New York Yankees: Why This Will Be DJ LeMahieu’s Final Season in the Bronx

New York Yankees, DJ LeMahieu

I was one of the many New York Yankees fans baffled as to why they let Didi Gregorius walk after the 2019 campaign ended. But, it seemed more than obvious that the Yankees front office was hell-bent on moving Gleyber Torres back to shortstop, allowing more regular playing opportunity for the biggest surprise in the 2018/2019 Yankees offseason, DJ LeMahieu. This is the final year of his $24 million contracts that he signed, and if we see him in action for the Bombers this season (if there is a season), I’m confident that it will be his final in pinstripes.

The Price for Second Basemen is Lower Than Shortstop

A top-flight second baseman will be a smaller price tag than a top-flight shortstop in both free agency and the trade market. DJ is going to be leading the 2021 free-agent class in 2021. Other names on that list include Jonathan Schoop and Villar, Freddy Galvis, Asdrubal Cabrerra, Kolten Wong, Jed Lowrie, and former Yankees Eduardo Nunez and Adeiny Hechavarria.

DJ is also going to be 32 years old when he hits free agency. With all the time off, DJ is going to be fresher for longer (as will the other Yankees) during this season. But the older he gets, the slower he’s going to become at the position that made him. Schoop, however, will be 29. The Yankees have seen plenty of what he can do with his time in Baltimore and those intense series against the Twins last season. Wong will be 30. While not that drastic of a difference in age from DJ, part of why the Yankees let the now 30-year-old Gregorius walk was his age, and how it will, undoubtedly, affect his ability to play short in the future. So, logically, the same rules will apply to DJ leMahieu.

Trading for a top-flight second baseman will also be cheaper than a top-flight shortstop. Trading for someone like Fransisco Lindor, Xander Bogaerts, Trea Turner, Raul Mondesi, or Tim Anderson is going to result in a Yankee package that would have to include MINIMUM a Gleyber Torres, and Deivi Garcia package to start with. All of these shortstops I listed are under 30, nearing the prime of their careers, and are routinely included in the Top 20 best shortstops in baseball. Trading for someone comparable to LaMahieu both offensively, and defensively, will make it easier for the Yankees to absorb a loss of a Clint Frazier, Miguel Andujar, or a Tommy Kahnle type in the deal, without having to be expected to trade 3-4 of their best prospects for a top-flight shortstop.

Then There’s the Gleyber Factor

Players around all pro sports leagues are gaining more and more power with their front offices. Part of what made the Machado deal fall apart for the Yankees is Machado wanted to play shortstop. He didn’t want to play third base. Gleyber has his future ahead of him and has already shown what he’s capable of doing when he hits his prime as an offensive player. We’re talking potential Triple Crown contender with what he’s done these first 2 years.

What if Gleyber doesn’t want to move back to second base when DJ leaves? If you sign Gleyber to a long term deal (a foregone conclusion at this point when he’s out of arbitration eligibility), to then move him back to second, if he wants to play short, he’ll ask for a trade so he can play short. That would be too harsh of a blow.

DJ’s Contract

As I stated, DJ is going to be 32 when he signs his next contract. Considering the numbers he put up last year in New York if that’s all teams will see of him when he goes to negotiate his next contract, why would he ask for anything else than a 7 year $150-250 million deal (that’s $21-36 million a year)? That’s the kind of salary people who put up 2019 DJ LaMahieu numbers offensively and defensively get. The Yankees have shown that they’re uneasy giving players north of 30 7 year deals, and they were hesitant about giving than 25-year-old Manny Machado a 10-year deal. If I’m DJ, I’m looking for one final long term deal, worth a bunch of money. And it’s just something that the Yankees are, more than likely, going to balk at considering the money owed both Gerrit Cole and Giancarlo Stanton.

I hope that a season happens, just so I can see DJ play as a Yankee again. It would be a shame to see him leave without seeing what he could do after that amazing first year. However, if there isn’t a season, I’ll be happy that it’ll mean no more JA Happ in pinstripes. I never understood why they signed him. And if he doesn’t reach the incentives in his contract for this year, then the third year can’t kick in.

A Ten Part Breakdown of the New York Yankees Depth: Part 4, Second Base

New York Yankees, Gleyber Torres

The way the New York Yankees seem to be positioning themselves quite clearly at second base for 2020. The way things look, they’re planning to move Gleyber Torres over to shortstop, from second base, to make room for DJ LeMahieu getting more playing time at second.

This is a mistake.

Why is it a mistake?

