Based on comments made by David Stearns, the Milwaukee Brewers are likely not done trying to improve the team via player acquisition. Evidently the feeling is to get an impact player, a trade is necessary.
I asked Stearns with the FA market picked over if it's more likely that a trade would be made to make further impact on roster: "I think that's a fair assessment."— Tom (@Haudricourt) January 8, 2020
Throughout the offseason, Josh Hader’s name comes up most often as a trade chip. The name that seems to come up most often as part of a trade package is the New York Yankees’ Miguel Andujar.
Yankees remain interested in Josh Hader and could begin a package with 3B Miguel Andujar (Brewers don’t really have a set 3B). Interested teams still aren’t totally convinced Milwaukee would move the star closer though.— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) December 22, 2019
Obviously Andujar’s primary position is third base. Milwaukee just signed Jedd Gyorko to platoon with Eric Sogard to fill the void at third base. Even with those acquisitions, one has to imagine that David Stearns remains open to something bigger. With that in mind, a trade for Miguel Andujar makes sense.
Coming off of a really good rookie season in 2018, Andujar was seen as the long-term option at third base for New York. 2019 resulted in a shoulder injury that sidelined him for the entire season after he tried to play through said injury in April. Gio Urshela replaced him in the lineup and put up an even better season (.314/.355/.534 slash line) than the one put up by Andujar in 2018 (.297/.328/.527).
With Urshela’s emergence and depth all over the field in New York, Andujar becomes expendable as he goes into his age-25 season. With a talent as strong as Miguel Andujar that has demonstrated offensive success at a very young age, it is no wonder that the Brewers would be interested in him. Young players often have developmental opportunities, and this young man certainly does. His issues come primarily from the defensive side.
Andujar was pretty awful at the hot corner defensively in his rookie year. According to Baseball Savant’s new Outs Above Average (OAA) defensive metric, Andujar ranked in the 2nd percentile in 2018. He had -25 DRS and an UZR/150 of -24.5. To say he was a poor defender would be an understatement.
Interestingly it seems a lot of folks expect him to remain awful defensively. That might very well be the case, but such an argument suggests he is incapable of improvement. His foot work around the bag is suspect. With that in mind, he might be incapable.
Still, he seems to be working hard to become a better defensive third baseman, and he would not be the first player to go from terrible to okay. While not as bad as Andujar, another pretty bad defender that season was teammate, Gleybar Torres. His UZR/150 went from -21.5 in 2018 to -4.7 in 2019. To be fair, OAA ranked him in the 4th percentile for 2019. Yet the Yankees seem comfortable putting him at shortstop. For an example of a player that might just be on his way to the Hall of Fame that started out similarly to Andujar, see the following post/poll below that uses numbers from Andujar’s and Robinson Cano’s rookie season:
Stat comp, who’s better?— NYY FOREVER (@NYYF0REVER) December 26, 2019
Player A-132 games, .297/.320/.458/.778,105 wRC+,14 HR,62 RBI,34 doubles,12.3% K rate,2.9% walk rate,-22 DRS,-21.8 UZR/150
Player B-149 games, .297/.328/.527/.855,130 wRC+,27 HR,92 RBI,47 doubles,16% K rate,4.1% walk rate,-25 DRS,-24.5 UZR/150
What can be agreed upon, Miguel Andujar has significant development needs defensively. What cannot be denied is that at 23 years old, Andujar had a 130 wRC+ with 76 extra base hits. Also interesting, he hit .294/.345/.571 with runners in scoring position and .326/.340/.500 in high leverage situations in 2018 according to Fangraphs. Based on Milwaukee’s struggles with runners in scoring position last season (they ranked 29th in baseball in that category slashing .237/.342/.416), his bat might be a valuable addition. He also tied Fred Lynn for the most doubles hit by a rookie (47) in American League history while also having more hits (170) and multi-hit games (53) than any other rookie in 2018.
Prior to coming up with the big league club, Andujar was also considered a top level prospect. Baseball America ranked him #5 in their loaded system in 2017. This is what they had to say about him.
“The Yankees liked Andujar’s overall mix of skills, particularly his power potential and athleticism. He has improved each year as a pro and made his big league debut with two separate callups in 2017. After correcting an issue with his stride early in the season with Double-A Trenton, Andujar made quick work of the Eastern League and continued to mash at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. There, the coaching staff worked with the free-swinger to refine his pitch selection, and Andujar responded with a career-high 16 home runs. Though his home run power plays exclusively to his pull side, he has shown the ability to pepper the whole field with doubles. Scouts are divided on Andujar’s fielding ability. His arm strength is well above-average, but questionable footwork and hands might force him off third base.”
Kylie McDaniel and Eric Longenhagen of Fangraphs had Andujar as the 14th best prospect in baseball going into 2018. This is what they had to say about him.
“Andujar has tantalized scouts since early in his pro career with a strong, athletic frame and flashy tools that are above average to plus across the board. He was largely seen as potential, even passed over by all 30 teams in the Rule 5 Draft following the 2015 season. He broke out in a huge way in 2017, reaching a critical mass of adjustments and maturity that showed up in the counting stats.
Andujar has cut down on his swing-and-miss while also lifting the ball more and hitting it with more authority, an obviously rare and desirable combination when you’re already working with a toolsy prospect who was always young for his level.
Coming up he might not have had the buzz of Gleybar Torres, but with the bat, he was better than Torres in 2018. At this point in Andujar’s career, he does not generate a lot of walks (walk rate of 4.1% in 2018). He has a lot to work on defensively. Yet this guy can hit and is likely to hit for power. An wOBA of .361 in his rookie year is nothing to sneeze at. Many of those doubles he hit in 2018 will turn into home runs as he matures, and he still hit 27 in his first full campaign at the major league level.
What it would take to pry Miguel Andujar from the Yankees is unknown. There was a lot of smoke around a trade involving Josh Hader for Andujar plus others. If Andujar is not compromised from his shoulder injury, he adds a very good and potentially elite bat to a lineup that could use another one. His defense is a concern, but he is young and could improve to adequate at third base. Robinson Cano, Kyle Schwarber, Rafael Devers, and more became better on the defensive side of the ball after auspicious starts. He could potentially go to first base long term if things do not work out, where his bat would play beyond just a right-handed power hitter.
Nonetheless, Andujar is a middle-of-the-order bat that will be a run producer and get the bat on the ball consistently (a strikeout rate of only 16% in 2018). Just remember, in 2018, Andujar was tied for 25th in MLB in wRC+ with Francisco Lindor, Joey Votto, and Nicolas Castellanos. He was 15th in SLG. He was tied for 3rd in doubles with Mookie Betts. Christian Yelich had 77 extra base hits in 2018. I have already mentioned how many extra base hits Andujar had. This does not look like just a dude. He might just prove to be special with the bat, and if he can get his defense together, an All-Star caliber third baseman.
Baseball statistics courtesy of Fangraphs and ESPN.com