One of the greatest comedy bits of all time is Abbott and Costello's "Who's On First." If you have not watched the routine in a while, click on the link. If, for some strange reason, you have never seen the bit, by golly, click the link. As it stands now on November 10, 2017, I Don't Know will be playing third for the 2018 Yankees.
The current depth chart looks like this: Chase Headley, Miguel Andujar, Ronald Torreyes and Tyler Wade. Here is a quick rundown of those four names:
Chase Headley. The Yankees seemed to make it quite clear in 2017 that Chase Headley was no longer the starting third baseman. Todd Frazier was brought in at the Trade Deadline and there was not even a question of which would play third. And remember, Todd Frazier was batting .207 when he joined the team.
Headley was no longer considered a good enough fielder and his eleven runs below average at the position in 2017 seemed to bear that out. We should never forget how unselfishly Headley took the transition and he did have his best offensive season since 2014. He was particularly strong in the second half and batted well in the ALCS (if not the ALDS).
While Headley would not be a real stretch to open the season as the third baseman, it is doubtful the Yankees want that to be the case. Headley has a final year on his contract and if not dealt during the off season, will probably fit a role he filled nicely after Frazier arrived.
Miguel Andujar. No one will dispute that Andujar will hit in the big leagues. In his first small taste, he looked great and he has always hit in the minors. The jury is still out on whether he can handle third base. His range is not even close to Headley's despite being a decade younger and his career fielding percentage as a professional third baseman is only .915.
As the Yankees continue to go younger, will Andujar get the chance to prove that his offense will make up for his lack of defense? It seems doubtful and the team will have to make a decision soon on what to do with Andujar going forward.
Ronald Torreyes. Everyone loves Ronald Torreyes. But he is NOT a starting third baseman. His fielding there is adequate, but despite getting big hits and making regular contact, his OPS+ has been stuck on 81 for the past two seasons. That will not cut it for the Yankees. He is the favorite going forward for that utility position and Johnny-On-The-Spot, but nothing beyond that role is feasible.
Every Yankee fan seems to be down on Tyler Wade. And sure, his 31 games were abysmal. But Wade is NOT the second coming of Rob Refsnyder. For one, the guy can use his glove. For another, speed is a big part of his game as is patience at the plate. Derek Jeter was pretty poor in 1995 and he turned out pretty well.
But Wade will not be the starting third baseman for several reasons. First, the Yankees will not trust him. And it is quite telling that in his brief stint on the big club in 2017, he never once played third. To date, Tyler Wade has started twelve professional games as a third baseman. We can rule this one out.
We can rule out Donovan Solano, a 28-year-old, thirteen-year minor league veteran who is a pretty good fielding third baseman. He has had five short stints in the Majors and does not appear to be more than a career MiLBer.
We can probably rule out Gleyber Torres, at least to start the season. While everyone believes Torres is the next big thing, he has played a grand total of fifteen games as a professional third baseman. He is a shortstop and an exciting one. But the Yankees have a solid leader established at short and barring a trade, will block Torres and shift a move for the phenom to either second or third. Torres could be the third baseman of the second half if the Yankees do not make other moves.
One interesting thought would be to see if Starlin Castro (who--to be a nag--should be traded) can play third. That would open second for Wade early and Torres later.
Dante Bichette? Uh...no.
Todd Frazier comes to mind immediately. The guy brought good times to the Yankees and he seemed to play with boundless enthusiasm. He is a very good fielder and a more valuable hitter than his batting average shows. But do the Yankees go two years on an offer? Will Frazier want more than two years? He will be 32 in 2018 and despite his Yankee love, might want one more brass ring for a contract.
Mike Moustakas is the other "big name" free agent third baseman. Moustakas is two years younger than Frazier and fell off a bit with his fielding in 2017. But for his career has been just a tad above normal as a fielder and has the kind of left-handed power the Yankees always seem to enjoy. The problem is, the Yankees do not want to spend a lot of money and constantly talk about the luxury tax these days. It seems a stretch to think they would go five years with a big salary at this stage of things.
Zach Cozart is an interesting thought. The Reds did not made a qualified offer and Cozart can be had after coming off a career year for Cincinnati. But he is a shortstop by trade. He would be interesting to consider though. Frazier would probably be better in the field and offer more power.
As far as trade possibilities go, there does not appear to be any of the nine third basemen (that scored ahead of Todd Frazier in fWAR for 2017) moving any time soon. The Orioles will have some decisions to make about Manny Machado. But otherwise, the rest seem like young, controllable players teams would want to keep around.
So who will play third base for the Yankees on Opening Day in 2018? Before you say, "Who is on first," the answer still seems to be, I Don't Know. The best guess here is that it will be Frazier.