Three seasons ago, Miguel Andújar was the runner up for the AL Rookie of the Year. A 130 wRC+ had Yankee fans imagining yet another young, All Star-level bat in the lineup for years to come. Since that ROY race, though, Andújar has played just 33 of a possible 222 games, while being a well-below average hitter the whole time.
Gio Urshela has become a star, hitting better over the last two seasons than Miggy did in his rookie campaign, while playing much better defense. Clint Frazier established himself as a full-time outfielder in 2020, with a .908 OPS, marketed improvement on defense, and earning a Gold Glove nomination. Gold Gloves must be taken with a grain of salt at the best of times, but it’s hard to imagine Frazier rides the bench from here on out — he’s proven to be as good as expected with the bat, and shown that he can be at least reliable in the outfield.
Brian Cashman has re-affirmed his commitment to Giancarlo Stanton as the team’s fulltime DH. All this is to say... where does Miguel Andújar play?
It’s hard to blame Andújar for being passed over — he was hurt in 2019, tearing his labrum in mid-May. His performance in the 12 games he did play was abysmal, with a -36 wRC+ and just a 2% walk rate, but you can’t properly evaluate a player’s talent on the back of a dozen games. Andújar lost his starting job at third because he got hurt, and as discussed above, Urshela became essentially Matt Chapman.
The Yankees have tried to open up spots around the diamond for Andújar, with him taking reps at first only to see Luke Voit have an MVP-adjacent season while leading the league in home runs. Frazier has become the player we hoped he would be, Mike Tauchman is still on this roster, and the Yankees have demonstrated their loyalty to Brett Gardner over and over again. The question of Gardner’s role on the 2021 squad is an open one, but at best, Andújar is the fifth best outfielder on this roster.
No DH role, no third base spot, no first base possibility, and a cluttered, crowded outfield. Maybe Andújar backs his way into a starting role because Urshela or Voit gets traded, but in doing that, the Yankees move a lesser player into the starting spot, meaning the return on the trade has to be correspondingly more valuable to cover that gap. It can’t be a hypothetical 1-for-1 value swap, because the replacement is markedly worse than the incumbent.
Andújar himself doesn’t carry much trade value, either. It’ll increase a bit if the National League keeps the DH rule in perpetuity, but an impatient, free-swinging hitter who can’t play defense doesn’t inspire much confidence for any team. Sure, maybe you stash him in the minors until the inevitable injury, but even on an IL-plagued team, Andújar hasn’t played all that much:
Miggy’s played fewer games than any hitter on the Yankee 40-man over the past two years. If the best ability is availability, he just...hasn’t been available. The Yankees’ insistence on keeping him at the alternate site, even while infielders like DJ LeMahieu, Gleyber Torres or Urshela spent time on the IL in 2020, helps signal just what the club thinks of their onetime ROY finalist.