John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |
Brian Cashman said last week he has received numerous inquiries from teams about trading Miguel Andujar, and while Gio Urshela's emergence makes that idea tempting for the Yankees, the pros and cons of it lean toward such extremes that finding the right deal could be difficult.
Consider, for example, these contrasting points of view from two scouts I talked to this weekend:
"Andujar's ceiling as a hitter is so high that I'm not sure the Yankees could get anywhere near the value they should for him," one scout said. "He's got an innate ability to make contact, square the ball up and hit it hard, which everybody saw in his rookie year, and he'll only get better as he continues to see major-league pitching."
"I'd love to know what his numbers would have looked like with the juiced ball this year. Some of those (47) doubles he hit the year before might have gone out of the park, and maybe he hits 35 to 40 home runs. But even if they dial the ball back next year, you know those line drives he hits are going to play one way or the other."
Yes, it may be intoxicating for the Yankees to think of what a healthy Andujar could do for their lineup after he hit .297 with 47 doubles, 27 home runs, and the relatively low total of 97 strikeouts in 2018, before missing almost all of 2019 due to surgery to repair a torn labrum in his throwing shoulder.
On the other hand, if the Yankees are convinced Urshela will continue to hit, their position-player depth gives them the flexibility to trade Andujar for young pitching or perhaps a left-handed bat, both of which they could use now or in the future.
The question is what teams would give up for him.
"I know he can hit but if I'm trading for him, what I don't know is if I can count on him as an everyday third baseman," said another scout. "He had issues with his footwork and his throwing motion that made him a liability defensively two years ago, and now he's coming back from shoulder surgery."
"There's less risk for an American League team, if they have the DH spot as a fallback, but you're not giving up as much if you're looking at him mostly as a DH. So the only way I'd trade for him this winter, before seeing him in spring training, is if I could get him cheap, and I don't see the Yankees making that kind of deal."
That doesn't mean a trade can't happen. Perhaps some team feels strongly enough about Andujar's offense to pay a high price for him, believing he'll improve defensively at third base or be athletic enough to move to another position, whether it might be first base or even left field.
But whatever the case, presuming that the Yankees are going to sign a free-agent starting pitcher, whether it's Gerrit Cole, Madison Bumgarner, or Zack Wheeler, they're not going to be desperate to trade for pitching.
As such, Cashman can afford to be patient with Andujar, allowing him to be dealing from a position of strength in any trade talks this winter, making a deal only if he loves it.
With that in mind, here are four trade possibilities involving Andujar, the obvious caveat being the other team's belief in his ability to handle third base.
1) Andujar to the Braves for Max Fried and Tucker Davidson
Obviously this could only happen if Josh Donaldson, who declined a qualifying offer, were to sign with another team as a free agent. In that case, there are questions about whether Austin Riley would be given the job after slumping badly following a hot start as a rookie in left field last year.
The Braves have plenty of young pitching so they could afford to part with Fried, who turns 26 in January. He went 17-6 with a 4.04 ERA in his first full season in the big leagues and scouts believe he'll continue to progress as he throws his signature curve ball with more command. Davidson, one of many Braves pitching prospects, is a 23-year old lefty who had a strong year in Double-A.
2) Andujar to the Angels for Jo Adell
Adell, a 20-year-old center fielder, is regarded as one of the baseball's top prospects, so maybe Billy Eppler, Cashman's one-time assistant GM, wouldn't give him up. But the Angels are desperate to contend next season, especially if they sign Gerrit Cole, and Andujar's bat would provide a big boost.
Adell, a right-handed hitter, probably needs more time in Triple-A, after putting up a .676 OPS there in 27 games last season. At some point, though, depending how quickly Aaron Hicks recovers from Tommy John surgery, he could allow them to move on from Brett Gardner.
3) Andujar to the Tigers for Matt Manning
Even if the Tigers are at least another year away from actually trying to contend, they need cornerstone players, and Andujar has another four seasons before he can become a free agent.
With a farm system that has plenty of highly-regarded pitching, including top prospect Casey Mize, the Tigers might be willing to part with the soon-to-be- 22-year old Manning, a 6-foot-6 righthander who dominated in Double-A this past season and has ace-like potential.
4) Andujar to the Cubs for Kyle Schwarber
I mentioned this as a possibility a few days ago in a column about the Cubs' apparent intent to trade key position players who are heading toward free agency. It only works if Theo Epstein also trades Kris Bryant, which seems to be a real possibility, creating an opening at third base.
The Yankees asked the Cubs about Schwarber during the 2016 talks for Aroldis Chapman, and, as it turned out, were fortunate that Epstein said no, preferring to deal Gleyber Torres. Schwarber would give the Yankees some much-needed left handed power, especially if Didi Gregorius doesn't re-sign.
But making room for him would be tricky due to a crowded outfield/DH situation, with Gardner likely back next season to fill the void in center while Hicks recovers from Tommy John surgery -- unless Schwarber, a former catcher, can play first base.