Let’s start with the obvious. DJ is turning 31 next year. His ability to play the field will be starting to decline sooner rather than later. Gleyber Torres will be 23 next year. Gleyber’s prime as a fielder is approaching, making Gleyber the more viable fielder for the longer term than DJ.  All of this is barring horrible injuries that force these guys to retire, but I would be bending myself over backward to ensure that the younger guy is going to be with my team longer than the older guy. And this is no disrespect to DJ, just stating that he’s far more susceptible to Father Time now than Gleyber.

Now let’s look at the defensive capabilities. 

As I wrote before, DJ LeMahieu is a multiple Gold Glove winning second baseman. And everyone talks about how the New York Yankees moved Gleyber over to second form short to accommodate Didi Gregorius on the team. But Gleyber, on a major league level anyway, is a better defensive second baseman than he is a defensive shortstop.

What are Gleyber’s Splits Compared to LeMahieu’s?

Gleyber is still a baby by major league standards. He’s only 22 now and has only been playing for 2 years. But his splits are decidedly there.

He has a career fielding percentage at second of .969, and a career fielding percentage at short of .954. The league average at second is .982, and the league average at shortstop is .970. Now, LeMahieu has a career fielding percentage of .991 at second base and a career fielding percentage of… 0 at shortstop. So, yea, it would make sense to have Gleyber moved back to shortstop.

Except Tyler Wade has a perfect fielding percentage at shortstop in his major league career. And Didi Gregorius has a .979 fielding percentage for his career, which is about as long as DJ’s career. 

Looking at the advanced metrics, Gleyber has saved 8 runs as a second baseman, while allowing 1 run as a shortstop. He has a greater range at second compared to shortstop, even looking at the fact he played more games at short last year than second, 

When talking about the development of a young stud, you have to do what allows him to succeed. And he’s more likely to succeed at second than short. (baseball-reference.com

What About Thairo Estrada?

Thairo isn’t going to get much in the way of regular playing time at second base. It seems more likely than no that Estrada will be used as trade bait by the trade deadline, along with possibly Tyler Wade. 

The only thing that benefits the New York Yankees is for Didi to be brought back, and DJ being spread around the field. You have to keep Gleyber Torres at second base. What’s good for Gleyber is good for the team. 

New York Yankees: Can Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar avoid the “sophomore slump”?

New York Yankees, Gleyber Toress, Miguel Andujar

In 2018, New York Yankees youth products Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar burst out into the scene in New York with Tyler Wade struggling and newly acquired Brandon Drury injured.

Once they came, they made immediate impacts including multiple walk-off hits and big home-runs. Both players had WAR’s over 2.0. Many baseball fans always worry about the dreaded “sophomore slump” that many players go through after a successful first season in the big leagues.

With Didi Gregorius out with an injury, the Yankees are relying on Torres and Andujar to pick up the slack on both the offensive and defensive end.

So many extra-base hits for the Yankees:

Combined between Torres and Andujar, the two had a total of 95 extra-base hits last season. Miguel Andujar brought more power between the two, but Torres could put one out or get a double when he needed to.  In 2018, Andujar tied the record for most doubles by a rookie in the American League with 47.

As he continued to go through the season, people began to compare him to Manny Machado who early in his career had a lot of doubles, and as he developed he turned them into home runs.

Machado had 51 doubles in his first full season. His first time up was long enough to count him as a rookie, so if he was a rookie in 2013 when he had all of those doubles, Andujar wouldn’t have a share of the rookie record. The Yankees are hoping that Andujar put enough muscle onto his body this winter to do the same thing Machado did with his hitting.

Fielding was a weakness:

Once the end of last season rolled around, Andujar had the worst third base fielding in the MLB, with his fielding percentage less than 95 percent. His glove wasn’t the issue, most of the mistakes he made were just throwing and judgment errors, including his baseball IQ. Andujar has been working hard during the winter to improve his fielding so he can continue to have a starting spot.

Last year at times, Andujar would be removed late from the game and replaced with Neil Walker or Ronald Torreyes. With both players gone, he doesn’t have much of a backup, DJ LeMahieu being the most likely.

Torres’ fielding percentage was just a hair over 96 percent, with his shortstop fielding percentage under 93 percent. That number is slightly concerning, as he likely could be the opening day shortstop with LeMahieu at second. The hype on Torres was his strong defense, and he did make several great plays last season but booted some of the easier ones.

Poor play on defense sometimes leads a player to have poor hitting, and if their poor defense continues in 2019, they may have some trouble at-bat. They need to keep that same mindset at the plate, and more strength may lead to more home runs. Hopefully, Miguel Andujar and Gleyber Torres can avoid the “sophomore slump” in 2019 and make an impact on both sides of the ball.