The Yankees are squarely focused on signing Manny Machado at the moment, but signing DJ LeMahieu could give the team a massive lift.
No one should expect the Yankees to make any significant free agency moves until Manny Machado chooses his next destination. That doesn’t mean Brian Cashman isn’t considering other players though. Expect DJ LeMahieu to garner a lot of interest from the team in the coming weeks.
The 30-year-old second baseman didn’t pick the best season to see his batting average dip below .300. He didn’t endure a bad season at the plate in 2018, but his stat line of .276/.376/.423 wasn’t up to his usual standards. The Yankees shouldn’t be put off by those mediocre statistics.
The truth is LeMahieu finished seventh among second baseman in terms of hard hit balls in play last season. The former batting champion didn’t suddenly forget how to hit last year. There’s a lot of reason to expect his performance to rebound somewhat in 2019. He isn’t going to swing the bat at an All-Star level moving forward, but it’s easy to project him as an above average regular with the bat in his hands.
Of course, hitting isn’t what LeMahieu does best. Even at this stage of his career, he remains one of the best defensive infielders in the game. His value is somewhat limited by his inability to play anywhere other than second base, but he did finish second in MLB last year in terms of runs saved at his position. He would provide Aaron Boone with a massive upgrade over Gleyber Torres in that regard.
The only question regarding the Yankees and LeMahieu is whether or not he’s willing to accept the utility role New York will likely be able to offer. Assuming the team is successful in their quest to sign Machado, there won’t be a starting spot available for LeMahieu at any point during the 2019 campaign. He could still get plenty of playing time, but there is probably another team willing to pay him like a starter.
If Machado heads elsewhere, LeMahieu could slot in at second base while Didi Gregorius is on the disabled list. The Yankees would prefer not to move Gleyber Torres back to shortstop for any length of time, but the opportunity to add a player like LeMahieu could easily alter Cashman’s line of thinking. His ability to drastically upgrade the team’s defense up the middle might be too good for the Yankees to pass up.
Nothing is likely to happen with the Yankees and LeMahieu anytime soon, but don’t be surprised if the two engage in serious talks after the Machado saga ends.