How flexibility was the key motive for the Yankees' acquisition of Brandon Drury
Flexibility was one of the biggest reasons the Yankees acquired Brandon Drury from Arizona on Tuesday night, but it's likely that Drury will primarily be evaluated at one position - third base - this spring.
Those two statements may sound contradictory, but Yankees general manager Brian Cashman explained during an appearance on Wednesday's edition of The Michael Kay Show exactly how they're congruent when it relates to the team going forward, starting with why Drury will be competing with Miguel Andujar for the open job at the hot corner to start his tenure in pinstripes.
"We feel his best position is third base - (Arizona has Jake) Lamb at third so they've moved him around to try to find a way to play him - so we're going to swing him back over, and we think he's at least an everyday player in the Majors at third base," Cashman told Kay Wednesday. "Maybe we'll see him at first when some circumstances dictate, but we're going to have laser focus on seeing what he looks like at third base. We're going to allow him to compete with Andujar, and he probably has a leg up you would think given his experience at the highest level."
So, then, about that flexibility? For Cashman, it's really more about Drury not necessarily being locked into a major-league job - and also not locking Miguel Andujar into a major-league job, either.
"He gives us flexibility if we need to buy more time, maybe if Andujar's defense still needs to catch up to his bat," Cashman said, "but (Drury) also has two minor-league options, so there's flexibility if things don't go the way we expect them to go. We're now in a better position to pivot if necessary at any time, and this move gives us a lot of flexibility and a lot of value."
On that vein of defense, Kay asked Cashman if he was concerned about Drury's error total last year - 10 in 114 games at second base, plus one in his only game at the hot corner - and the GM chose the results of a previous acquisition from Arizona (and not Didi Gregorius) to illustrate why he's not concerned.
"At the end of the day, Chase Field is probably the fastest dirt infield in the game, so it's not a concern mainly because of that," Cashman said. "Conversely, that's one of the reasons we feel that Brandon McCarthy improved when he came over here (in 2014); he's a ground-ball pitcher, but he had so many balls shooting through that infield because it plays so hard and fast."
Prior to Drury's acquisition, the Yankees ostensibly had six players competing for the open spots at second and third base; Andujar and No. 1 organizational prospect Gleyber Torres seemed to have the inside track, but Ronald Torreyes, Tyler Wade, and non-roster invitees Danny Espinosa and Jace Peterson were also in the mix as well.
Three of those six players are rookies, but Cashman shied away from saying that the Yankees were hesitant to take the chance of starting the season with MLB neophytes on either side of Didi Gregorius.
"I think last year proved we're not afraid to deploy a number of rookies all over the diamond, but we just were looking for a circumstance that would better protect us," Cashman said. "If we weren't able to (make a move), we would keep going and let the competition play out, but if we could run in to something that could give us a little bit more of a comfort level, which we believe this does, it would allow us to continue to evaluate and compare."
In the end, though, acquiring Drury is the finish line at the end of a long road that Cashman began traversing with former Diamondbacks GM Kevin Towers years ago, a road spanning now three front office regimes in Arizona.
"Well he's someone that's been on our radar for quite some time, and that we've been attempting to get for a number of years now - starting with my good friend Kevin Towers, and then on to Dave Stewart and now Mike Hazen," Cashman said. "He obviously possesses a great deal of ability; our pro scouts really dreamed on his ceiling, and we made the acquisition to dream on it with them."
Drury is expected to report to the Yankees late on Wednesday, be in uniform for Thursday's team workout, and hopefully be available for Friday's Grapefruit League opener, and he also may not be the last dream that comes true for the Yankees this spring.
"I'm never comfortable with what we have, and we're always open to anything that makes us better," Cashman said. "I think we have a lot of good, talented players, but we can't be caught sleeping at the switch. Despite how proud we are about how last October played out, we can't forget that Boston won the AL East and the Houston Astros were the World Series champions, so we always have to keep our eye on what might be available outside. If we can improve on what we've got, then you have to have serious consideration for it."