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Are the Yankees treating Miguel Andújar unfairly?

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His agent certainly believes so, but it’s a bit of a stretch.

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Baltimore Orioles v New York Yankees Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

The Yankees have a had a pretty drama-free season up to this point. There have been injuries and there have been cold spells, but there haven’t been too many waves made internally. The season has been smooth sailing in that way, as it has typically been under Aaron Boone.

That is, until now.

Miguel Andújar was sent down to the Yankees’ alternate site for the fourth time this season on Tuesday, and his agent, Ulises Cabrera, was not happy about it. In an interview with Lindsey Adler of The Athletic, Cabrera insinuated that the Yankees are messing with Andújar’s service time.

“Miguel is the first one sent down and never the first one brought back up,” Cabrera said. “Miguel Andújar should be playing for a Major League Baseball team, and a Major League Baseball game tonight.”

Saying Brian Cashman and the Yankees’ front office messed with Andújar’s service time to buy an extra year of club control is a heavy accusation, and one that could potentially strain a relationship. Andújar has every right to be unhappy about being sent down, and his agent is just doing his job by representing his client’s best interests, but does this pointed claim actually hold water?

I don’t believe the Yankees are manipulating Andújar’s service time (for what it’s worth, Cashman responded by saying, “If we were trying to manipulate his service time, we would have optioned him after Sunday’s game instead of waiting until Tuesday.”)

The most accurate part of Cabrera’s claim is that Andújar is the “first one sent down and never the first one brought back up.” When Andújar had been sent down in the past, he was sent down before others like Thairo Estrada, Tyler Wade or Mike Ford, who were similarly hitting below .200. When the Yankees needed to bring someone up because of injuries to Gleyber Torres and DJ LeMahieu, they brought Estrada up first, and then signed free agent Jordy Mercer. Although the Yankees say they needed a middle infielder (which Andújar isn’t), they definitely chose players with lower ceilings, and the Yankees’ offense dragged for those two weeks.

However, it is key to remember here that Andújar was a bit of a lost cause at this point, too. He wasn’t hitting .200 until a week ago, and had committed four combined errors (and a few other misplays) in less than 75 MLB innings this year. Andújar’s value is heavily centered around his bat – he’s a subpar fielder at any position. So, when he goes from July 25-September 6 without a single extra-base hit, he’s not providing any semblance of value to the Yankees. The team was justified in sending him down when they did.

But, were they this last time? Andújar, at long last, was hitting again recently. Over his last 15 games, he’s slashing .311/.354/.467 with five RBI. Still, he was sent down on Tuesday and has no apparent path back to the team, barring an injury. It’s fair for him to ask, what more can he do to secure a spot on the team at this point?

However, the Yankees just have no room for him right now. Andújar is blocked at third base by the recently-returned Gio Urshela, there are now six outfielders on the roster, and Luke Voit is having an MVP-caliber season at first base. Even DH is clogged – Giancarlo Stanton is strictly a DH this year, and Gary Sánchez will also get reps there.

The Yankees’ bench currently features Kyle Higashioka, Erik Kratz, Tyler Wade, Brett Gardner and Mike Tauchman. Compared to those players, Andújar isn’t the greatest bench player: you can’t trust him to enter the game late as a defensive replacement, and although he’d provide some right-handed pop off the bench, the Yankees’ current lineup isn’t one you’d typically be using many pinch-hitters in. At this point, Andújar is not a playoff-ready player. Would you feel good about a ball hit his way in a postseason game, or if he stepped up with runners in scoring position and two outs?

Does this situation sound familiar? It sounds a lot like the Clint Frazier experience from 2017-2019. Frazier hit in spurts, but was constantly blocked by other players with better defense and more consistency. Frazier, too, became frustrated with the Yankees’ handling of him, but he kept working on his flaws and has now earned a full-time spot with the big club. This is what Andújar has to do as well – work on his defense and consistency and become so valuable that the Yankees can’t move on without him. Right now, he’s not at that point.