The Yankees didn’t replace Miguel Andujar with Manny Machado this winter, but that doesn’t mean Nolan Arenado won’t take his job next offseason.
Miguel Andujar might be breathing a little easier these days with the news that the Yankees probably aren’t going to bring Manny Machado to the Bronx. The talented infielder shouldn’t get too comfortable though. Nolan Arenado will probably emerge as a big free agency target for New York next winter.
In other words, Andujar has one season to show the organization that he’s ready to be counted on as the team’s starting third baseman for the next decade. Offensively, there aren’t very many question marks about the 23-year-old Dominican. He hit 27 home runs and drove in 92 runs in his rookie campaign with the Yankees. His propensity to hit doubles was a really encouraging sign about his future with the bat in his hands.
That doesn’t mean the Yankees view him as a perfect offensive player. Andujar still doesn’t show much patience at the plate. He only managed to walk 28 times in 504 plate appearances in 2018. That limited him to an OBP of just .328 in his rookie campaign. The organization really wants to see him become more selective next season to make him a more complete offensive player.
Of course, Andujar’s defensive issues overshadow any minor concerns about his offensive ability. He was an absolute disaster in the field for the Yankees as a rookie. Andujar showed very little range at third and his throws across the diamond were frequently an adventure. The culmination of his struggles with the glove came when Aaron Boone benched him in the team’s final postseason game.
With all that being said, there’s significant hope that Andujar can improve in all areas heading into his sophomore campaign. Adding patience at the plate is something a lot of players need to do as they gain more experience in the league. Assuming Andujar is willing to listen to the Yankees coaching staff, he can absolutely take more pitches in 2019.
In the field, there’s nothing about Andujar’s physical skills that mean he can’t be an average infielder in the future. He’s never going to become Brooks Robinson in the field, but work on his foot work and added consistency in his throwing motion would do wonders for his defensive value. Some good coaching and a lot of hard work could really pay big dividends.
If Andujar wants to stay with the Yankees for the long haul, he’s going to need to make massive strides next season. The impending free agency of Nolan Arenado is going to hang over New York in a similar fashion to the way Machado’s potential arrival did this year.
Arenado will earn $17,750,000 this season for the Rockies before he hits free agency next winter. He’ll make significantly more money with his next contract. Expect the Yankees to be strongly linked with a move for Arenado unless Andujar plays at an All-Star level next year.
After all, the way Arenado has played in Colorado could make him a borderline MVP candidate in the Bronx. He slugged 38 homers and drove in 110 runs for the Rockies last season. Certainly those numbers were slightly inflated by playing his home games at Coors Field, but he’s at least an equal offensive player to Andujar. The fact that he drew 73 walks makes him a slightly more complete hitter.
Perhaps more importantly, Arenado is a really good defender at the hot corner. He’s actually won a Gold Glove award in each of his seven major league seasons. Even if everything goes right in Andujar’s development, he’s never going to be that kind of asset for his pitching staff.
Andujar doesn’t need to transform himself into an MVP candidate in 2019, but he needs to take solid strides forward if he wants to convince the Yankees not to chase Arenado. In some ways, next season represents another 162 game audition for Andujar.