The Yankees aren’t benching their struggling infielder anytime soon

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As the MLB trade deadline approaches in late July, Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman only has so many sources to bolster the roster. Amid a series of defeats, including losing five of their last six series and a recent loss to the New York Mets, the urgency for reinforcements is palpable.

The Yankees’ Urgent Need for More Offensive Power

Despite Gerrit Cole’s efforts on the mound, the Yankees surrendered nine runs but managed to score seven, thanks in large part to the standout performances of Aaron Judge and Juan Soto. However, the reliance on just these two stars has highlighted the need for broader offensive support.

DJ LeMahieu’s Prolonged Slump

DJ LeMahieu, in particular, is under the spotlight for his dismal start to the 2024 season. Following a right foot injury, expectations were high, especially after a promising spring training. Yet, a setback from fouling a ball off his foot has significantly hampered his recovery and performance.

“Something he’s still working through trying to get there,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said Tuesday. “I felt like he came in to spring training in such a good spot. Feel like physically he was in a really good spot. I felt like more and more explosive and then boom, unfortunately he fouls a ball off his foot and that knocks him back. So he’s playing catch up. It’s just something we gotta be patient with and hope that he continues to work through and eventually clicks for him, he gets rolling and can become that presence we know he can be.”

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Over 22 games and 81 plate appearances, LeMahieu’s stats—a .174 batting average, .275 on-base percentage, and notably absent home runs—speak to his struggles. With a wRC+ of 41, he is performing 59% below the MLB average hitter, a concerning statistic for the team.

Technical Struggles at the Plate

LeMahieu’s difficulties extend to his approach at the plate, especially against fastballs and breaking pitches. His batting against fastballs has been particularly poor, with a batting and slugging average of .176 and a concerning -3° launch angle, leading to a career-high 61.1% ground ball rate. Additionally, his 25.9% flyball rate is the lowest since 2021, and the absence of extra-base hits this season underscores his challenges in making impactful contact.

Potential Trade Deadline Moves

Given LeMahieu’s underperformance, there’s a strong case that he would have been better suited as a utility player rather than a primary starter. This situation may prompt Cashman to actively seek upgrades at first or third base at the trade deadline. The Yankees are also giving Ben Rice a chance to prove himself in the interim, especially in light of Anthony Rizzo’s injury and the hope that he can regain form in the second half of the season.

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Broader Team Challenges

The Yankees are currently exposed in several areas, particularly the infield and the bullpen. With Cole also needing time to regain his form, the team’s overall performance has suffered despite their early-season success. Holding a slender two-game lead over the Baltimore Orioles in the AL East—thanks partly to the Orioles’ own five-game losing streak—the Yankees are in a precarious position, relying more on luck than on consistent performance.

As the All-Star break approaches, the Yankees’ management will undoubtedly explore all options to strengthen the team, ensuring they remain competitive and capable of a deep postseason run.

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