The Yankees announced they’ve designated Miguel Andújar for assignment. The move clears a spot on the 40-man roster for Zack Britton, who has been reinstated from the 60-day injured list. To open a spot for Britton on the active roster, New York placed southpaw Wandy Peralta on the 15-day IL, retroactive to September 19, with thoracic spine tightness.
Andújar’s designation is likely to bring an end to his time as a Yankee. Signed as an amateur free agent back in 2011, he developed into one of the organization’s better prospects a few years later. Andújar hit well on his way up the minor league ladder, earning a cup of coffee late in the 2017 season. The right-handed hitter was widely regarded among the sport’s top prospects heading into 2018, and he very quickly seized the job as New York’s primary third baseman.
During his age-23 rookie season, Andújar hit .297/.328/.527 through 606 plate appearances. He connected on 27 home runs and 47 doubles, tying for third in the majors in the latter category. It wasn’t a flawless season — he didn’t walk much and his defensive marks were subpar — but it was an unquestionably impressive effort that looked as if it’d cement him in the middle of the Yankees order for years to come. He picked up a second place finish in that year’s American League Rookie of the Year balloting, collecting the five first-place votes that didn’t go to Shohei Ohtani.
Impressive as that debut season was, Andújar hasn’t gotten an extended chance to build upon it in the four years since then. That’s in large part due to injury, as he suffered a labrum tear in his right shoulder early in the 2019 campaign. He played in only 12 games before undergoing season-ending surgery. By the time he returned to health for 2020, Gio Urshela had broken out and staked a claim to the hot corner in the Bronx. Andújar was relegated to a depth role, bouncing between Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and New York as needed but never appearing in more than 45 games in a season.
Andújar hasn’t done much in those brief stints to warrant more regular playing time. Dating back to the start of the 2020 campaign, he owns just a .244/.272/.346 line with eight homers in 327 trips to the plate. That’s obviously not sufficient for a bat-first player, but it’s fair to wonder whether he’d have been able to perform better if the Yankees had more consistent at-bats to give him. Instead, he’s been caught in something of a catch-22 for three seasons: never playing well enough to earn everyday reps on a win-now team and thus not having a window of opportunity to get back on track.
The constant shuffling on and off the roster made Andújar a frequent subject of trade speculation, and the 27-year-old has reportedly requested to be traded on multiple occasions in search of a new opportunity. While the Yankees were open to offers at this summer’s deadline (and quite likely at periods before this August), they didn’t find a deal to their liking. Instead, they’ve kept Andújar around as a depth player while getting him some more experience in the corner outfield in addition to his infield work.
The lack of apparent playing time available has become so glaring the Yankees now decide to take him off the roster entirely. With the trade deadline having passed, they’ll have no choice but to place him on waivers in the next few days. It appears likely another team will put in a claim. Not only has Andújar had some MLB success a few years back, he owns a solid .285/.330/.487 line with 13 longballs in 297 Triple-A plate appearances this season. He’s only gone down on strikes in 11.8% of those trips, showcasing the blend of contact and power that once made him such a promising offensive player.
Andújar is making $1.3MM this season, but less than $100K of that remains to be paid out. He’s likely to finish this season with four-plus years of MLB service, meaning he’ll be eligible for arbitration twice more after this year. This is Andújar’s final minor league option year, so he’d have to break camp with another team next season or again be designated for assignment.
As for the other players involved, it’s a notable return for Britton. The veteran southpaw hasn’t thrown an MLB pitch this season after undergoing UCL replacement surgery last September. That brought a disheartening end to what had already been a rough season, as Britton posted just a 5.89 ERA over 18 1/3 innings while battling multiple injuries in 2021. He has made eight appearances on a minor league rehab stint and now returns to the active roster with a little less than two weeks to try to earn a playoff roster spot.
Britton is making $14MM this season, the final year of a contract he signed in January 2019. The 34-year-old is headed back to free agency at the end of the season. He won’t approach that kind of salary on his next deal, but a strong showing down the stretch and into the playoffs could earn him a few million dollars on the open market.
With Britton stepping in as a left-handed option for manager Aaron Boone, Peralta heads to the shelf. He’s had a quietly excellent 2022 campaign, working to a 2.72 ERA over 56 1/3 frames while holding southpaws to a meager .155/.211/.211 line in 77 plate appearances. He’d be a nice situational weapon for the postseason, and Boone told reporters this afternoon the club anticipates he’ll be back before the end of the regular season (via Bryan Hoch of MLB.com).