The Yankees recently signed former all-star infielder DJ LeMahieu, leaving many fans wondering who he is. Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered.
With the signing of DJ LeMahieu for two years and $24 million dollars, Yankee fans have begun to question reports that the Yankees would definitely sign Manny Machado. Let’s take a look at the former batting champion who may close the door on the Yankees signing one of the offseason’s biggest prizes.
— YES Network (@YESNetwork) January 11, 2019
First off, congratulations to Jack Curry of the YES Network for breaking this signing. It’s not often you see Ken Rosenthal had to say someone else first reported a signing.
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) January 11, 2019
LeMahieu is not exactly the middle infielder Yankees fans were hoping for, however.
Who is DJ LeMahieu?
The 30-year-old second baseman has spent his entire career in Colorado where he won a batting title in 2016 after posting a .348 average. He won three gold gloves for the Rockies, including last year’s 2018 campaign, despite playing in only 128 games. LeMahieu is also the tallest everyday second baseman since George “High Pockets” Kelly who also stood 6’4″ tall.
Remember @TracyRingolsby telling me 6-foot-4 DJ LeMahieu is tallest everyday 2B in MLB since George "High Pockets" Kelly. Now a Gold Glover.
— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) November 5, 2014
The Coors Effect
DJ has seemingly had only one really good season offensively. His aforementioned 2016 campaign where he slashed .348/.416/.495 was good for an OPS+ of 128. He has failed to record an OPS+ above 100 in any other season.
However, as Mike Petriello of MLB.com has discussed, Rockies batters do benefit from hitting at Coors, but they also suffer on the road, seemingly because they play at Coors at home. What will DJ’s numbers look like in a Yankees uniform? Hard to say, but OPS+ does discount LeMahieu’s numbers at home but does not give him any added road benefit despite there being a negative effect to Rockies players on the road.
Why Did The Yankees Sign LeMahieu?
Jeff Sullivan of Fangraphs has pointed out that Lemahieu has a spray chart and peripheral metrics that are very similar to Derek Jeter’s.
Which is the real DJ?
LeMahieu brings a batted ball profile that relies on hitting the ball to the opposite field, which should play up in Yankee Stadium given the short porch in right field. LeMahieu also makes contact at a much higher rate than most players, something the Yankees were sorely missing last year. He’s only struck out 100 times in a season once, although he was on pace to do so last season.
In a vacuum, it’s easy to see why the Yankees might take a chance on a guy like LeMahieu. However, this is the offseason of Bryce Harper and Manny Machado. Many have speculated that the DJ signing is another indication that the Yankees will not pursue Manny Machado any longer. Some have said it means they will pivot to Bryce Harper.
Whatever the case may be, LeMahieu seems like a man without a position the Yankees as they have Gleyber Torres at Second, Troy Tulowitzki manning Short while Didi is out, and Miguel Andujar at Third. Ryan Pavich of PinstripeAlley.com has suggested that LeMahieu will fill a “super-utility” role similar to Ben Zobrist or Marwin Gonzalez.
That’s an interesting idea, but would also be an enormous risk for the Yankees, as LeMahieu has never played that role before. Should a team so close to making the World Series the past two seasons really be taking a chance like this? If the Yankees sign Machado or Harper, then LeMahieu looks like a great utility option and would immediately be one of the better infield backups in the league.
If he’s going to be a main player in their lineup each day, however, the deal may leave fans scratching their heads.