Making room for Brandon Drury

By the end of this week, the Yankees will have a roster decision to make. Brandon Drury’s rehab assignment began on April 24, meaning that his twenty-day rehab window will come to an end after Sunday. At that point, the front office will need to decide what to do with 25-year-old infielder recovering from migraines and blurred vision issues. Will he be ready to jump into meaningful games, or does he need more time to get back to full strength? If he’s ready to return, who on the current roster gets the short end of the stick?

This dilemma is more than taking care of Drury’s scary health concerns. The young players on the roster that have filled in, namely Miguel Andujar and Tyler Austin, further complicate what the Yankees should do next. Drury was acquired to be the team’s third baseman, at least until Andujar or Gleyber Torres was ready, which has come sooner than perhaps expected. Regardless of the front office’s preferences, decision day looms. What are some of the possibilities?

Option Tyler Austin, Miguel Andujar, or Ronald Torreyes

All three of Austin, Andujar, and Torreyes have made significant contributions at the major league level this season, so it wouldn’t be easy to eschew any of them.

With Greg Bird out, Austin has been an excellent fill-in at first base. He’s hit .254/.329/.549 (.281 TAv), which is far more than anyone could have asked for. That being said, there are a few drawbacks. He’s limited to first base defensively and isn’t anything special there anyway. He strikes out a lot (38.1% in his short big league career) and his .351 BABIP sure seems inflated. Austin profiles more as a platoon bat too, and with Neil Walker starting to heat up, Austin might not have much playing time coming his way anyway.

Andujar has been an exciting doubles machine since he took over at the hot corner. Despite his impressive pop, there are a few things that could make him the guy to go back down to the minors. He has cooled down a bit, with his batting line down to .274/.291/.491 (.274 TAv). The telling number in that triple-slash is his low on-base percentage thanks to a minuscule 2.4 percent walk rate. On the other side of the ball, his defensive reputation isn’t great. So, as tantalizing as is vicious swing is, some more work in Triple-A might not be the end of the world as his extremely aggressive approach could use some refinement.

I can’t imagine that this would go over well in the clubhouse, but Torreyes could be the odd man out if the Yankees decide that Drury is a good fit as the utility infielder going forward. Is Drury a better hitter than Torreyes? Definitely. But sending Toe down could deplete the morale, and it’s not like upgrading at utility infielder is something the Yankees desperately need to do.

Option David Hale or waive A.J. Cole

Right now, the Yankees are fielding an eight-man bullpen. The problem is that only six of those guys are ever used. Hale hasn’t pitched since he was brought back on May 2nd, and Cole has appeared once since his acquisition on April 24th (he pitched on the 28th). At this point, the Yankees can probably get by with seven pitchers in the ‘pen considering they never use Hale or Cole.

Dumping Hale is the easier move because he still has an option remaining, so the Yankees could stash him in Triple-A. Cole, on the other hand, has no minor league options and can’t simply be sent to Scranton. That’s exactly the reason why the Nationals had to trade him a few weeks ago, as they couldn’t just send him to the minors.

Though neither pitcher has a long-term future with the Yankees, it probably makes more sense to send out Hale in order to maintain depth in the minors. Cole wouldn’t be a big loss, but there’s the risk of losing him to another club if he’s the roster casualty for Drury.

Option Brandon Drury (or return him to the disabled list?)

Here’s a somewhat outside the box choice. When the end of the week comes, the Yankees could send Drury back to the minors. He still has options, and it might make sense to let him continue his recovery in minor league action. After all, just because his rehab window is nearing completion doesn’t mean he couldn’t use more time in less meaningful game action to get back to full strength. Drury himself doesn’t sound too confident about being ready soon, anyway:

“On the disabled list a full month as of [yesterday], Drury admitted that he’s still dealing with blurry vision and severe migraines, and he predicted that “it’ll take some time” before he’s ready to rejoin the Yankees.

How much time?

Drury offered a blank stare when he was asked that question.

He then was asked if it could take weeks or months.

“I’m not sure,” Drury responded.”

One caveat is that if he’s not one hundred percent, I’m not so sure the Yankees can simply end the rehab assignment and subsequently option him to the minors. Depending on what the rules are, he might need to be put back on the disabled list in order to continue his recovery. Optioning him to the minors in what would essentially be an extended rehab assignment probably wouldn’t sit well with the Players Association.

If I had my druthers, and assuming that Drury is ready to go, I would drop either Hale or Cole. None of the position players deserve a demotion and having an eight-man bullpen seems redundant. Given Drury’s recent statements, though, the major league roster could remain status quo after this weekend. Taking care of his health is obviously top priority, and if he needs more time to recover, so be it. Kicking the can down the road wouldn’t be the worst route.

Photo credit: Jonathan Dyer / USA TODAY Sports

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