Nolan Arenado’s decision to sign a lucrative contract extension with the Rockies means the Yankees are all in on Miguel Andujar.
When the Yankees made the decision to pass on Manny Machado in free agency, most baseball insiders believed Brian Cashman might prefer Nolan Arenado. The idea was that New York would sign Arenado to play third in the summer of 2019 if Miguel Andujar didn’t improve as much as the organization hoped. Now that fallback option is gone for the Yankees.
Arenado’s decision to sign a mammoth $260 million extension with Colorado means he’ll stay in Denver for at least three more seasons. He does have an opt-out in his contract that will allow him to become a free agent in three years, but that’s too far away to concern the Yankees.
We’ll never know if Cashman really was counting on Arenado being available in the summer of 2019 or not. He’s not the sort of GM to disclose that kind of information. All he will ever say publicly is that the Yankees remain committed to Andujar as their third baseman of the present and future.
The only real difference now is that Cashman, and the rest of the higher-ups in the Yankees organization have to believe those words. Andujar is probably the team’s only chance of fielding an All-Star at the hot corner in the near future. If he wants to ascend to that level he’ll need to continue to hit as well as he did in his rookie campaign, but his defense will need to improve significantly.
In fairness to Cashman, he’s consistently spoken positively about Andujar to the media. This summer he described the 23-year-old’s make up as “off the charts.” That sort of verbiage goes well beyond trying to increase a player’s trade value. There appears to be genuine admiration for Andujar from Cashman and company.
None of those positive words will matter if Andujar doesn’t demonstrate significant defensive improvement this season. He doesn’t need to suddenly transform into Brooks Robinson overnight, but he can’t be one of the worst defenders in MLB at his position. Frankly, the Yankees would be happy if Andujar could raise his glove work to become an average regular in 2019.
If he doesn’t, Cashman will be forced to go back to the drawing board on how to acquire a potential replacement. Machado is a Padre and Arenado is tied to the Rockies for the foreseeable future. Absent a trade out of left field, Andujar is going to be at third base for the Yankees for years to come.