The Yankees made two trades in the last week which leave them with openings at second and third base. The team has reportedly checked in on Brandon Drury, Todd Frazier, and Eduardo Nunez to fill the spots, and have even submitted a bid for Orioles' superstar Manny Machado, who was recently put on the trade block.
A Machado deal seems far-fetched simply because the Yankees can obtain him (if they desire) for straight cash next offseason, and the prospects it would require might be better suited to fill a rotation spot for this season. The others would come with control of varying lengths - Drury (four years of team control), Frazier (looking for multiyear deal) and Nunez (could net a two-year deal).
Many have suggested that the Yankees will fill at least one of these spots with a veteran of some sort rather than run the risk of two prospects bottoming out. But, do they have to?
The Yankees have a very strong offense which could sustain two rookies or two inexperienced players. More importantly, at least two of the players they have available to them are considered high quality.
The Yankees first option may be Miguel Andujar at third base with No. 1 prospect, Gleyber Torres, taking over at second base. Andujar's bat has been considered ready for MLB pitching, but his defense has been a consistent knock. That said, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman noted earlier this week that Andujar has improvement at the hot corner.
While the Yankees have shifted Torres - strictly a shortstop until last season - around the infield to maximize his availably to them as soon as possible, the belief is that second base would fit better than third base. The Yankees would have a business decision to make with Torres concerning their ability to add a year of control by holding their premier infielder back for the first few weeks of the season. However, Cashman admitted Wednesday that the Yankees were looking to bring Torres up to the big leagues before they traded for Frazier, meaning the potential for service time manipulation may not exist with Torres.
The Yankees also maintain alternate and certainly less-flashy fallback options for the spots. Ronald Torreyes has stuck with the club as a utility infielder for two straight seasons, and despite not fitting the mold of an everyday player, there is a chance he could hold it down for a short period of time.
Similarly, Tyler Wade could occupy either of the spots, potentially for a longer period of time as he is widely considered a player that could become a steady MLB starter. Wade had a rough go as a bench player with the Yankees last season, but hit .310 in Triple-A last season when he was receiving regular playing time.
As with Torreyes, Wade could be provided the first shot at either spot while the Yankees allow Andujar and/or Torres to spend some time in Triple-A, should they believe the latter two players have more work to do before handling them full-time spots with the big league club.
There is an ancillary benefit to using any combination of the players in 2018, in that their contract values will be at or near the league minimum. This provides the Yankees with substantial room to maneuver the approximate $25 million they can still spend this offseason while remaining comfortably under the competitive balance (luxury) tax, according to Cot's Baseball Contracts' tax tracker. The Yankees could utilize some of this payroll space to add a low cost starting pitcher via trade and potentially re-sign CC Sabathia.
If there is a season to see if the Yankees have something long term or tangible in these players, this would be the one. The Yanks are coming off a season in which they exceeded expectations. But with each of their young studs a year older and the addition of Giancarlo Stanton, they can withstand any growing pains from the rookies. Again, using funds to bolster the rotation seems to be the larger need for the Yankees.
Additionally, if the experiment fails, the Yankees are more than equipped to make mid-season trades to beef up either of the positions. Staying inexpensive at third base in 2018 in particular also makes sense should the Yankees be considering a run at Machado next offseason.
It's an admitted risk for the Yankees to start the 2018 season with inexperienced players. However, we do not have to go any further back than last season to see how such a move can have positive results as New York did it with Aaron Judge (27 MLB games in 2016) and Gary Sanchez (53 games in 2016). That worked out just fine and it could certainly be duplicated with any combination of players in 2018.