Yankees’ 2024 3rd Base Showdown: Veteran vs. Rising Prospect

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The New York Yankees face a pivotal crossroads, with the challenge of optimizing resources to fortify multiple areas. Yet, the focus seems to shift to the third base, especially in the wake of parting ways with seasoned infielder Josh Donaldson and the impending financial gains from his departure.

Making Sense of the Donaldson Deal

Donaldson was on a hefty $25 million luxury tax salary for the recent season. However, the Yankees will pay him $6 million on a triggered buyout option to stay clear of the roster in 2024. The silver lining? This adjusted payout doesn’t weigh on the luxury tax.

This financial benefit offers general manager Brian Cashman some flexibility. An available $25 million could pave the way for strategic acquisitions, perhaps courting star pitcher Yoshinobu Yamamoto or tapping into the prowess of switch-hitting third baseman Jeimir Candelario.

Spotlight on Candelario

Clocking in at 29, Candelario showcased his skills with the Washington Nationals and the Chicago Cubs in the previous season. His stats speak for themselves: a .251 average, .336 OBP, and a .471 slugging rate, coupled with 22 homers and 70 RBIs. His credentials also flaunt a 22% strikeout rate, 9.2% walk rate, and an impressive 117 wRC+. Given his consistent offensive outputs over the years and commendable defense, the Yankees might ponder strengthening their third base with Candelario.

The Contenders: LeMahieu vs. Peraza

The Yankees’ third base roster spot could witness an intense showdown between the seasoned DJ LeMahieu and the budding prospect, Oswald Peraza.

LeMahieu, a 35-year-old versatile player, boasts the defensive chops to consistently man the third base. His recent performance includes a .243 average, .327 OBP, 15 homers, and 44 RBIs. While his 101 wRC+ hints at an above-average output, LeMahieu’s recent season was a rollercoaster—initial hiccups followed by a robust latter half.

On the other hand, the up-and-coming Peraza might be a name to remember. The 23-year-old’s potential resonates with Gold Glove aspirations in various roles. His recent stint with the Yankees witnessed a .191 average, .267 OBP, two homers, and 14 RBIs across 52 fixtures. Although his 53 wRC+ indicates room for improvement, Peraza’s performance seemed to stabilize as the season advanced.

Defensively, Peraza clocked 300 innings at third base, registering a .964 fielding percentage. Considering 2023 was his debut at third base, some leeway for acclimatization seems fair. There’s no denying his agility and finesse in the field, making even the most challenging plays seem effortless.

A Glimpse into the Yankees’ Strategy

Should the Yankees opt against recruiting a free agent like Candelario, they’ll tread on thin ice at third base. While Peraza needs to enhance his offensive game, LeMahieu is approaching 36. The ideal scenario might involve a versatile player like Candelario joining the ranks, with Peraza potentially emerging as a trading asset this off-season.

The Yankees have a plethora of strategies at their disposal to amplify their roster. With potential reasonably priced talent in the marketplace, the Yankees could seek enhancements rather than mere replacements.

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