The New York Yankees sorely missed infielder DJ LeMahieu during the 2022 postseason. DJ hosts a .272 batting average and 34% on-base rate across 21 playoff games, showcasing his quality in big moments. However, the Yankees were forced to supplement his loss, which was a difficult reality given their reliance on inexperienced youth.
The Yankees need a healthy DJ LeMahieu moving forward:
LeMahieu suffered a toe injury that impacted the second half of his season. He finished hitting .261 with a 35.7% on-base rate, including 12 homers and 46 RBIs, but he struggled down the stretch. Notably, he hit .211 with a 27.6% on-base rate in August and barely made any appearances in September before being shut down for the remainder of the season.
The injury he suffered could last into the 2023 campaign, depending on his course of action. He could either allow the injury to heal on its own or opt for surgery.
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Keeping Gleyber Torres as insurance:
There’s a strong argument to make the Yankees should retain Gleyber Torres instead of trading him away if they anticipate DJ being limited at the beginning of the year. They could always move Torres before the deadline for bullpen support or prospects, utilizing his services at second base until LeMahieu is 100%.
According to Chris Kirschner of The Athletic, the Yankees could retain Gleyber Torres if DJ LeMahieu’s injury becomes a bigger problem moving forward.
If LeMahieu will be limited in any capacity, it could mean the Yankees hold on to second baseman Gleyber Torres, who’s been a frequently mentioned trade candidate, until the deadline next season. Any LeMahieu absence also adds additional reliance on third baseman Josh Donaldson to have better results at the plate than what he produced this season, unless the Yankees find a way to offload his contract.
Not having a fully healthy LeMahieu is a significant negative across the board, given his above-average defensive qualities and consistent hitting metrics. He hosted 116 wRC+ this past season with a 3.0 WAR. Defensively, he spent 265 innings at first base, 312.2 at second base, and 385.2 at third base.
He earned a .990 fielding percentage or better at every position but 2B, in which he came in at .986, still a tremendous number. In fact, he posted eight defensive runs saved above average on the hot corner, a number that manager Aaron Boone is likely looking at as a potential replacement for Josh Donaldson if they manage to offload his $21 million salary next season.
However, the Yankees need to be focusing on ensuring DJ is ready to go, and the expectation is that surgery would require about five months of rehabilitation time. That would allow him to be ready for the beginning of the 2023 season — surgery seems like the best option at this point in time instead of running the risk of re-aggravating it in the future.