Clint Frazier and Miguel Andujar have returned to the Yankees in recent days. Their promotions were made to replace the team’s two best hitters, Aaron Judge and DJ LeMahieu. Thus, the immediate responsibility is to continue what began last season for this team and has continued so far this year — whoever steps in also steps up.
So far, so great for Frazier, who in his first three games produced five extra-base hits or as many as the season total for Gary Sanchez, one more than LeMahieu and two more than Gleyber Torres.
For Frazier and Andujar, though, there is a larger issue than helping the team win today — rebuilding value, if not for the Yankees, then for a club that might want to partner in a trade with the Yankees.
Neither player has the value within the industry that they did a few years ago. The Yankees, for example, refused to include Andujar in a package to Pittsburgh for Gerrit Cole. Andujar justified the decision by nearly winning the AL Rookie of the Year award. Though with 20-20 hindsight — perfect for the year 2020 — you wonder if the Yankees would have won one of the last two World Series if they had Cole.
The Yankees have insisted that Frazier and Andujar have not lost value in their eyes. But maybe there are a few grains of sand to consider here. One NL executive said to think of Frazier like Justus Sheffield, notably that Yankees officials said one thing to reporters about how Frazier and Sheffield were viewed within the organization, but that both were known to be very available (Sheffield was part of the package that landed James Paxton). Brain Cashman has insisted he has had plenty of offers to move Frazier, but hasn’t because the returns do not equal the high value the organization has for the outfielder.
But there is a spoil date on milk and prospects and at some point, you could hold a guy too long and suddenly you can’t get close to Gerrit Cole for him. One day Manny Banuelos is untouchable, the next he is pretty much untradeable.
Working against Frazier and Andujar inside and outside the organization is the growing belief that teams can find and/or create position players and that single-dimensional, hit-predominant players have less value than ever. Just consider that the Yankees found Mike Tauchman and Gio Urshela for basically nothing. They are better all-around players than Frazier and Andujar. And because of that, they block Frazier and Andujar from more regular roles with the Yankees now and into the future.
Still, there is a window now for Frazier and Andujar to help the Yankees — and themselves. Judge admitted Sunday that he was upset he could not talk the Yankees out of putting him on the injured list with a calf injury that he said was minor. On Day 4 of that 10-day stint, Judge declared himself both healthy and frustrated.
With Judge and Giancarlo Stanton out, Frazier will get regular at-bats for a while longer and if his quick bat keeps producing, he at least could increase the chances for 2021 playing time. More and more you have to believe this is Brett Gardner’s last year with the Yankees. Thus, there is a near future scenario of Judge in right and Tauchman sharing time in center with Aaron Hicks and left with Frazier. Heck, it may be in play this year if Gardner’s bat doesn’t perk up.
For Andujar, playing time is more problematic to find. Urshela has entrenched himself as the third baseman, there are all those outfielders ahead of him plus Mike Ford and Luke Voit at first. Boone anticipated starting Andujar on Monday versus Red Sox lefty Martin Perez. Boone also said there was “no other conversation” about who to bring up to replace LeMahieu except Andujar. Which sounds like ardent support. But also that the only other position player on the 40-man roster is not-ready outfielder Estevan Florial and the Yankees weren’t going to use a 40-man roster spot on infielder Kyle Holder.
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Boone continued to describe Andujar as “a really good player.” What else can he say? Andujar was a good player in 2018, an injured one who opened a door in 2019 for Urshela and one who did not hit in a short stint early this year. Maybe there is still high-level impact in his bat, as Frazier has hinted at while filling in for Judge.
If true that would help the Yankees now, and maybe those players later.
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