The New York Yankees have spent lots of resources during the offseason. They achieved their most pressing goal, which was retaining free agent outfielder Aaron Judge, but also brought Anthony Rizzo back, signed star pitcher Carlos Rodon to a huge deal and inked reliever Tommy Kahnle.
For as much work as the Yankees have put on during the fall and winter, several spots of the lineup remain an enigma. They are set at catcher, first base, second base, center field, right field, and designated hitter, but shortstop, third base, and left field are still question marks.
If the Yankees use Oswaldo Cabrera mainly as a left fielder, who will be the starter at the hot corner in the 2023 campaign? Let’s take a look at the options.
Josh Donaldson was the starter last year, but had a disappointing performance at the plate (97 wRC+, 15 home runs, .374 slugging percentage), is 37, and will make more than $20 million in 2023. Payroll-wise, he is a liability, and he would also be considered one on the field if he wasn’t such a good fielder.
Still, the Yankees would love to upgrade the position, even if it won’t be easy to get rid of Donaldson. Are there other options to plug at the hot corner?
The trade market doesn’t offer too many alternatives, and most of the free agents (Justin Turner, Brandon Drury, Evan Longoria, and others) are now off the board.
Internally, the Yankees could use Cabrera, but as things stand right now, he is slated to see a lot of playing time at left field. Isiah Kiner-Falefa is another alternative, but his bat (85 wRC+ in 2022) is just not good.
So, who should be the starting third baseman on opening day? None other than DJ LeMahieu.
The veteran, a former batting champion and MVP candidate, is not the hitter he once was. However, at .261/.357/.377, 12 home runs, a 116 wRC+ and 3.0 fWAR, he was quietly productive and has the potential for more. He actually finished third on the Yanks among position players in fWAR with just 125 games played.
LeMahieu is a second baseman, but has shown over the years he can handle third with no issues. He has become somewhat injury-prone, but playing in a corner should help him.
Since the Yankees didn’t actively look for an upgrade over Donaldson, LeMahieu can slide in and play third, and the team should be better off that way.