When the Yankees agreed to sign shortstop Troy Tulowitzki late Tuesday night, many wondered whether this move would take them out of the running for Manny Machado.
Tulowitzki, for one, has the potential to be an outstanding bargain for the Yankees. In mid-December, I discussed the value that he could provide, delving deeply into the projections to figure out how just good he could potentially be in 2019. At the league-minimum salary, it’s a no-risk deal for New York and as Jeff Passan of ESPN described, it was just “too good to pass up.”
And despite Passan reporting that this move did not take the Yankees out of the Machado sweepstakes, many still wondered whether that was truly the case.
To put it simply: Tulowitzki and Machado can successfully coexist on the 2019 Yankees.
Signing Machado seemingly creates a logjam of left-side infielders, with Miguel Andujar and Tulowitzki both currently in the fold. But, in reality, no logjam exists at all. Based on their current lineup construction, the Yankees could move Andujar to the designated hitter slot, Giancarlo Stanton to corner outfield, and Brett Gardner to the bench.
This might end up helping the Yankees in more ways than one, as Andujar was an awful fielder at third base, being “worth” -16.0 runs above average there last year. Including his positional adjustment, Andujar’s total defensive value was -15.5 runs. As a full-time designated hitter with zero innings in the field, Andujar would only be worth two fewer runs (-17.5) based on the positional adjustment alone. Effectively, he was so bad defensively last year, he could have been the Yankees’ primary designated hitter and not have cost them many more runs of value.
Additionally, Andujar’s bat is more than capable to handle a designated hitter role, as he slashed .297/.328/.527 with 27 homers and 92 RBIs last season. His 128 wRC+ ranked 30th out of 140 qualified hitters, and it would have been 16 points above the MLB-average designated hitter mark last season (112 wRC+). Thus, Andujar’s bat still provides upside even when compared to the rest of the league; losing any of his defensive “contributions” isn’t really an issue.
Another option is trying him at first base. Andujar does not have to move to full-time designated hitter, New York may be able to hide his poor glove more effectively, while also keeping Brett Gardner in the lineup. This situation depends on how highly the Yankees view Luke Voit, who was a godsend for them in the latter part of last season, slashing .322/.398/.671 with 15 homers, 36 RBIs and a 187 wRC+ in just 161 plate appearances. After a cup-of-coffee like that, it’s hard to think that the Yankees would so quickly move on from him, but sometimes these business decisions must be made. Consideirng the spark he gave them in their late-season push, writing him off so quickly may not be the best idea.
Nonetheless, in the first scenario, Stanton moves to the outfield and Gardner moves to the bench. Stanton’s glove in the corner outfield is surprisingly good for someone of his size. In 2017, for example, he actually posted an 8.3 UZR in right field, making him above-average defensively overall, even when taking into account the general ease of playing right field.
Of course, however, Gardner’s excellent glove is pulled out of the lineup, but that shouldn’t be too big of an issue since the Yankee Stadium outfield is not as large as say, Coors Field. Gardner’s offensive contributions aren’t as outstanding as they used to be, and he certainly still has value as a fourth outfielder and pinch runner on the bench.
The Yankees could also consider dealing Andujar, who they have seemingly dangled in trades throughout the offseason, as Jon Heyman of Fancred reported in December. He could be a fit for the Padres, who reportedly have him at the top of their wish list. If the Yankees sign Machado, this could certainly be a feasible option for them. They would use Andujar as a trade piece to improve their club in other ways.
Machado has to be willing to play third base. He has said that he would like to play shortstop for his new team, but with two of his three biggest suitors making moves for shortstops this offseason, that may no longer be a possibility. (The Phillies, another big suitor for Machado, traded for Jean Segura in early December.)
Machado is better at third base than he is at shortstop anyway, so it would incredibly helpful for the Yankees if he would be willing to play there. At third base last season, Machado was worth a 14.9 UZR/150. At short, he was worth -6.9 UZR/150.
Still, this is only true while Tulowitzki is healthy. Given his injury history, these fictional scenarios may be all for naught if he is unable to stay on the field. Machado would be able to slide back to short in the event of a Tulowitzki injury and Andujar (if kept) could play third base.
Regardless, one thing is certain: Manny Machado and Troy Tulowitzki can successfully play together on the 2019 Yankees. Don’t count the Yankees out of the race for the young star just yet.
Devan Fink is a Featured Writer for Beyond The Box Score. You can follow him on Twitter @DevanFink.