The Yankees can send a message by making a change in their struggling infield

MLB: Boston Red Sox at New York Yankees
Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

DJ LeMahieu has reached the territory of hitters whom the Yankees have either benched or designated for assignment even with some money owed to them. While they’ve tried to make him their starting third baseman, the bat has completely regressed, and the Yankees have to be made aware of the situation they’re in with him. Aaron Hicks had a 49 wRC+ last season before being designated for assignment in Cincinnati. Josh Donaldson had a 78 wRC+ before being released by the Yankees last summer.

Right now, LeMahieu has a 43 wRC+ and .270 OBP, marks that are worse than the aforementioned Hicks and Donaldson, and considering he’s already 35 years old, this is an indication of a steep and sharp decline for the once-excellent infielder.

It’s Time For the Yankees to Admit They Have a DJ LeMahieu Problem

MLB: New York Yankees at Toronto Blue Jays
Credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

Regression is something that comes fast, and when it hits, you go from a playable starter to one of the worst everyday regulars in baseball. In DJ LeMahieu’s case, he regressed from a good third baseman in 2022 to an average one in 2023, now he’s flat-out one of the worst players not just in baseball, but in the entire league. Looking at how he regressed versus Josh Donaldson, there’s an eerily similar fall from grace.

Both players fell from similar heights, immediately becoming league-average hitters before completely bottoming out at the plate. The Yankees would designate Josh Donaldson for assignment after 37 games with a 78 wRC+, and while he was a free agent at the end of the season, it was an admission that he simply wasn’t good enough to have a roster spot, even on an 82-80 team. As for DJ LeMahieu, he’s at 30 games with a 43 wRC+, a mark that would justify releasing him right now.

This isn’t hyperbole; after 28 games with the Yankees, Aaron Hicks was designated for assignment with a 49 wRC+ despite having 2.5 years of team control left on his deal at his time of release. LeMahieu has 2.5 years of control right now, and while I don’t expect them to cut the veteran infielder, they should 100% have him ride the bench. J.D. Davis isn’t my alternative option either, there are certainly ways to find deserving infielders.

MLB: Spring Training-New York Yankees at Detroit Tigers
Credit: Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports

Jorbit Vivas has completely turned things around in Scranton after a rough start to his season caused by injuries, raising his wRC+ on the season to 125. He does a great job of making contact and working walks, skills that he had with the Dodgers as well, but now we’re seeing him tap into some pull-side power and generate offense in that manner. I don’t love the idea of having him come up after about a month of consistent playing time in Triple-A, but this team needs another spark.

Part of the problem with yesterday’s loss was their effort and lack of intensity on the field. LeMahieu was jogging out a ball that he almost got doubled off on because of that lackadaisical effort. Anthony Volpe not knowing the ball was fair and jogging home was bad, but just as bad was LeMahieu choosing to run right at second base instead of getting into a rundown, which would have scored another run that would have given them a win.

The Yankees embarrassed themselves against the Red Sox, not because they surrendered a massive home run, but because they showed a complete lack of effort and intensity. Jorbit Vivas doesn’t have the top-100 prospect status that should get him a call-up automatically, but he brings another option and another body who can create a greater sense of urgency in the clubhouse.

MLB: Tampa Bay Rays at New York Yankees, gleyber torres

Gleyber Torres and DJ LeMahieu have been below-average regulars and don’t have a single contender on the roster who can challenge them for playing time. That has to change if the Yankees want to create the urgency and spark needed to get out of this awful slump they’ve been in. Change is an important step that comes before improvement, and this team needs to have a wake-up call as soon as possible.

They were swept by a lowly Reds team that was dead in the waters and responded with the kind of effort that would have you running until you threw up the next day in high school. If you want to ensure that it doesn’t happen again, dislodging a beloved veteran who is contributing nothing from his unchallenged spot as the third baseman could potentially go a long way toward getting you back on track.

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