Should the Yankees re-sign DJ LeMahieu or trade for Francisco Lindor? Because it’s probably only going to be one of those.
The Yankees are at a crossroads this offseason. Should they opt for continuity in the middle infield by re-signing their team MVP, or implode it by pulling off a blockbuster?
And is “maintaining continuity” really the best idea for a team that struggled through 2020 and peaked in the ALDS? Ahh, not so easy!
DJ LeMahieu has become the focal point of the team, in most fans’ eyes, and with very good reason. Since arriving from Colorado, he’s done nothing but hit, speak softly (if he speaks at all), and carry the team’s biggest stick. In two seasons, one tragically cut short by circumstances well beyond the baseball world’s control, he’s hit .327 and .364, finishing in the top four of the MVP race each time. This fan base’s expectations are unrealistic (being fair here!), but after seemingly decades of being unable to count on a clutch hit with runners in scoring position, or even the occasional bleeder through the hole, LeMahieu has felt like a stabilizing force, always figuring out a way to be productive under pressure.
It’s his personal mantra, after all. If you treat every at-bat the exact same, then no at-bat ever feels any different. And it’s worked.
It sounds coy, but any Yankees fan understands that you can’t simply feed LeMahieu’s numbers into a machine and properly understand what The Machine means to this team.
Statheads will tell me that’s not true, and you know what? They’re obviously right. But that’s what’s so confusing about this decision! You’re simply not going to get objective analysis from any corner of this fan base.
So, what are the relative merits of chasing Francisco Lindor instead? Such a high-profile acquisition would surely come with a wink-wink long-term pact, so “one year of control” shouldn’t be a worry. Ostensibly, the team would be committing to Lindor at shortstop and Gleyber Torres at second base, taking Lindor’s current defensive standing at face value, sight unseen. They’d be pulling the plug on Torres at short after just one 60-game season, potentially torpedoing his mood in the process, a genuine factor that must be considered. Less than a year after being handed the reins to one of the sport’s most prestigious positions, they’re just…taken away?
Plus, there’s the, uh, unsightly Lindor playoff numbers that no one really wants to talk about. But they’re there, and they’re growing.
The “pro” here is that an expensive-as-hell Lindor trade simply isn’t something that’s going to materialize. If Mookie Betts only brought back Alex Verdugo, Jeter Downs (after much complaining) and Connor Wong, Lindor won’t cost Clint Frazier and Deivi Garcia/Clarke Schmidt and more. If Frazier’s the headliner, the back end will be cheap. If a pitcher headlines the package, Oswald Peraza plus some prospect filler should be enough.
But ultimately, even a “cheap” Lindor trade might be an unnecessary shakeup.
When faced with this choice, we choose continuity. Was the 2020 Yankees roster perfect? By no means. But the problem wasn’t LeMahieu; remove him, and much more goes haywire. The team shouldn’t be complacent, but sacrificing the known quantity here for an expensive wild card isn’t the most beneficial route.
Now, if they lose out on both players? Then you’ve got a serious problem.