New York Yankees: Was DJ LeMahieu worth it and will he remain a Yankee?

William Parlee
New York Yankees, DJ LeMahieu
Feb 20, 2019; Tampa, FL, USA; New York Yankees infielder DJ leMahieu (26) catches a ball thrown from home plate in a steal drill during spring training workouts at George M. Steinbrenner Field. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

Last year during the New York Yankees 2018-2019 postseason Yankee fans after a 100 win season and not making the World Series, they were hoping the Yankees would make a big splash in free agency.  After all, big names were available, like Manny Machado and Bryce Harper.  Harper was never really considered by the Yankees, but Machado was, but instead, General Manager Brian Cashman went after a relative unknown that he saw something special in, DJ LeMahieu.

Harper would go on to sign with the Philadelphia Phillies with a massive $330 million contract for a very unwise 13 years. When he retires, he might be the oldest right fielder in baseball, just shy of his 40th birthday.  Manny Machado landed an even bigger prize.  He got a 10-year contract for $30 million a year with the San Diego Padres.  What did the New York Yankees get? They got a Chicago Cub and Colorado Rockie utility baseman that had never hit more than 15 home runs or batted in more than 66 runners in a season.  It is doubtful that any Yankee fan had ever heard of him.

New York General Manager Brian Cashman has a record of smart moves, but this one was genius and may have been his best acquisition ever.  DJ LeMahieu immediately found himself in the glare of Yankee Stadium.  Cashman’s move made LeMahieu the Yankees MVP and 4th in the MVP voting in MLB.  The Yankee hit a career record 27 home runs.  But that is not what endeared him to Yankee fans; it was his excellent defense at 2nd base and the ability to play 1st and 3rd as well.  He had the .327 team-leading batting average while getting the nickname “the Machine” for his timely hitting and ability to get on base.

So, how did the high paid superstars the Yankees passe on do?  Harper, in his first year with the Phillies, hit a disappointing .260 and Machado that the Yankee had considered hit and even more disappointing .256.  Manny’s OPS was 100 points lower than DJ’s.  When considering defense Manny’s defense was average, Harper’s was a bit better but not close to DJ’s outstanding .993 fielding percentage.  Hold on, wait for it, the Yankees got DJ LeMahieu for $24 million over two years.  Was he worth it?, probably more than any trade the Yankees have made dollar for dollar.

But this is 2020, and the baseball season hasn’t yet started due to the coronavirus shutdown.  It is also the last year of the DJ’s contract.  Will the 31-year-old remain a Yankee?  The New York Yankees recently have had a habit of not extending contracts or taking up player options, preferably dealing with players when they reach free agency.  I obviously don’t know what the Yankees will do, but recently when questioned, Cashman has said he is not in any contract extension negotiations. If he were, he most likely wouldn’t show his hand.  Before the season ends, the Yankees should tie DJ up and not allow him into free agency.  Another contract of $33 million for another two years should seal the deal.