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How the Yankees infield transformed over the offseason

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With Brandon Drury now in the mix for the Yankees, it’s worthwhile to look back and see how and why he became a necessity

MLB: NL Wildcard-Colorado Rockies at Arizona Diamondbacks
Newest Yankee Brandon Drury seems to fit in as a another flexible infielder
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Think back for a moment to the Yankees infield situation at the start of December. Veteran infielders held down specified spots, with Chase Headley over at third and Starlin Castro at second.

Castro was willingly given up to bring in Giancarlo Stanton, and was traded with the certainty that at least one of the promising prospects the Yankees held would be able to win the job in spring training. In time, minor league contracts were given to long-shot candidates Danny Espinosa and Jace Peterson in case the Yankees wanted to hold back Gleyber Torres for a short period of time to gain another year of control. Although those were prudent moves, neither player is worth having on the major league roster beyond that, so they don’t provide much depth.

Then another trade was made, this time to ship out Chase Headley. While trading Castro brought a clearly superior major league talent back to the team, the Headley trade was the polar opposite. Headley’s contract, a one-year, $13 million pact, was shipped out alongside Bryan Mitchell to incentivize the Padres to accept.

At the time, shedding salary made sense. Even though the Yankees were still under the luxury tax despite adding Stanton’s mammoth contract, there were a hoard of pitchers available on the free agent market that the Yankees were interested in, and an upgrade to the rotation seemed prudent. It did, however, create the scenario where the Yankees would have to rely on two rookies in their infield, albeit highly touted ones. For a championship-caliber team, there’s a lot of risk in planning to go that route.

At the moment, that upgrade to the rotation hasn’t happened. Instead, the Yankees have sat on the cash they freed up, and entered spring training without a real benefit gained from trading Headley.

Enter Brandon Drury. Cashman swung the three-team trade with the Diamondbacks and Rays to sew back up the hole he created a few months ago, acquiring a major league caliber infielder to provide quality insurance in case the rookies aren’t productive out the gate. Drury will almost assuredly be manning one of the two open jobs on Opening Day. If his performance is adequate then he can hold down the utility role over Ronald Torreyes.

The only irony in having Drury be the final piece to this year’s infield is that offensively, Drury seems quite similar to the man the Yankees already had, Headley. Last season in 445 at-bats, Drury posted a .267/.317/.764 slash line with 13 home runs and 63 runs batted in. Meanwhile, in 512 at-bats Headley slashed .273/.352/.758 with 12 homers and 61 RBI.

That’s not to say that Drury alone isn’t an upgrade over Headley. Drury is eight years younger and at least has a chance of improving, while Headley would have a good year if he matched his production from last season. Drury is also under team control for four years compared to Headley’s one-year deal. He can also better transition to the utility role than Headley.

It did, however, cost prospects to acquire Drury. And regardless of your opinion on just how good those prospects were, that’s still value lost. Value that won’t be returned until the Yankees make their move to utilize the cash freed up in trading Headley, until the chain of moves is finally completed. That possibly won’t happen until the trade deadline, so it’s too early to judge whether these series of moves were worthwhile.