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Brandon Drury gives Yankees another rookie insurance policy

Gary Phillips

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September 4, 2017; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Arizona Diamondbacks second baseman Brandon Drury (27) reaches home after hitting a solo home run in the seventh inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Yankees made an addition to their infield Tuesday night, acquiring Brandon Drury in a three-team trade with the Tampa Bay Rays and Arizona Diamondbacks.

The deal, highlighted by Steven Souza Jr. leaving the cost-cutting Rays for the desert, included seven moving pieces. The Yankees parted with prospects Nick Solak and Taylor Widener in the trade. They also designated Jabari Blash for assignment.

While Souza Jr.’s replacement of Boston-bound J.D. Martinez and Tampa Bay’s obvious tank are the biggest stories in this trade, the Yankees were able to find a cheap, versatile and experienced player in Drury.

Just 25 years old, he has yet to reach arbitration — he won’t be a free agent until 2022. That means he will have little impact on New York’s efforts to remain under the $197 million luxury tax this season. With a 94 OPS+ over 289 career games, Drury offers some thump from the right side of the plate. He has a strong glove, too. Able to also play corner outfield and first base, Drury gives the Yankees an insurance policy at second and third base.

He is one of many at this point.

As the Pinstripers prepare for their first spring training game, there’s a lot going on in the infield. Rookies Miguel Andujar and Gleyber Torres are the fan favorites to start at third and second, respectively, but the odds of an Opening Day lineup reflecting that combination are unfavorable. There are concerns over Andujar’s ability to pick it at third and Torres has yet to start his big league clock, so the Yankees will presumably manipulate his service time accordingly.

Drury, who has played second base more than any other position, would give the Yankees an impactful bat at either position. According to general manager Brian Cashman, however, Drury will focus on the hot corner and will be the likely starter as Andujar continues to develop.

Drury is not the only depth option the Yankees have in case the rookies are not ready for Opening Day. They also have Danny Espinosa, Jace Peterson, Ronald Torreyes and Tyler Wade. In total, the Yankees have seven infielders fighting for roster spots at either second or third (or both), and that’s before factoring in Tyler Austin, who is trying to win the backup job at first base.

Espinosa signed with New York in January after hitting .173 last year among three teams. Peterson signed a similar deal as well after not doing much of anything with the Braves in 2017.

Torreyes, meanwhile, has been with the Yankees the last two seasons, filling in nicely when needed at second, third and short. He doesn’t hit the ball far, but he can get the barrel on it. He hit .292 last year with 36 RBIs in 315 at-bats.

Finally, there is Wade. No longer a prospect but yet to play his first full season, the Yankees are fond of his flexibility and work ethic. He was awful last season in 30 games, but he revamped his swing and the natural shortstop can play every position except first base and catcher.

Clearly, the Yankees have more pieces than they need for the puzzle. Where does everyone fit?

As Cashman hinted, Drury is likely to start at third on Opening Day. He has way more value at the plate than his contemporaries, the rookies aside. It sounds like Andujar will continue to work on his defense.

As for second, Torreyes and Wade should be the frontrunners. Torreyes has a strong track record in the organization, but it’s clear the Yankees want to see Wade succeed in what would eventually become a super-utility role. Everyday playing time would help with that. Espinosa and Peterson, meanwhile, would have to tear the Grapefruit League apart to come anywhere near the Opening Day roster.

Then there is Torres. As previously mentioned, the wisest move is for him to start the year in Scranton. He’s coming off Tommy John rehab and the Yankees would be foolish to not work his service time for an extra year of team control.

That said, it’s easy to imagine the Yankees sporting a two-rookie infield in May. With Torres and Andujar possibly up by then, Drury and maybe one other infielder would be there to roam and spell the freshmen as needed.

While the Opening Day roster may now look like a long shot, the goal is to eventually get Andujar and Torres in there every day. In the meantime, the Yankees have more than enough options to get the job done.

Gary Phillips is the Managing Editor of USA Today Sports' Jets Wire, a contributor at Sporting News and a columnist at FanRag Sports. Phillips has experience with The Athletic, The Bergen Record, CNBC, NBC News, Bleacher Report, NJ.com, The Journal Inquirer and The Journal News. A journalism graduate of Seton Hall, Class of 2017, he was Editor-in-Chief of The Setonian, the university's award-winning student newspaper. He can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @GaryHPhillips.

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