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Yankees Inbox: Where does Andújar fit in?

Beat reporter Bryan Hoch answers fans' questions
@BryanHoch
January 31, 2020

Did you hear that? It’s the sound of ballplayers zipping their bags and preparing for journeys to sunny places in Florida and Arizona, a welcome indication that the long winter is nearly over. With fewer than two weeks until Bombers pitchers and catchers report on Feb. 12 at George M.

Did you hear that? It’s the sound of ballplayers zipping their bags and preparing for journeys to sunny places in Florida and Arizona, a welcome indication that the long winter is nearly over. With fewer than two weeks until Bombers pitchers and catchers report on Feb. 12 at George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, Fla., the time is right to take another peek into the Yankees Inbox:

Where will Miguel Andújar be used this year?
-- Shaya S., Brooklyn, N.Y.

With general manager Brian Cashman recently stating that third base is “Gio Urshela’s job to lose,” the Yankees have informed Andújar that he should plan to see time at first base and in the outfield this spring. There seems to be no harm in giving Andújar a look at a corner-outfield spot, and as manager Aaron Boone said, increasing that versatility would boost Andújar’s chances of grabbing a spot on the 26-man big league roster. Extended time at DH is a possibility as well, depending on the health of others, most prominently Giancarlo Stanton.

Cashman said that Andújar does have Minor League options remaining, making him a possibility to open the season at Triple-A, but the Yankees will give him an opportunity to show that his swing has recovered following season-ending right shoulder surgery in May. Remember, Andújar is turning 25 in March and one year removed from a season in which he hit .297/.328/.527 with 27 homers and 97 RBIs in 149 games, finishing second in the AL Rookie of the Year chase.

“That bat is special,” Cashman said. “His makeup is off the charts. Obviously, he's hungry to reprove himself.”

With Dellin Betances moving across town, do you see any of the young Yankees pitchers taking a step up to fill his role?
-- Joe S., Mount Sinai, N.Y.

I wonder if that has already taken place. The loss of Betances to the Mets is arguably only a paper move when compared against the 2019 bullpen, since he was (unfortunately) a non-factor for all but one-third of an inning. Tommy Kahnle’s return to form helped to cover over Betances’ absence, while Zack Britton was largely reliable and Adam Ottavino gave the Yanks about five sharp months before he lost command of his slider.

Chad Green and Luis Cessa also figure to be locks for Opening Day roster spots, but there should be opportunities for some combination of Ben Heller, Jonathan Holder, Michael King, Jonathan Loaisiga and Jordan Montgomery to hurl important innings. Another prospect Yankees evaluators will keep an eye on is Brooks Kriske, who was added to the 40-man roster in November.

I would love to hear what Eric Cressey plans to change and implement. How hands-on does he plan to be day to day?
-- Jeff K., New York, N.Y.

Cressey, the club’s new director of player health and performance. held a conference call with reporters recently and said he will make about five trips to be with the team during Spring Training. He then plans to be present for every homestand and every series against the Red Sox at Fenway Park, which will allow him to stay near his Massachusetts business location.

With his input, the Yankees will create individual workout plans for each player in the organization, from the big leagues to the low Minors. Cressey said he plans to solicit feedback from the players and support staff this spring on what has worked for them, and more importantly, what has not.

One interesting note was that Cressey detailed how many baseball teams have either leaned toward giving their players football-like workouts to bulk up, or offered rehab flexibility programs involving stretching bands. Cressey plans to implement a program under which there can be a happy medium between the two.

“If you understand the unique adaptations that throwing- and rotational-sport athletes encounter,” Cressey said, “and you appreciate structural adaptations and functional adaptations that take place, we can work to really prevent injuries and also optimize performance by creating efficient movement.”

Do the Yankees have enough to pull off a Nolan Arenado trade?
-- Jennifer T., Stamford, Conn.

Imagine that: The Yankees could have a blockbuster offseason that boiled down to two days -- a hypothetical trade for Arenado and the offer that fitted Gerrit Cole for pinstripes. Arenado could join DJ LeMahieu, Kahnle, Ottavino and Mike Tauchman in reminiscing about Denver’s finest restaurants.

I don’t see an Arenado acquisition as likely, especially considering managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner already wrote a $324 million check to Cole, but it wouldn’t be impossible for the Yankees to absorb Arenado’s $35 million annual salary. It would, however, require abandoning all hope of staying below the third luxury-tax threshold.

Arenado can opt out after the 2021 season, which is part of the reason why the Rockies are willing to discuss such a deal, but he also has a full no-trade clause on a deal that pays him through '26. Right-hander Deivi Garcia plus Urshela and/or Andújar could be enough to satisfy Colorado’s needs, with the Yanks’ payroll hit seeming to be the more problematic wrinkle.

Complete this sentence: Clint Frazier will start the year as … ?
-- Matt C., Conn.

I’ll say he’ll be a starting outfielder for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Frazier is slated to come into camp vying for at-bats in left and right field, but he’s largely blocked there by Giancarlo Stanton, Tauchman and Aaron Judge. He looks to be the Yanks’ fifth outfielder at the moment, with the versatile Tyler Wade and potentially Andújar also in the mix.

Who do you envision as the backup to Gary Sánchez?
-- Michael P., Sioux Falls, S.D.

Kyle Higashioka seems to have the inside track, especially considering that he is out of Minor League options. The Yanks’ pitchers have raved about Higashioka for some time, and there are analytics that suggest he could be a defensive upgrade over Austin Romine. The other contenders include Chris Iannetta, Erik Kratz and Josh Thole.

What was Curtis Granderson’s best moment as a Yankee?
– Joe L., Hamden, Conn.

Interesting question! In four seasons with the Yanks from 2010-13, Granderson slashed .245/.335/.495 with 115 homers and 307 RBIs (120 OPS+). Yankee Stadium was a friendly home to "The Grandyman," whose 84 homers and 238 runs scored from 2011-12 were the most in the Majors over that two-year span.

The first memory that came to mind was the Aug. 25, 2011, drubbing of the Athletics when Robinson Cano, Russell Martin and Granderson made the Yankees the first team to hit three grand slams in a single game. It’s a feat we probably won’t see equaled anytime soon, so that seems like a good way to remember his time in pinstripes.

Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and Facebook.