Yankees 3B Miguel Andujar has been a regular in the lineup since Brandon Drury hit the DL with his migraine and blurry vision issues. He provides an above-average bat that has brought about the Rookie of the Year conversations this season.
But could the Yankees simply be pumping up this young talent to entice other teams to trade for him by July 31?
According to The Post's Joel Sherman, multiple MLB executives believe Andujar being the Yankees' everyday hot corner starter isn't going to last long. This claim is made based off his bad defensive stats at the position as well as his swing-happy mindset at the dish.
"Andujar is a horrendous third baseman," one executive said. "This all feels like the Yankees building up a player's value to trade him for a young, controllable starter and then they will revisit the issue of third base in the offseason with [Brandon] Drury, an outside third baseman or signing [Manny] Machado."
It is no secret the Yankees have generated serious interest in Machado over the past few days. That is why seeing a departure from Andujar isn't completely out of the cards, which SNY's Andy Martino says the Yanks are willing to do.
New York's pursuit of Machado seems to have hit a wall, though. The Orioles want young pitching, and Martino reported the protection of pitching prospect Justus Sheffield has put the talks at a standstill.
But GM Brian Cashman continued to defend his outlook on Andujar when presented with the idea that the front office's compliments of the young infielder is as big a facade as the one at Yankee Stadium.
"That is completely false. I think [Andujar] is a hell of a player. We have said 'no' to him [in trade talks] not just this year but from Double-A on up. I have not included him any deals and that should say how I feel about him.
"We have been challenged many times to move him or coerced to move him. He is here because of what we think of him. And I mean 'we.' His makeup is off the charts. His work ethic is off the charts. His energy is off the charts. And his physical ability is off the charts. He is a major contributor, which is what we thought he'd be."
Andujar's biggest knock heading into the season was never his hitting ability, but rather what he could do with the leather. Looking at the numbers, it hasn't been pretty. He may have only six errors on the season, but he also has -12 defensive runs saved this season -- the worst among qualifying third basemen, according to FanGraphs. Overall, he owns a -5.6 defense rating.
But Cashman doesn't buy into the analytics when viewing Andujar. Instead, he thinks his young age and tons of upside will work out the kinks in his game over time. Cashman says to just look at how former Yankee Robinson Cano turned out.
"I don't think there is a defensive issue now," Cashman said. "I am not analytics-driven on this. I think he is an above-average player at that position at a young age. Whatever his deficiencies, he can improve on them, like Robinson Cano was able to develop into a bigger, better player for us. If he is a free swinger, his chase rate will improve. If he has defensive deficiencies, they will improve. Because he already has. Where he was and where he is now, I feel vindicated not moving him."
Only time will tell if that vindication is seen through by Cashman with Machado expected to be moved within the coming weeks. The Yankees also need an added rotation piece if they wish to bolster their chances at a World Series run come October. They certainly have the pieces to acquire someone like Machado and a pitcher if Cashman truly wants to make blockbuster moves at the end of the month, and Andujar is one of them.
For now, though, Cashman remains a fan of the rookie.
"We are huge Andujar fans and we have demonstrated that by not trading him despite how many offers we have had to do so," Cashman said. "The dude is only 23 years old. Whatever that narrative is (that the Yanks are building him up to trade him) is a false one. I am a big fan of this guy. Not just me. It is we are big fans."