The Pirates have sent corner infielder/outfielder Miguel Andújar outright to Triple-A Indianapolis after he went unclaimed on waivers, tweets Kevin Gorman of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. He’ll be in big league camp as a non-roster invitee to Spring Training, which suggests he’s accepted the assignment.
Andújar is a more high-profile player than usually hits the waiver wire. The right-handed hitter posted big numbers in the Yankees’ farm system and reached the majors at the tail end of the 2017 season. A top 60 overall prospect headed into the following year at both Baseball America and FanGraphs, Andújar looked like a potential core piece in the Bronx after an excellent rookie season. He hit 27 home runs and 47 doubles with a .297/.328/.527 line over 606 plate appearances as New York’s primary third baseman in 2018.
That earned Andújar a runner-up behind Shohei Ohtani in AL Rookie of the Year balloting. While he seemed like the third baseman of the future for the Yankees, he’s yet to again reach those early-career heights. His sophomore season was cut short after just 12 games by a labrum tear in his right shoulder that required surgery. By the time he returned in 2020, Gio Urshela had broken out and claimed the third base job. That left Andújar in a depth role, cycling between the Bronx and Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre without much consistent MLB playing time.
Tough as that situation must’ve been for Andújar, he never forced the Yankees’ hand by earning significant reps. New York gave him 327 scattered plate appearances between 2020-22. He hit just .244/.272/.346 with eight homers and a meager 4% walk rate. Paired with a corner-only defensive profile, his production was a little below replacement level. The Yankees eventually cut him loose at the end of last season, waiving him in September. The Pirates grabbed the 27-year-old off the wire and plugged him into nine games down the stretch. Andújar got 40 plate appearances with Pittsburgh, hitting .250/.275/.389 to close out the year.
After the season, he and the Bucs agreed to a $1.525MM salary to buy out his second season of arbitration eligibility. While that may have kept him from being non-tendered in November, he was still squeezed off the 40-man roster last week once the Bucs brought back Andrew McCutchen. Any team that claimed Andújar off waivers would’ve had to take on his salary. It’s certainly not an exorbitant sum but is roughly double the league minimum and might’ve played a role in him going unclaimed.
Andújar has a bit more than four years of major league service time. Players with over three years of service have the right to refuse an outright assignment in favor of minor league free agency, though anyone with fewer than five years of service would forfeit the remaining guaranteed money on their contract to do so. Andújar certainly wouldn’t have landed a better deal in free agency after going unclaimed on waivers, so it’s no surprise he’s elected to take the minor league assignment to hang onto that salary.
He’ll report to camp and try to reestablish himself on the 40-man roster as a right-handed bench bat. If he doesn’t break camp, he’ll open the season as a depth option in Indianapolis. Andújar has a .303/.351/.507 line in a little over 600 career Triple-A plate appearances. Performing at that level in the minors could certainly get him back on the radar for a midseason promotion. Andújar is out of minor league option years, though, meaning he’d have to stick on the MLB roster or again be DFA if he earns a call-up at any point.