New York Yankees: Miguel Andujar to Play Entirely at Third

New York Yankees, Miguel Andujar

New York Yankees infielder Miguel Andujar had been the subject of numerous trade narratives in the offseason, as fans speculated that he might be the centerpiece of a trade for an ace, such as Jacob deGrom, Corey Kluber or Trevor Bauer.

There had likewise been speculation that the Yankees might move Andujar to left field or first base in order to replace him at third base with a better defensive player.

But on the eve of camp for position players, Andujar received an endorsement from his manager.

 Aaron Boone stated when asked if Andujar will move around this spring:

“I don’t expect him to. He’ll play entirely at third. That said, there may be a day or two that we pick to have him on a back field just to get some first base in, which we may do with (backup catcher Austin) Romine or (starting catcher) Gary (Sanchez) just to keep some versatile options when you get into a little bit of a bind. But (Andujar’s) game work will be, I’ll say now, pretty much at third base.”

Despite being the third worst defender at third base in the league in 2018, Andjuar will be back at the hot corner in 2019 and that’s just the place for him.  He worked over the offseason both in Tampa with infield coach Carlos Mendoza and back home in the Dominican Republic on his defense, particularly his footwork. 

A dominating rookie performance:

Andujar hit his way into being the runner up for the 2018 American League Rookie of the year, batting .297 with 27 homers and 92 RBIs in 149 games.  He broke the Yankee single-season rookie record for doubles held by Joe DiMaggio (44 in 1936) but his defensive deficiencies were too glaring to overlook and Shohei Ohtani won the Rookie of the Year Award.

Of course the elephant in the room in any conversation about Andujar this offseason is Manny Machado’s continued free agency.  The Yankees would seem to be out of the Manny Machado sweepstakes, but who knows?  

As recently as Sunday, Hal Steinbrenner sat down with reporters and spoke on the State of the Yankees and said regarding Machado and Bryce Harper that the infield and the outfield were not areas of need, to him, and starting pitching and the bullpen were, so that’s where the Yankees put their resources this offseason.  He doesn’t discount that something may come up in the future that he might be open to, but frankly, fans didn’t get the feeling from his discourse that acquiring either was very likely.

If the bat continues, they won’t be able to take Andujar out of the lineup but if he struggles, what are the Yankees options in the absence of Machado?  One assumes that if DJ LeMahieu is productive with the bat that he might get an opportunity at third base, despite having extremely limited experience there.

However, for now, we can only speculate about Andujar’s improvement, along with Boone, who said:

“There are some things that we’ve had him work on defensively that I think really have taken hold with him and I think he’s had a great winter of work,” Boone said. “I think (those) who have been around him see the kind of work ethic (he has). That’s reared its head in the winter and I feel like he’s another guy that comes into spring training in a really good place and I’m excited to see him in another year in his progression of what’s a really good player.”

Fans, too, are excited to see whether Andujar has made the improvements on defense that will make him a more complete player in 2019.