The Coming Infield Conundrum

When you realize how crowded the IF might get

In baseball, there is hardly ever too much of a good thing. Too many homers? No such thing. Too much starting pitching? No such thing. Too many good players? No such thing. But that last one can make roster situations a bit complicated and the Yankees are about to run into that.

Even if they let Didi Gregorius leave in free agency–which both Randy and I think would be a mistake–the infield in the Bronx will be crowded. Both Gio Urshela and the returning Miguel Andujar can man third base. Greg Bird’s departure still leaves two first base options in Luke Voit and Mike Ford. Both Gleyber Torres and DJ LeMahieu are givens here; their spots are not in any sort of question. But a question does remain with the others: what exactly should the Yankees do with them?

There is a possibility that the Yankees keep all six on the 25 man roster. That would mean, however, that the two non-starting players would take up most of the bench, especially since the Yankees like running with a three man bench. That preference makes this scenario unlikely because, aside from the backup catcher, they’d need room for a fourth outfielder. None of those players belong anywhere near the outfield.

The other fly in the infield ointment is that of the players they currently have–not including the heretofore unmentioned Tyler Wade–only Gleyber Torres can play shortstop. No team is going to carry just one reliable shortstop. Whether it’s Didi, Wade, or someone else, the Yankees will need to have someone else able to play short; that will push someone off the 25 man roster.

Alleviating this ‘pressure’ by having everyone around probably isn’t going to happen. So what can they do?

They can delay. Miguel Andujar could start the year in the minors on a rehab assignment. That takes care of one. To further kick the can down the road, Mike Ford has two options left, according to Roster Resource at Fan Graphs. Gio Urshela doesn’t have options left, so that defaults him to be the starting third baseman.

There’s also the instinct to make a trade, but I don’t think there’s going to be much value there. While Urshela’s value has never been higher, I don’t think there’d be a market for him, given how fluky last year was for him and there’s no way we’ll know if he can repeat it until he does. Mike Ford is what he is–a late 20’s, LHB first baseman with power–not exactly rare or extremely valuable. Luke Voit is likely more valuable to the Yankees as their starting first baseman than he is as a trade chip.

Andujar has the most trade value of the bunch by far. He’s the youngest, probably has the biggest upside, and with his value slightly depressed from his injury and missed year, I’m sure some team would want to get a bargain for him. But he’s far too much of a variable at this point when you add in his poor defense at third. While it might be a challenge to incorporate him later, he, like Voit, is probably most valuable to the Yankees as a player than as a chip.

Depth helped the Yankees win over 100 games in 2019 and it will help them do the same in 2020. While there’s going to be some juggling involved, it’s necessary juggling.

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10 Comments

  1. Mungo

    IIRC, we have a 26 man roster coming next year, unless it got vetoed and I missed the story. Entirely possible. The 26 man should ease this issue allowing the Yankees to carry an extra infielder. Another solution I’ve seen mentioned is sending Andujar back to AAA–or even A ball to keep him in the warm Florida weather–to start the year as part of his rehab, giving the team a chance to further assess Urshela. Miggy could complicate that plan if has a great spring training and Urshela doesn’t. How do they justify sending Andujar down if he crushes out of the gate?

  2. Ebber Alcantara Heguedusch

    It’s about the time for us to clear our books by trading “Strickout Stanton “, So that way we will be under 2020 Salary budget ; And finally Fix our dammed Starting Pitching situation.

  3. Bill Baxter

    With the 26-man roster, and I’m guessing 13 pitcher limit (I don’t think the limit has been announced yet). They could potentially have all on the roster. Assuming Gardner resigns (if not, they’d at least need a backup CF to Tauchman while Hicks is out). The 13 position players could be as following:

    Sanchez
    BUC
    Voit
    DJ
    Torres
    Urshela
    Andujar
    Judge
    Stanton
    Tauchman
    Gardy (or other CF)
    Utility IF (SS/2B capable, likely Wade)
    Ford

    Frazier, if not traded, could supplant Ford or Andujar on the roster (both have options), especially if they decide to mostly DH Stanton.

  4. D.B.

    I’ve been saying for years, that with his cannon for an arm, Andujar could be at least a part-time corner OF. It would obviously take an adjustment period, but I think the lack of instincts for the first jump at the hot corner would be mitigated somewhat by the additional distance from the plate and would be further cushioned by his arm. It would be a huge shame to waste that arm at 1B (although a few reps here and there wouldn’t be too bad,) and adding that versatility to his game would at worst make him a more attractive trade chip.

    I’d personally like to see them keep him if it seems like he can fully recover from the injury and subsequent surgery. I suspect he’ll be fine, labrum repairs are quite common and easy to come back from. That bat would be a hard thing to see leave the Bronx.

    • Mungo

      Having a first baseman with a strong arm is not a negative. It is difficult to say how Andujar would do at first. Cant assume the footwork issue at third will transfer to first. In many cases his footwork issue is tied up in prep to throw and double clutching. This would be eliminated at first. He has soft hands. It’s quite possible he’d become the Yankees best defensive first baseman. The defensive bar is low though as Voit isn’t all that good. That’s another advantage. Easier to hide a suspect glove at first. He is a good athlete so he might be alright in the outfield, but defensively he’d be behind Judge, HIcks, Gardner and Stanton.

      • D.B.

        I didn’t say his arm at 1B would be a negative, it’s just a waste of an asset.

        • Mungo

          Sure. I understood. I’m really not sure where he can play. I’d have to see him play the outfield. I’m more interested in finding a spot for him where he’s the least damaging with the glove while taking advantage of his bat. Not an easy fit as of today. In the outfield right field might work best as there’s less ground to cover and would maximize use of his strong arm, yet we know who is going to man that.

  5. Dan A

    Urshela had played SS before. I think you do Gleyber is the everyday SS, but count as Gio as backup. If God forbid Torres has to go in the IL, that’s when you bring up Wade (because Gio probably can’t cut it as SS everyday).

    As it stands now, I’d start Andujar at third while learning first too, Gleyber at SS, DJ at second, and Voit at first. Gio would play almost everyday, but would do so all around the diamond (like DJ last year). Andujar would learn first and serve as Voit’s backup (and/or play more if Voit is slumping). Ford is a great story, but I wouldn’t count on him having a regular role going into the year. I’m sure he’ll have his opportunities though.

    I also think there’s room to add an impact bat on the IF. Voit is very good, but can be improved upon in theory (a lefty with pop who doesn’t strike out too much–an in his prime Tino Martinez would fit the lineup perfectly–but don’t ask me who that is). A more creative option would be signing Rendon, who isn’t a lefty, but is a damn good hitter who doesn’t strike out. Then you either trade Andujar or just slide him over to first with Voit at DH. But, at that point you’re probably running into actual payroll issues to sign him and an ace (as opposed to Hal’s delusional payroll issues). And I’d rather have the ace.

  6. Ryan

    26-man rosters this year

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