The Yankees have added again to their infield depth, adding former Rockies second baseman DJ LeMahieu. They signed him to a 2 year deal for $24M according to multiple reports and first by Jon Heyman. Many in the media have taken this to show that they are out of the Manny Machado sweepstakes – but is that necessarily the case?
It is a blow to the Colorado Rockies, who quietly have put together back to back playoff seasons and have one year remaining with All Star, All World third baseman Nolan Arenado. LeMahieu joins former Rockies SS Troy Tulowitzki in the Yankees infield, with both likely to take utility roles that can be mixed and matched around the diamond. They join with 2018 emergent rookies in Miguel Andujar and Gleyber Torres. Starting shortstop Didi Gregorius will be back as well following return from Tommy John surgery.
LeMahieu emerged in 2015 with his first All Star Game after a strong second half in 2014 and in 2016 led the National League in batting average altogether. If nothing else, this shows how these days in baseball having the most money doesn’t mean necessarily signing the top tier players like Bryce Harper and Machado necessarily – but signing a gluttony of high caliber players who can help with injuries that inevitably emerge and find the best matchups on a game by game if not inning by inning basis. Look at the Dodgers of the last couple years to see that shift, who trot out completely different lineups based on who starts the game. That is, unless Craig Counsell shows some trickery.
The Yankees payroll now sits around $192M. They are definitely leveraging the fact that in Torres and Andujar as well as first base currently manned by Greg Byrd and/or Luke Voit they have money to spend on starters or utility players. Those players are cheap.
The Rockies meanwhile have several prospects ready to fill the hole of LaMahieu just like they had Trevor Story lined up when Tulo left several years ago. Whether they can get storybook results like they did before remains to be seen. The National League West is decidedly weaker this season, as the Diamondbacks and Giants have officially dropped back into rebuild modes and the Padres haven’t had a winning season since 2010.
For those wondering, the A’s 2019 salary currently is about $69M, weighed down by $15M to Khris Davis and just over $7M to Stephen Piscotty. The Yankees pass them in salary with their top three players: Giancarlo Stanton, Masahiro Tanaka and Jacoby Ellsbury. LaMahieu slides in as the 7th highest paid Yankee.
This move by no means they won’t sign Machado, but it certainly seems like they have options if that doesn’t work out. If they do sign Machado, they could easily repackage either one of their young stars for help elsewhere or see what they have in Tulo and others once the season starts before sorting it all out. Someone has to sign Machado, and this move might move the Phillies to the favorites categories, with Harper still needing a team as well. Is this the move that pushes Harper to the Dodgers? Time will tell – but the reporting date for pitchers and catchers is just over a month away.