Over the winter, the Yankees did not want to include third baseman Miguel Andujar in a trade that would have brought righthander Gerrit Cole from the Pirates. Cole wound up with the Astros.
How’s all that working out? Pretty good for both teams.
The Yankees will return to Houston on Monday for the first time since losing Game 7 to the Astros in the American League Championship Series. Andujar likely will face Cole, who has become one of the Astros five aces, in one of the four games at Minute Maid Park.
In 2001, according to mlb.c om. Cole was a 12-year old fan at the World Series in Phoenix between the Yankees and Diamondbacks and held a sign that read, “Yankees Fan Today, Tomorrow, Forever.”
The Yankees drafted Cole, a Newport, California-born pitcher, with the 28th overall pick in 2008 and reportedly were ready to offer him a $4 million signing bonus. But he decided to play college baseball at UCLA.
Andujar’s start has been historic by team proportions as he joined Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle as the only Yankees under the age of 24 to have at least one extra-base hit in seven straight games. He entered Tuesday on a 15-for-29 streak with three home runs, eight doubles, a triple and eight runs batted in. His batting average went from .107 to .316 before Tuesday’s game with the Twins.
The Yankees wanted another starting pitcher as insurance for 37-year-old CC Sabathia and his potentially balky knee. Andujar was not a lock to make the team, much less become the starting third baseman. General manager Brian Cashman talked about having Andujar and Gleyber Torres in the same lineup until he traded for Brandon Drury. Now Drury, who is working his way back from blurred vision and migraine headaches, could have trouble regaining his starting spot if Andujar continues to hit.
Cashman would not speculate on what would happen when Drury returns.
“We’ll have to wait and see,’’ he said. “This stuff usually works itself out one way or the other. You could ask the same question about [Tyler] Austin when [Greg] Bird comes back.’’
Cole, the Pirates’ 27-year-old ace, was coming off a 12-12 season with a 4.26 earned run average. That was after elbow inflammation scuttled his 2016 into a 7-10 record. The Yankees thought Cole might return to the form he showed in 2015, when he went 19-8 with a 2.60 ERA. They were right. In five starts with the Astros, Cole is 2-1 with a 1.29 ERA. He has 49 strikeouts in 35 innings. And he’s at the back end of a rotation that includes Justin Verlander, Dallas Keuchel, Lance McCullers Jr. and Charlie Morton.
The Yankees were considered the favorites to land Cole, but the price would have been steep. Torres was off limits. Aside from Andujar, the combination of names reportedly bandied about were outfielders Clint Frazier and Estevan Florial, pitchers Chance Adams and Justus Sheffield. It appears the framework of the deal fell apart when the Yankees would not include Andujar.
Drury was obtained from the Diamondbacks on Feb. 20. Had he arrived earlier, perhaps Andujar would have been made available to the Pirates.
The Astros received Cole for starting pitcher Joe Musgrove, reliever Michael Feliz, third baseman Colin Moran and prospect Jason Martin. The pundits called the deal underwhelming for the Pirates, but it has paid some dividends.
Musgrove has not appeared in a game as he recovers from a shoulder issue, but Moran hit a grand slam on Opening Day. He is batting .270 with nine RBIs. Feliz allowed four runs in his first outing, but only one in his last 10 through Monday’s games.