One Player Short? Plugging a Potential Hole

As of now, the Yankees have a full 40-man roster and, hence, a full 26-man active roster. If we take the term literally, the Yankees don’t technically ‘need’ any other players this offseason and they could roll forward with what they have. We could reasonably argue that they they could stand to pick up another reliever and someone who could play shortstop, but that they let both Dellin Betances and Didi Gregorius leave in free agency shows that they’re probably pretty comfortable with their current roster situation. For a moment, though, let’s focus on the infield situation and see if there’s not an edge to be gained.

Before we address the bench situation, let’s take a broad view of the Yankees’ infield. Gleyber Torres and DJ LeMahieu are the starting shortstop and second baseman respectively; that is indisputable. Luke Voit and Mike Ford are the first base/DH combo. When we reach third base, things might get a little murkier. Gio Urshela availed himself quite well last year, but Miguel Andujar did the same in 2018. If the latter is fully healthy, does he get the job? I’m going on the assumption that the Yankees will stall this decision for as long as possible by starting Miggy on the DL and having him do a rehab assignment. This would make Urshela the starting 3B to start the year. The bench infielders would then be Thairo Estrada and Tyler Wade. That is….they are….fine? I guess?

We don’t have to squint too hard to see the ‘need’ for an upgrade, right? If you could call it one, Wade has the advantage over Estrada in that he can reliably play shortstop and can probably do so quite well. Neither one is likely to hit all that much, so that gives Wade a little edge. The question for any potential acquisition, then, becomes ‘are you better than Thairo Estrada?’

For most of the available infielders, the answer to that question is ‘yes.’ But then we might ask another question–is the upgrade worth it? Normally, I think I’d say no. Estrada is going to be the 26th man on the roster and if all goes well, he’s not going to be playing all that much. His impact would be minimal and given the relatively high cost of a free agent compared to his league minimum salary, there’s not much upside to that upgrade. However, the Yankees experienced last year what it means to need depth. That is a lesson they can’t forget and need to prepare for once more. What if Andujar can’t come back on a reasonable schedule? What if Urshela was a flash in the pan? What if one of Torres or DJLM actually gets hurt? These things are all possible if not probable.

Of the options left, the Yankees need to consider ones who can play multiple positions and won’t embarrass themselves at the plate. The three I think are most reasonably well-suited for this are Brock Holt, Jordy Mercer, and Jose Iglesias (probably can’t hit all that well, but the glove is too good to deny). Will any of them want a bench role with the Yankees? I have no idea. But having a player of that caliber, rather than the Estrada/Wade level, allows the Yankees to more effectively rotate and rest players.

While it seems very George Steinbrenner to sign a more expensive veteran to do a job a younger, homegrown player could do, I’m okay with it in this context. Estrada and Wade, as deep as their Yankee roots may now be, are not the types of players that you make exceptions and room for–at least until they prove that’s the case, which neither’s really done yet. Talent wins ball games and the Yankees have an infield situation where they might need to plug in talent at a moment’s notice.

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7 Comments

  1. JG

    I was impressed by Estrada and think he might actually be better than those bench options, though I wouldn’t be opposed to Holt or Panik.

    Isn’t it more likely that Andujar (and Stanton when Tauchman is in) are the DHs? And what about Clint? I think he might get a roster spot over Ford.

  2. dasit

    this time last year i’d roll my eyes at anyone worrying about the last man on the roster. after injurypalooza 2019 i’m assuming that last man will get 100 at-bats. upgrade, please

  3. John

    Gio Urshela may have acquitted himself or he may have carried himself, he may even have conducted himself but he definitely didn’t avail himself well at third base.

  4. Mungo

    I agree with CountryClub here. The Yankees seem to think more highly of both Wade and Estrada than presented here, especially when factoring in the role as framed. Gio/Andujar have 3B covered. Voit/Ford first. It’s the middle infield, and with both Gleyber and DJLM playing 140-150 games, the middle infielder is not projected to play a ton. Maybe a couple hundred ABs over the course of the season. It will be difficult for Estrada or Wade to “prove” themselves if one of them is not given this opportunity.

    That all out of the way, I do believe the Yankees will keep their eye open for a clear upgrade, but only one at a bargain price. That may happen in this market, but it’s not critical if it doesn’t. Remember, this is a team that gave a career minor leaguer –Torreyes — the job one year.

  5. boboq

    What if Wade 2020 is Urshela 2019?

  6. cwede

    – If Wade can hit for NYY as he has in minors, he is the simple answer, need is there for a lefty bat, and his doubles and homers last year show that it is possible.
    – Interesting your choices from the outside don’t include Panik or Gennett, who have gotten chatted up elsewhere.
    – If somehow they could pry Jake Lamb from DBacks, he’d be a perfect lefty power bat to add balance at 3rd and 1st

  7. CountryClub

    I’m not saying they wouldn’t bring someone in if they thought they were an upgrade. But, I think the Yankees think much higher of Wade and Estrada than this article makes it seem.

    Trade Happ, bring in a lefty power bat and call it a day.

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