D.J. LeMahieu doesn’t have the star power of Manny Machado, but he’s still a guy who can really help the Yankees infield in 2019 and beyond.
Brian Cashman has a well-earned reputation for making moves out of absolutely nowhere. It happened again on Friday when the Yankees surprised the baseball world by landing D.J. LeMahieu.
Cashman took advantage of the rest of the baseball world’s focus on Manny Machado to ink the former Rockies star to a two-year, $24 million deal. Part of the team’s interest in the 30-year-old can be attributed to his versatility. He primarily played second base during his tenure in Colorado but he also can handle third and first base. The Yankees are expected to use LeMahieu in a variety of positions next season.
Adding LeMahieu to Aaron Boone’s infield options solves one of the Yankees biggest potential weaknesses. Lining up every day with Luke Voit, Gleyber Torres, Troy Tulowitzki and Miguel Andujar as the starting infield would have been one of the worst defensive groups in all of MLB. Only Tulowitzki, provided he can stay healthy, projects as an above average defender. Voit and Andujar are among the worst defenders in baseball at their respective positions.
LeMahieu isn’t just a good defensive player, he’s great with the glove. He led MLB in defensive regression analysis last season. He easily becomes the Yankees best defensive option at multiple infield positions once he arrives in the Bronx.
His ability to be a positive offensive presence for the team will likely determine just how much playing time he gets. LeMahieu won a batting title in 2016 when he hit .348 for the Rockies, but his average dipped to .276 last season. Many scouts believe his offensive numbers are mildly inflated by playing his home games at Coors Field. Despite that very real possibility, he should be able to swing the bat as a league average or better middle infielder over the next two seasons.
Signing LeMahieu isn’t going to thrill Yankees fans who have their heart set on Machado, but this is a really solid, sensible move by Cashman. It’s just the sort of transaction that can help the Yankees end their World Series drought in 2019.