For a player that wasn’t in the Yankees Opening Day lineup because he was signed as a utility insurance policy, D.J. LeMahieu is smack-dab in the middle of the AL MVP race and is worth much more than two years, $24 million.
It’s hard to argue that any one player in MLB has been more vital to the overall success of his ballclub this season than D.J. LeMahieu has been to the New York Yankees.
Naturally, Gleyber Torres’ career-high 37 home runs, Gary Sanchez’s 34 dingers and the development of Domingo German have all played a part in the Yanks’ march to October.
However, it’s the 31-year-old LeMahieu, who signed a pittance of a deal back in February — two years, $24 million — after the Bombers finally abandoned any notion of a potential Manny Machado union — that has been the catalyst for the Yankees 98-53 record.
According to Sportrac, LeMahieu’s updated market value suggests that he is now worth an estimated $13.9 million AAV — and would garner a four-year, $55.9M deal if he were on the market this winter.
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Considering Machado signed for 10-years and $300M — Machado’s market rate has already dropped to six-years, $160.6M — for an AAV of $26.7M. Then again, the Padres knew they had to overpay the four-time All-Star, to get him to come to San Diego in the first place.
Hence, the Yanks’ reluctance to completely blow the luxury tax out of the water for an extremely talented player seen as a luxury.
Now no one could have imagined the severity and sheer number of injuries the Yankees 25-man roster would experience in 2019 (an all-time record 30 players to the IL in 38 stints), but it’s hard to imagine Macahdo adding to the club in the way LeMahieu has, a player many critics suggested only won a batting crown in 2016 (.348 BA) because he played 81 games in Coors Field.
To that end, LeMahieu has proven most everyone wrong — and I don’t want to hear any of this career-year stuff. That can’t be brought into the equation until we see his production following the 2020 season.
After notching four more singles on Saturday, LeMahieu leads the AL in the category (129), and upped his batting average just four points shy of White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson for top marks in the league (.328).
Considering that LeMahieu recently endured a 4-for-31 slump, the three-time All-Star has still hit a career-best 24 home runs, 92 RBIs and .517 slugging percentage.
Throw in the fact that the versatile LeMahieu has played 69 games at second base, 48 at third and 36 at first — and yet, has only committed eight errors in a total of 1150.2 innings (573 chances), and it’s clear to see the Yankees wouldn’t be leading the AL East by nine games without signing the steal of the offseason.
When asked by Randy Miller of NJ.com, if he’d be open to possibly extending his stay in New York past next season, LeMahieu replied:
"“Absolutely, he said. “I think I’ve had more fun this year playing baseball than most years. And we’ve had a great year. That’s why I came here. Obviously, I want to stay here.”"
Surely, a lot will depend on what general manager Brian Cashman decides to do with free-agent-to-be Didi Gregorius and exciting young third baseman Miguel Andujar, who is recovering from a partial labrum tear. Any departures would assuredly mean the further examination of extending LeMahieu.
However, the one thing we definitely know is that LeMahieu is no longer just a product of Colorado. He’s a legit Bomber — and now he’ll get to prove it in the postseason.