Despite rumors throughout the off-season the Yankees were looking to offload Josh Donaldson and his $21 million salary for the 2023 campaign, manager Aaron Boone clearly has a different narrative in mind.
Following a disappointing offensive season and the Yankees investing plenty of money in Donaldson, they remain steadfast in their approach, featuring him at third base despite DJ LeMahieu playing admirably at the position for over 350 innings last year.
In fact, DJ enjoyed seven defensive runs saved and 4 outs above average across 385.2 innings at the position. Nonetheless, Boone believes that DJ will play more of a roving role, supplementing injury and helping out at several positions.
Gleyber Torres is envisioned as the Yankees’ starting second baseman, Aaron Boone said. DJ LeMahieu is once again the rover, with Anthony Rizzo at 1B and Josh Donaldson at 3B.Per Bryan Hoch of MLB.com.
The Yankees remain confident in Josh Donaldson:
The Yankees are clearly taking a significant risk, with Donaldson at third base once again. At 37 years old, he’s coming off one of his worst offensive seasons as a professional.
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Over 132 games, Donaldson hit .222 with a .308 OBP, 15 homers, and 62 RBIs. He posted a career-high 27.1% strikeout rate and his lowest walk rate at 9.9% since 2012. He was a 97 wRC+ player with a 1.6 WAR to his name. Ultimately, his statistical drop-off was significant, but it seems the Bombers have justified giving him the reins once again, hoping he can bounce back and hover around his career averages. The problem is, he’s hit .265 with a .361 OBP in his career, so it is improbable he sniffs those numbers. In fact, his Steamer projections have him hitting 15 homers, .225 with a .318 OBP, good enough for a 105 wRC+.
At the very least, Boone can rely on Donaldson’s defense, collecting seven defensive runs saved and seven outs above average across 902.2 innings on the hot corner. His lack of versatility certainly limits his value, especially if Isiah Kiner-Falefa loses the shortstop position battle, which is anticipated.
Aside from Josh, the Yankees also have Gleyber Torres cemented at second base. Despite rumors indicating that the Yankees could trade Gleyber this season to bolster other spots, notably if Anthony Volpe is promoted to the Majors and takes over a starting job. Torres is coming off one of his best defensive seasons, hosting a .985 fielding percentage with nine defensive runs saved across 1082.2 innings.
Torres is hoping to compound on the success he enjoyed in 2022, hitting .257 with a .310 OBP, 24 homers, and 76 RBIs. MLB.com recently listed Torres as a top-10 second baseman in baseball, so clearly, other teams will see his value if the Yankees are looking to move on — he is controlled until the 2025 free agency class.
Of course, first base will be manned by Anthony Rizzo, one of the Yankees’ cornerstone pieces who signed an extension this off-season. Nonetheless, Torres at second isn’t a surprise, but Donaldson already being coined the starter at third is not exactly what most fans wanted to hear.