After months of contentious disagreement, mudslinging, and finger pointing, it appears baseball fans are finally getting what they want, sort of. After the MLBPA’s final refusal of the owners’ offer for the 2020 season, Rob Manfred announced the plan to unilaterally implement a season in accordance with the March 26th agreement. This decision marks a somewhat unsatisfactory end to one of the more embarrassing periods in recent MLB history, and ensures we will get at least some baseball this year, COVID-19 pandemic permitting.
And with the commissioner’s enforcement of the 2020 season, there are few more relieved Yankees than Miguel Andujar. The young third baseman has more riding on this season than many of his teammates. Andujar has endured a whirlwind 18 months or so, going from Rookie of the Year runner-up to a player in limbo.
The 25-year-old infielder has faced a season-ending labrum injury, being supplanted in the starting lineup, having to learn two new positions on the fly, and now the coronavirus pandemic. And through it all he has put his nose to the grindstone and done whatever it takes to break back into the Yankees team he took by storm only two years ago.
The final step in his road back is to put the months of hard work together and show off in these few months that baseball returns. One might argue that he would have been better off taking another year to recover from his shoulder surgery, yet all signs suggested he was already fully healed by the time spring training rolled around. Others may caution that a shaky showing at his newly-learned positions would further jeopardize his status on the team, however I would counter that a strong showing would cement his standing as an invaluable member of the Yankees.
Let us not forget that Andujar was perhaps the Yankees’ most reliable and consistent batter over the entire course of the 2018 season. He has truly game-breaking batting ability and a penchant for the timely hit. Andujar needs to show the Yankees in 2020 that potential still lurks in his bat after his 3-for-34 stretch attempting to play through injury in 2019. Early signs in spring training show that he rediscovered his prowess at the plate, good news for him as the Yankees will expend extra effort finding a way to get that bat in the lineup as frequently as possible.
The Yankees would love to enlist his bat, but that is contingent upon finding a spot for his glove. That is why 2020 is so important for Andujar not only this season, but in seasons to come. With Gio Urshela, a superior fielder occupying his spot at the hot corner and a healthy Giancarlo Stanton presumably the primary DH, Andujar has to show that his reinvention as a left fielder and even first baseman is something that can be trusted.
Barring a refreeze of Urshela’s bat, third is his position to lose, given Andujar will never match his ability with the glove. Throw in the overabundance of injuries in the outfield in recent years and there is a perfect storm for Andujar to carve out a meaningful and lasting role for himself on the grass. Again, the handful of innings in left this spring did well to begin inspiring confidence, it is up to him to continue to build the Yankees’ faith.
I am certain that Andujar realizes how critical this season is for him. In November, he was one of the first to begin his winter workout starting the grueling process of learning a new position. That hard work continued even throughout the COVID-19 shutdown, taking reps in left and at first at the Yankees facilities. It must have been humbling to hear his name thrown around as a trade chip over the winter, as journalists wondered if his absence in 2019 squeezed him out of the Bronx club. He surely wants to prove that he is an equally integral piece alongside Gleyber Torres as the second wave of Baby Bombers looking to establish a dynasty in this championship window.