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.