Miguel Andujar Gives Yankees a Boost Against the Red Sox. And in the Trade Market?
Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman tried to play a steady hand on Friday as he was surrounded by a couple dozen reporters during batting practice. Yes, he acknowledged, his scouts and data analysts have begun to scour the market for the thing the Yankees will need most in October — a difference-making starting pitcher.
But as much as Cashman projected an aura of responsibility, insisting that the price had to be right, he surely knew that at some point soon he would probably have to make a trade that hurts, saying goodbye to an exciting young player.
Theo Epstein, the Chicago Cubs’ president, knows the feeling. Two years ago, he surrendered Gleyber Torres — who is now an ascendant star for the Yankees — to acquire closer Aroldis Chapman.
If the Cubs cringe when they watch Torres play, they can console themselves by polishing their only World Series trophy since 1908.
So, it stands that to get an elite pitcher — Jacob deGrom or Noah Syndergaard, if the Mets don’t quiver — the Yankees may have to part with a prospect, perhaps two, who may haunt Cashman for years.
At the top of the list could be the rookie third baseman Miguel Andujar, who in his three-month audition has shown a lively bat and a glove that was better than anyone expected, while reinforcing the expectations that he has a long career in front of him.
Andujar’s bat was front and center again on Friday night, delivering three hits — including a bloop single that put the Yankees ahead and a two-run homer that sent them on their way to an 8-1 victory over the Boston Red Sox.
The Yankees, who moved into a tie for first place with their rivals, also got two solo homers from Greg Bird and a two-run home run from Aaron Judge, which provided more than enough comfort for C.C. Sabathia, who worked seven innings.
Still, before the game, Cashman said the Yankees would not stand pat with their rotation, which needs reinforcement behind the ace Luis Severino, unless the price in a thin market for starting pitchers became prohibitive.
Cashman said recently that he would not trade Torres, joking (or not) that he still enjoyed walking the streets in the city. He said that another prospect, outfielder Clint Frazier, was not off the table, but Frazier — now at Class AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre — does not have the track record of Andujar.
Cashman refused to part with Andujar over the winter when Pittsburgh dangled Gerrit Cole, who eventually was sent to Houston, where he has become one of the American League’s elite pitchers.
But at the time, the Yankees had no other options at third base. In February, they acquired Brandon Drury, whom they viewed as a steady player with emerging power who would hold down third base until Andujar’s glove got more seasoning in the minors.
But Drury went on the disabled list one week into the season because of chronic migraines that had left him with blurred vision. Drury’s condition improved after several weeks of acupuncture and massage, but by then Andujar had taken hold of the position. Drury was marooned at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre for two months until he was recalled Friday.
“It wasn’t easy at all,” said Drury, who had a .907 on-base-plus-slugging percentage at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. “But I worked as hard as I could to be a better player when I came up.”
The plan had been for Drury to get some work at first base and at third. But upon his arrival, Bird awoke from a month long slump, belting the two home runs, and Andujar continued to impress. On Friday, he raised his batting average to .283 — second on the team behind Torres’s .289 — and he has 12 home runs and a team-leading 23 doubles. Only Brett Gardner has struck out fewer times among the Yankees regulars.
Yankees Manager Aaron Boone said Andujar had a versatile swing, one that allows him to hit different type of pitchers, and the aptitude to adjust.
“What’s been exciting for me to watch is when he’s had those weeks where he hasn’t been that great or locked in, he’s still finding ways to make adjustments, and he’s kind of competitive,” Boone said. “Even when it’s not going great for him, even when they have a tough pitcher making pitches, he’s a guy you feel like can break through.”
In his first at-bat on Friday, Andujar was jammed, but hit a fastball from the left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez over a drawn-in infield to score Torres, who had led off the second with a triple off the center-field wall.
Rodriguez came inside against Andujar in the fourth, and he hit a towering fly ball that landed in the seats just over the left-field wall. His two-run homer put the Yankees ahead, 4-0.
“He’s under control in the batter’s box,” Red Sox Manager Alex Cora said in describing the home run. “He’s a guy that will expand, but at the same time he’s able to get some pitches out of the zone. That pitch was up, and he got to it, and I think a week or two ago, there was a breaking ball down and in, and he got to it.”
Cora noted how the Pirates had targeted Andujar and the Yankees had resisted.