup may adjust given a return from Miguel Andujar

If Miguel Andujar makes a healthy return, the Yankees may have to toy around with him at DH or maybe even at first base to avoid stress on his shoulder.

MLB: Spring Training-Toronto Blue Jays at New York Yankees Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Early on in the season, third baseman Miguel Andujar was one of many Yankees to go down with an injury. Unfortunately, Andujar’s right labrum tear was a little more concerning than the rest of his teammates’ injuries, given that it threatened season-ending surgery. Coming off a season in which he finished second in the Rookie of the Year voting, an award some fans thought he should have won, this looked at a glance like a potentially season-altering loss for the Yankees.

Luckily, unlike some of his other teammates, Andujar’s progression through this injury has only been positive. Players like Aaron Hicks, Giancarlo Stanton, and Dellin Betances have been struggling to rehab through strains, stiffness, and soreness. Even after multiple cortisone shots, there is still not much of a timetable for those players to return. Andujar, on the other hand A, has at least so far shut down any talk about season-ending operations:

On top of starting to throw, Andujar has also started to take some swings in batting practice, looking a little better than some may expect:

As Coley Harvey points out, Andujar’s right labrum tear will mainly affect his throwing. Given his already below-average defensive skills, the Yankees are considering making him a DH instead of a third baseman, if and when he comes back healthy. We all saw him struggle last year making 15 errors in the field with limited range, so the Yankees shouldn’t have an issue taking him off the field while letting him keep his bat in his hands.

This offseason, the Yankees acquired DJ LeMahieu and Troy Tulowitzki, both defensively gifted infielders, adding depth protecting for situations like this. LeMahieu has already seen lots of action at third this season, with 29 of his 61 total at-bats coming while playing that position. There is no timetable for Tulowitzki’s return, but if he and Andujar were back, the infield may include Gleyber Torres at second, Tulowitski at shortstop and LeMahieu at third, with Andujar as the DH.

We all know the Yankees’ analytically-influenced lineup seemingly changes every day, and if Andujar is going to DH most of the time, this tosses an interesting wrench into the outfield layout. Giancarlo Stanton isn’t the Yankees’ best defensive outfielder, but a much-needed bat in the lineup, so will the Yankees accept his fielding to let Andujar bat as the designated hitter? What happens with the extra outfielders once Hicks is back as well? With Clint Frazier tearing the cover off the ball, Gardner might have the short straw if Andujar, Hicks, and Stanton all came back healthy.

What makes this all even crazier is the potential of putting Andujar at first base:

If Andujar plays at the cold corner, then where does Luke Voit play? Does he become the DH? If so, you’ll still have the same issue in the outfield with Stanton needing to play every day in the field, and guys like Frazier won’t be getting as many at-bats. The bright side of all of this is that, if they exist, these are all good problems.

But, to immediately switch back and play devil’s advocate, having to bench players like Voit or Stanton to let Andujar DH means the team isn’t putting their best foot forward. When healthy, Voit, Stanton, and Andujar are all players you want in the lineup every day. Also, you simply can’t ignore what LeMahieu has done so far even though he was acquired to be a super-utility man; all he has done is assert that his bat is also a must-have in the lineup every day.

If everything goes right and Andujar can come back and play an everyday third base, then some of these so-called “good problems” disappear. However you spin it, the Yankees, when healthy, are an extremely deep team, so there will always be somebody talented on the bench. The Yankees knew that going into the season, and to an extent it has helped them from not utterly collapsing thus far. While none of this is an issue for right now, it sparks some very interesting questions that Cashman and Boone will have to answer if they’re lucky enough to get a healthy Miguel Andujar back.