Jan. 14: The Yankees have officially signed LeMahieu, and have designated utility man Tim Locastro for assignment to create a 40-man roster spot.
Locastro had been acquired right around the 40-man roster deadline in November in exchange for 2015 third-rounder Drew Finley. I would think the Yankees will attempt to sneak him through outright waivers to have him with the RailRiders in 2019. We’ll see.
The Yankees have agreed with a free-agent infielder on a contract, but it’s not the one people expected. Manny Machado, move over. Multiple reports from all over the baseball media landscape say the Yankees agreed with 30-year-old DJ LeMahieu on a 2-year, $24 million contract. The club has not confirmed.
Jack Curry at the YES Network was first on the news, and said the Yankees will use LeMahieu “as a versatile player around the infield. They will use him at second base, first base and third base.” He has played exclusively second base since 2015, but does have a few games at each of the aforementioned positions.
Like anybody who plays at Coors Field, LeMahieu received a ton of scrutiny for his home/road splits. In 2018, he hit .317/.360/.433 (85 wRC+) at home, and .229/.277/.422 (85 wRC+) on the road. But, he won a batting title in 2016 behind an overall .348/.416/.495 (130 wRC+) batting line.
LeMahieu’s best tool is his defense, having reeled in the National League Gold Glove award at second base in 2014, 2017 and 2018. His 12.9 defensive WAR component (per Fangraphs) was highest among qualified second basemen in all of baseball for 2018. He’ll be tasked with getting himself reacquainted with third base and first base in pinstripes.
This move gives the Yankees five infielders for four spots, which would be fine if the outfield wasn’t four players for three spots. With one designated hitter role, there will either be a ton of off-days or something’s going to happen before March 28. Injuries, regression or a surprise trade could throw things off.
One thing is certain, in my opinion: the Yankees aren’t paying LeMahieu $12 million per year to be a utility bench player. That’s the kind of money you pay someone to be out there just about everyday. I’d watch for some movement that would allow that to be the norm for the Yankees.