Find a replacement for James Paxton.
A week ago, there was no rotation spot to be won in spring training, but that changed with the announcement that James Paxton will miss the next three to four months after undergoing back surgery. Jordan Montgomery is a prohibitive favorite in the competition, but Luis Cessa, Jonathan Loaisiga and prospects Deivi Garcia and Mike King will get serious looks. General manager Brian Cashman also hasn’t ruled out going the opener route before Paxton returns, perhaps as soon as May.
Find a role for Miguel Andujar.
After an electric rookie season in 2018 in which he hit .297 with an .855 OPS in 149 games, Andujar was limited to 12 games last season because of injuries. Gio Urshela used the opportunity to seize the starting job at third base and enters camp with the position as his to lose, according to Cashman. But the Yankees very much want to find a spot for Andujar’s bat, so during the offseason, he has taken balls in leftfield and at first base as well as third, all of which will continue in camp.
Settle on Gary Sanchez’s backup.
Longtime backup catcher Austin Romine never was a favorite of the Yankees’ analytics department and little effort was made to retain him (Romine signed with the Tigers). Kyle Higashioka, 29, drafted by the Yankees out of high school in 2008 and long a favorite of the analytics department, goes into camp as the favorite to win the backup job but will be pushed by MLB veterans Erik Kratz, Chris Ianetta and Josh Thole.
The Paxton news brought back memories — not that those memories weren’t still fresh for fans — of the 2019 season, when the Yankees placed an MLB-record 30 players on the injured list. Fans and media both tend to overreact to exhibition results — DJ LeMahieu hit .205 with a .544 OPS in spring training a year ago, to use but one example of their overall irrelevance — when generally the only important element of any player’s exhibition season, unless he is battling for a roster spot, is emerging from it healthy.