January 14th: It is a done deal. The Yankees announced LeMahieu’s two-year contract this afternoon. Tim Locastro was designated for assignment to clear a 40-man roster spot, the team says. Locastro came over from the Dodgers in a minor trade earlier this offseason. Decent chance he clears waivers and remains in the organization as a non-40-man roster player.
January 11th: The Yankees have a new veteran infielder and it is not Manny Machado. According to multiple reports, the Yankees have agreed to a two-year contract with DJ LeMahieu. It’ll pay him $24M and the Yankees are expected to use him at first base, second base, and third base. The Neil Walker role, basically.
LeMahieu, 30, is a natural second baseman and an excellent one at that. He is a legitimate Gold Glove caliber defender and lordy did the Yanks need to improve their infield defense. This accomplishes that to some degree. LeMahieu has a little experience at first (13 innings) and third (245 innings) bases, so they won’t be completely new to him, which I guess is good.
As with every Rockies player, the question is how much will he hit outside the Coors Field? There is evidence of a Coors Field hangover because coming down from altitude requires an adjustment, so you can’t really take a dude’s road numbers and declare that the real him. That is overly simplistic. Here are the numbers, for what they’re worth:
- LeMahieu at Coors Field: .329/.386/.447 (96 wRC+)
- LeMahieu everywhere else: .267/.314/.367 (84 wRC+)
Jeff Sullivan wrote a post a few weeks ago looking at LeMahieu. Long story short, he’s posted sneaky great exit velocities while managing an elite contact rate. LeMahieu rarely strikes out and he absolutely wears out right field as a right-handed hitter, so much so that teams sometimes use no left fielder and two right fielders against him. If nothing else, he brings a very different offensive look to the lineup.
The Yankees now have LeMahieu, Troy Tulowitzki, Gleyber Torres, and Miguel Andujar for the non-first base infield positions. Tulowitzki figures to get regular days off given his injury history, so LeMahieu will get playing time that way. I also have to think he’ll be Andujar’s late-inning defensive replacement at third base. LeMahieu’s going to get 450+ plate appearances next season. You watch.
Based on my quick math, the LeMahieu signing pushes the luxury tax payroll to roughly $222M, so the Yankees are now well above the $206M threshold. Even if the Yankees trade Sonny Gray and his entire projected $9.1M salary, they’ll still be over the threshold. Imagine going over the threshold to sign LeMahieu but not Machado? Oy vey. Maybe they have another signing (Adam Ottavino?) coming.
At this point there doesn’t seem to be much remaining on the offseason to-do list. Another reliever would be nice. Otherwise the Yankees are more or less set going into Spring Training. Will they splurge for Machado or Harper? The LeMahieu signing all but confirms a no for Machado. I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for Harper either.