Yankees will place veteran third baseman on the injured list to open the 2024 season

MLB: New York Yankees at Kansas City Royals
Oct 1, 2023; Kansas City, Missouri, USA; New York Yankees first baseman DJ LeMahieu (26) is congratulated by teammate after scoring during the sixth inning against the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Yankees were pretty certain they would be without DJ LeMahieu on Opening Day, as Aaron Boone referred to it as a longshot yesterday ahead of their first game in Mexico City. Now, Brian Cashman confirms that the Yankees will place their projected lead-off hitter on the injured list with a bone bruise he suffered after fouling a ball off of his foot in Spring Training. LeMahieu, who is coming off of a so-so 2023 season where he got off to a slow start and heated up down the stretch, is in the fourth season of a six-year deal he signed before the 2021 season.

It’ll be the third season with an IL stint for the two-time batting champion, and this is an ominous start to his season as the Yankees are even more depleted at the third base position.

DJ LeMahieu is Headed to the IL, Yankees in Need of Infield Help

MLB: New York Yankees-Workouts
Feb 20, 2024; Tampa, FL, USA; New York Yankees infielder DJ LeMahieu (26) catches the ball at George M. Steinbrenner Field. Mandatory Credit: Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports

One of the least deep positions on the Yankees happened to be at third base, and losing both your starter and primary reserve option certainly hurts. DJ LeMahieu could just miss 10 days and find himself right back at the top of the Yankees’ lineup in early April, but details on his recovery are still undecided. He’s recently taken batting practice and done defensive work, and this could be more of a precaution to make sure that he’s fully healed before he steps back into the batter’s box.

Something that the Yankees would like to avoid is a situation where LeMahieu is compensating for foot pain and adjusting his mechanics in a way that hurts his overall production, as he did back in 2022. This time it’s the right foot, which is a sigh of relief as any injury to the left foot would be scary for the Yankees, as he opted to not get surgery on the big toe and instead used rest and recovery. Now, the question of who their third baseman will be on Opening Day remains unclear, but there are some hints as to who their first option will be.

MLB: Spring Training-Philadelphia Phillies at New York Yankees
Mar 18, 2024; Tampa, Florida, USA; New York Yankees first baseman Oswaldo Cabrera (95) runs the bases after hitting a solo home run against the Philadelphia Phillies in the third inning at George M. Steinbrenner Field. Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

Oswaldo Cabrera has begun to heat up in Spring Training and could be their choice at third base as they wait for DJ LeMahieu to return from the IL. The question now pertains to who their reserve infielder will be, as Kevin Smith is their projected utility infielder and he hasn’t necessarily been amazing in Spring Training. The Yankees will need to look externally at the waiver wire or opt-out market for veterans they can scoop up, as teams begin finalizing their rosters and making final cuts ahead of Opening Day.

Ben Rortvedt, who will likely be waived or traded, could be flipped for a bench piece in their infield, but that depends on what teams need catching depth. Any free agents who haven’t participated in Spring Training are probably out of the picture for the Yankees, as they aren’t built up to handle the workload of a regular season game yet. This means guys like Donovan Solano won’t be heading to the Bronx to alleviate their infield issues, and that limits their pool of options significantly.

Perhaps they swing a deal for someone currently on a 40-man roster, but for now, the Yankees have a problem at third base that they need to solve.

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