The Yankees might be shopping around for DJ LeMahieu replacements for 2021. Here are three that don’t thrill us, for various reasons.
DJ LeMahieu is angry. The Yankees aren’t budging.
And, though none of their rivals seem uniquely poised to meet the second baseman’s demands — or anyone else’s, thus far this offseason — the Yanks have to at least be planning for a world without LeMahieu.
The problem? All of the alternatives for the immediate future range from “unfortunate” to “impossible.” Forget 2022 for a moment; someone needs to play second base this season. And if Gleyber Torres moves, they’ll need to fill the shortstop spot.
And, considering this team has World Series aspirations for this year and the next (and, well, annually), the alternative better be a damned good baseball player.
As far as we can tell, there are three directions the Yankees can go for next year if this rift with LeMahieu proves to be irreparable: short-term second base help, short-term shortstop help, or a long-term solution at short who’ll have to be acquired in trade (and then paid).
This isn’t a list of unworthy or ineffective ballplayers, but it does stand as proof that every “solution” to a world without LeMahieu comes with immediate warts.
3. Kolten Wong
The Yankees could get an elite glove in Kolten Wong to play second base.
The news we received on Sunday night that the Cardinals were among the teams to engage with LeMahieu in the early part of his free agency process was laughable for many reasons, first and foremost the fact that the Cards had already cut bait with Kolten Wong at a cost of just $12 million for 2021.
If they want to consider paying LeMahieu $20-25 million annually, why would they have found Wong’s $12 million salary too tough to bear?
Wong would be a pleasant addition to the Yankees, but…how can we put this…he’s just not the same? He’s the definition of a stopgap. He downgrades the position. He’s…fine.
The ex-Card is a special defender, but he doesn’t hit for power, and, despite the grit factor, checks in as a below-average bat, sporting a career OPS+ of 94, six ticks under the threshold for acceptable play. LeMahieu’s career mark — adjusted for Colorado — is 102, and during his past two seasons in the Bronx, he’s checked in at 135 and 177. There’s something special about this marriage that just works.
And if Wong is slotted in, the team will get worse. There’s no way to manipulate statistics to pretend this is an upgrade. This would be a tacit acknowledgement that the Yankees are fine to take a step back during their current, shrinking window.