New York Yankees

How will the Yankees use D.J. LeMahieu?

The Yankees paid D.J. LeMahieu starter money to bring him to New York, but there’s no clear plan for exactly how Aaron Boone wants to use him.

In a vacuum, signing D.J. LeMahieu to a two-year, $24 million contract looks like excellent business for the Yankees. The real measure of the deal’s value won’t be clear until we know exactly how Aaron Boone will deploy his new infielder. It’s a safe bet that LeMahieu is going to impact the Yankees in a lot of ways next season.

The former Rockies star is already telling reporters that he was told to “bring a lot of gloves” before he arrives at Spring Training. LeMahieu played almost all of his games last season at second base, but the Yankees see a more diverse role for him next year. It’s very likely he’ll get the opportunity to play everywhere in the infield during the 2019 campaign.

The fact that he’s an elite defender at second base makes it very likely that he can handle the other spots in Boone’s infield upon occasion. Ironically, the one place LeMahieu will probably play the least is probably going to be the team’s biggest need when the year begins. The Yankees have high hopes that Troy Tulowitzki can hold down the shortstop position while Didi Gregorius is on the disabled list. If he’s healthy, he should be able to manage that feat. Unfortunately, the chances of Tulowitzki avoiding injury for even half a season are pretty remote. LeMahieu may play a few games at short during the first half of the year, but it won’t be a big part of his responsibility.

Given the fact that he’s most comfortable playing second means he’ll get plenty of games there. Gleyber Torres is the guy the Yankees envision holding down the position for years to come, but it’s very likely he will play a lot of shortstop while Gregorius is on the shelf. Every time Torres plays somewhere other than second base, LeMahieu is going to take his spot. It’s not inconceivable that he could log 80 games at his best position.

Third base is another place in the infield where LeMahieu could find plenty of playing time. Miguel Andujar’s defensive struggles are well-documented. Even if he improves drastically this offseason he’s still likely going to be a below average defender at the hot corner in 2019. If LeMahieu can show enough arm strength to make quality throws across the diamond, he could really push Andujar for starts. At the very least, he should be in line to be a defensive replacement late in games. The idea of LeMahieu getting 20 starts and 15 substitute appearances at third seems like a solid possibility.

Some fans and media members think LeMahieu has a chance to make an impact at first base, but that doesn’t seem likely. The duo of Luke Voit and Greg Bird look poised to serve as a platoon there as long as they stay healthy. LeMahieu really doesn’t have the power to man the position for any significant length of time. He may get an odd appearance or two at first base, but it shouldn’t be a meaningful part of his contributions for this team.

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Put it all together and LeMahieu is going to play as many games as most starters for the Yankees next year. He won’t play them all at a single position, but that’s not what this team needs to get the most out of the versatile infielder. His ability to play several positions at a high level will be a huge boost for the Yankees in 2019.

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