The Yankees need to bring back DJ LeMahieu regardless of what you think.
The New York Yankees‘ success the last two seasons can be directly attributed to the presence of DJ LeMahieu, who was clearly the team MVP in 2019 and 2020 while guys like Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton, both of whom are supposed to be MVP candidates, missed significant time with injuries.
Yet, we still have fans arguing with each other over whether LeMahieu is worth a hypothetical fifth year or more than $20 million per season. Those objecting to a large financial commitment for the team’s best player as if they’re the Yankees’ personal accountant are everything that’s wrong with sports today.
First of all, it’s not your money, so why do you care? OK. If you’re worried about the Yankees using LeMahieu’s possible future contract as an excuse not to spend more money down the road, then that’s a legitimate answer. But if you’re just arguing the Yankees “don’t need him,” then it’s clear you probably don’t watch baseball.
The Yankees need LeMahieu to succeed.
You might look back on 2017 and posit, “we were fine without him!” And that’s true. But the Yankees also had a roster of veterans like Todd Frazier, Chase Headley and Matt Holliday to help contribute in ways current players cannot. Additionally, Luis Severino and Jordan Montgomery were atop their games and CC Sabathia had a resurgence.
Oh yeah, and that was Judge’s MVP-like season, you know, when he was actually able to stay on the field consistently, which sadly hasn’t been the case ever since.
You might look to 2018 and say something similar. And you’d be right! But that year featured Giancarlo Stanton’s dominant debut, Miguel Andujar’s historic rookie campaign, and career seasons from Aaron Hicks and Didi Gregorius. You see? Times have changed.
LeMahieu is now the offensive engine and lone reliable contact bat. You’d also be right in saying that he benefits from the other stud hitters in the lineup … but that’s because he’s really good and makes the most of every opportunity he has in the batter’s box.
LeMahieu’s 2019 and 2020 were the two best seasons of his career — even better than his batting title year with the Rockies back in 2016! In 2019, he hit .388 with a 1.162 OPS with runners in scoring position and two outs. He added a .400 average with a 1.028 OPS in “high leverage” situations. In 2020? .421 with an .950 OPS and .200 with a .427 OPS. Not great in the latter category, but still lightyears ahead of any other Yankees hitter in the RISP with two outs department. He ranks 10th in all of baseball with a 146 wRC+ (arguably the most important advanced offensive metric) since the the start of 2019. The next best Yankee in that category? Luke Voit at No. 19 and then … Gleyber Torres at No. 48.
He provides Gold Glove caliber defense on a largely shaky defensive team. He’s really the only versatile defender the Yankees have. We’re just not sure what’s unclear at this point for those who feel the Yankees don’t need to re-sign him.
Because if he hasn’t embodied Yankees baseball for the last 238 games in your eyes, then we’re just not sure what you’re watching.