Yankees Insider Jack Curry posted on Twitter this morning that the New York Yankees were finalizing a two-year deal with 2B/3B DJ LeMahieu, who has entered free agency for the first time in his career and was most recently on the Colorado Rockies.
It was just by MLB Insider Ken Rosenthal that the deal has been announced between the Yankees and LeMaheiu to be on a 2-Year, $24 Million deal. Obviously, before becoming official, the deal is pending on a physical.
Obviously, this news comes before the biggest infielder on the free agent market, Manny Machado, has officially signed a deal with any team. However, it has been appearing recently that the two other teams- The Chicago White Sox and Philadelphia Phillies- who have been more connected with signing Machado have been making more moves to try and convince him to sign with them.
Signs are now pointing that the chances of Machado signing with the Yankees to be falling quickly with the Yankees two latest additions to the team in SS Troy Tulowitzki and now 2B/3B DJ LeMahieu.
Ken Rosenthal Credits Jack Curry; So What is He Saying?
At this time, most of the news breaking about this most recent signee has been coming from Yankees Insider and YES Network Analyst Jack Curry. He first tweeted rumors about this deal early this morning and seems to be the major hub for all news that will be leaking from the Yankees camp about this deal (and others/lack of others as well).
So, lets address his tweets from this morning chronologically:
In his career, LeMahieu has not been the type of player that bat-first fans would really enjoy, and it appears the Yankees aren’t trying to market him as such a player. They value him in a similar way that a team would value a player like Ben Zobrist (albeit, with worse offensive stats): his versatility and his defensive prowess.
With the injury to Didi Gregorius that will sideline him for an indefinite amount of time and the lack of a known commodity at first base- Luke Voit has only produced for a little over 2 months and Greg Bird is consistently injured- versatility in the infield is something that is a necessary piece for the Yankees when going into the 2019 season.
In addition, during each of their rookie campaigns, both 3B Miguel Andujar and 2B Gleyber Torres did not provide the greatest defensive value with fielding percentages of 0.948 and 0.928 respectively and Fangraphs defensive ratings of -15.5 and -7.9 each. It is very apparent that the Yankees need the help on the defensive side of the ball.
DJ LeMahieu on the otherhand has only had one of his 8 seasons with a negative Fangraphs defensive value (-0.3 in 2016), while every other year in the field has been a huge positive for LeMahieu, who has an average yearly rating of +5.04.
Back to Machado; the Biggest (or Second Biggest) Talking Point of the Offseason:
Recently, it appears that most of the BIG free agency news has revolved around 3B Manny Machado, as teams like the Chicago White Sox and Philadelphia Phillies have been either making moves to hopefully attract them to the team- White Sox signing his Brother-in-Law Yonder Alonso and Friend Jon Jay and rumors about offers from the Phillies.
In addition, the prior signing of Troy Tulowitzki has also added to this decreasing chance of the Yankees signing Manny Machado.
Lets Quickly Touch on His Offense:
Outside of his incredible 2016 season, where DJ LeMahieu had his best offensive season while hitting .348/.416/.495/.911 with a 128 OPS+, he has not been even an average offensive threat. (He is a career 92 OPS+ hitter.) However, as a player with a contact-first approach his introduction into the lineup does change the usual lineup with a “Home Run or Bust” motto.
I think it is pretty obvious that this move is much more about the defensive upgrade and versatility across the diamond than the potential for him having another break-out year like 2016.
As I was researching this article, I located this piece on Fangraphs about the “Normal Free Agent” and noticed that the most famous Yankees Fan Blog- RiverAveBlues- also located and posted the piece for fans to read and learn more about DJ LeMahieu.
For those interested, it is a great read about the hidden value that many fans may not notice at first with the signing of a player like DJ:
EDIT: Here are another couple articles to read about the Yankees-LeMahieu Contract:
Fangraphs: Yankees Go a Different Route on the Infield
RiverAveBlues: Yankees agree to two-year deal with DJ LeMahieu