As of right now, the Yankees’ infield situation for the 2022 season is filled with question marks. Gleyber Torres will play second base, and Luke Voit remains the team’s first baseman. There is currently no shortstop, however, and the expectations is that the Bombers will bring one. They could, additionally, bring in another first sacker.
Gio Urshela and DJ LeMahieu remain in the picture. The former, a natural third baseman, can also play some shortstop (like he did down the stretch last year, with acceptable results), while the latter can play all around the diamond except for shortstop.
If the Yankees decide to go with Voit at first base and bring in a shortstop, there will be two spots for three players: Urshela, Torres, and LeMahieu. Of course, Voit and Urshela have been discussed as potential trade pieces for the Yanks, and if they are serious about trading for Oakland A’s star Matt Olson, at least one of them will likely be switching uniforms.
But trading Urshela may not be such a good idea. His value may be at an all-time low since his time with New York began. The 30-year-old now has two years remaining before he can hit free agency, and though teams with scant payrolls won’t balk at his $6.55 million salary for 2022, Urshela’s 2021 was the low point of his recent career arc.
Urshela hit .267/.301/.419 with 14 home runs, a 96 wRC+, a .720 OPS, and 1.0 fWAR in 442 plate appearances in 2021. It was a step back, for sure, considering how well he performed in 2019 (132 wRC+) and 2020 (133 wRC+). If trading Urshela after the 2020 season would’ve represented moving him at his best, trading him after 2021 would represent moving him at closer to his worst.
But that said, the Yankees themselves know that Urshela had his fair share of issues with injuries last year. And having a versatile player capable of playing a good third base and a passable shortstop in a pinch is valuable. If it turns out that Urshela’s injuries had an outsized impact on this 2021 production, then it stands to reason that he could rebound into something more than a versatile defensive player, but an all-around one yet again.
Urshela, simply put, did not have a good time with injuries last season. In fact, every month of the year, he checked in with some sort of physical issue. His spring debut was delayed a bit because of his offseason elbow surgery. He suffered some back tightness, plus side effects from the COVID-19 vaccine, in April, a knee issue in May, and was hit in the shin by a pitch in June. He had a positive COVID-19 test in July, a strained hamstring that took most of his August, and a hand problem in September. He also suffered a bruised thigh and a cut on his lower leg after running full-speed into the Rays’ dugout in the regular-season finale. That is just a brutal slate of consistent nagging problems. It’s almost surprising Urshela managed to even play 116 games last year, let alone at a roughly league-average level.
It’s fair to assume that most of those injuries had at least some impact on his 2021 performance. But he is eager to turn the corner.
See ya! ✌️ Gio Urshela hits a two-run home run to give the Yankees a 3-0 lead!#YANKSonYES pic.twitter.com/Z6rVDcJJV6— YES Network (@YESNetwork) June 18, 2021
In fact, Urshela, who has been training with Torres on a high school field, told Kristie Ackert of the New York Daily News that he feels 100 percent healthy at the moment. “I feel good, really good. No issues,” he stated. If he manages to avoid nagging injuries, Urshela has a good shot at returning solid offensive levels for the Yankees in 2022.
Given that potential for bounce back after an injury-riddled season, Urshela has more value to the Yankees than what he would bring back in a trade. As it goes with other members of the roster that had disappointing 2021 campaigns, the best course of action may simply be to hold on, and see if Urshela can work back to his prior highs.