Twelve months ago Miguel Andujar looked like a franchise cornerstone for the Yankees. Gio Urshela’s emergence this season may push him out of the Bronx.
It’s too early to talk about the legacy of the Yankees’ 2019 campaign, but it’s pretty easy to guess what this year will be remembered for by the team’s passionate fan base. The theme of the season for Aaron Boone’s team has clearly been the group’s remarkable ability to overcome injuries to big name players.
Miguel Andujar was one of the first players to succumb to injury. The team transitioned him to the 60-day Injured List all the way back in May after he underwent surgery on a torn labrum muscle. In his place, New York called up a little-known organization reserve named Gio Urshela to take over at third base.
What Urshela has accomplished since being inserted into the starting lineup is nothing short of remarkable. He heads into Friday night’s game against the Blue Jays with a scorching batting average of .323. The former Blue Jays’ Minor Leaguer is also hitting for serious power this season. Urshela has belted 16 homers on the season which has powered him to an impressive OPS of .934. For those wondering, that’s the best mark in Boone’s starting lineup to date.
It’s also worth noting that he’s played terrific defense at third base. Advanced metrics don’t love him due to his lack of range, but his sure hands are impossible to ignore at the hot corner. Urshela makes almost every play that comes his way. Defense was his calling card in the Minors and nothing he’s done in the Majors has done anything to diminish his reputation in that area.
Urshela is playing like a star in 2019. There are concerns that he could be a one-year wonder since his progression this year came out of nowhere. The Yankees front office liked his upside as a defender when they acquired him, but the offensive production has surprised everyone around MLB. The question of whether or not the front office believes Ursehla’s offensive explosion is replicable in the future is going to have a significant influence on the team’s winter plans.
The organization is going to have a big decision to make about who to trust as their third baseman of the future. The Yankees project to have a very crowded infield in 2020. It’s hard to envision a scenario where both Urshela and Andujar make the roster without a position change.
Projecting Andujar’s future might be the most difficult aspect of this decision for the Yankees. No one can argue with Andujar’s impressive rookie season with the bat in his hands and he’s got the potential to be an All-Star level hitter for years to come. Unfortunately, he was also one of the worst defensive third basemen in the game in 2018. His defense was so bad that many people inside the game feel like he’s destined to become a designated hitter.
Add it all up, and Urshela and Andujar appear destined to battle it out for the third base job in the Bronx. Urshela has been so good, and so balanced this season that it would be almost impossible for the Yankees to diminish his role. If he slots in as the everyday third baseman next season, it won’t make sense for New York to hang on to Andujar.
Simply put, he’ll become a more valuable asset for the team in the trade market than on Boone’s bench. Despite his flaws, Andujar would still hit the market as a potential All-Star bat with multiple years of team control ahead of him. That would make trading for him a very enticing prospect for a number of teams.
The Yankees could easily look to deal Andujar for a young starting pitcher to bolster the rotation. They could also dangle him to a team with a talented farm system that’s looking to accelerate their path towards contention. Andujar could easily net the Yankees multiple premium prospects this winter.
Proponents of keeping Andujar will point to the rash of injuries the Yankees have suffered this season as proof he should stay put. While it’s possible Brian Cashman and the front office could agree with that line of thinking, the trade offers that will come in for Andujar will change their minds. Unless Miguel Andujar moves off of third base this offseason, look for him to be playing elsewhere in 2020.