D.J. LeMahieu is a New York Yankee, joining Troy Tulowitzki in a potential platoon situation at shortstop until Didi Gregorius returns. When Tulo signed last week, it appeared as though the job would be his outright. But, given his history of injuries, the addition of a versatile infielder like LeMahieu makes a lot of sense. Reports are that D.J. will be used around the infield, seeing time at first, second, and third base as well. To some, this news comes as a disappointment as the hopes of bringing Manny Machado to the Bronx have all but faded away. Looking at the bigger picture, it also represents the third free agent second baseman to agree to terms in the last two days. On Thursday, the Nationals inked Brian Dozier to a one-year, $9 million deal and the Mets inked Jed Lowrie to a two-year, $20 million contract. With a trio of middle infielders now off the board, perhaps we are one step closer to the Machado sweepstakes coming to an end. Regardless, it is time to look past what could have been and focus on what is now in place. Tulowitzki and LeMahieu were teammates in Colorado, so it is reasonable to expect immediate results when the former double play partners share the field again. This is good news for the Yankees, bad news for the defending Champions.
Although Tulo plus D.J. probably doesn’t equal Machado, it is the Red Sox who might be left with more questions than answers up the middle. Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia, who played just three games last season thanks to a lingering injury to his left knee, is scheduled to start running on that surgically-repaired knee next week. Although certainly a welcome sign for Boston fans, how much can they really expect from the 35-year-old veteran? Once an MVP and Gold Glove 2B, I suspect those days are well behind him. His offensive stats declined from 2016 (his last “full” season) to 2017 (when he played 105 games). Despite that, he managed a fielding percentage of .990 and .995 over those same two seasons. The uncertainty surrounding Pedroia’s health and overall production might mean more playing time for Eduardo Nunez and Brock Holt in 2019. Nunez’s .265 average and -1.1 WAR in 2018 leads some to believe that he should be relegated to the bench in any case. As for Holt, the organization has always loved him for his versatility, playing every position except for pitcher and catcher. So, sticking him at second for an extended period of time would take away a real weapon for Alex Cora in that lineup.
Bottom line: both the Yankees and Red Sox have questions up the middle. They are leaning on two guys in Tulo and Pede who were both superstars at one point but are coming off injuries and major surgeries. In an ideal situation, I think Dustin Pedroia and Troy Tulowitzki play every day, but right now we cannot exactly count on that. So it comes down to the reinforcements. At the cost of not getting Manny Machado, it feels like LeMahieu needs to come out firing. Much like Brock Holt, D.J. will have his opportunities around the infield. Having won a Gold Glove at second base each of the last two seasons, it’ll be interesting to see where he gets the most playing time since Gleyber has a lock on the position. Despite a .348 batting title in 2016, the “Coors Effect” never truly kicked in for the infielder, as he managed to hit just .276 with 15 home runs while playing half his games in the thin air last season. It remains to be seen how this will all play out on the field, but it will be interesting to see how Aaron Boone manages playing time for his new infielders. Should Tulo go down again or struggle early, LeMahieu may very well find himself at shortstop every day.