DJ LeMahieu’s season ended with a thud when he was forced to undergo surgery for a sports hernia, which we can likely attribute to his pedestrian play after he was the New York Yankees‘ MVP in 2019 and 2020.
At least, we hope so, because he’s here for the next five years at $15 million per season. Another problem with that, though? He probably won’t be playing his native second base in 2022.
General manager Brian Cashman said last week that Gleyber Torres is likely to remain at second base (seems like we can rule out a trade?) and that the Yankees need a shortstop, which they’ll find in free agency.
So where does that leave LeMahieu? Are the Yankees going to trade Gio Urshela and put DJLM at third base? Or are they going to let Anthony Rizzo walk and trade Luke Voit so he can play first base?
Do we think the Yankees would try and trade LeMahieu? Kind of doubtful. We’re not sure who would take on that contract and, his versatility, even if he’s not winning batting titles, still provides a ton of value.
That versatility could actually make him the Yankees’ permanent starting first baseman. Let’s say we go with the latter scenario and Urshela stays. Is this realistic?
Here’s what Lindsey Adler of The Athletic (subscription required) wrote earlier this week, when speaking of the Yankees complicated infield situation:
"“It could be that they roll with LeMahieu at first, Urshela at third, and a new guy at short. Or there could be more movement around the diamond to start the 2022 season. Either way, they have looked at the plans they had for the 2021 season and decided, at this point, their infield can and needs to be better.”"
So, yeah, we’re not just out here “speculating” this for fun. It’s not out of the question and a Yankees insider believes it’s a real possibility.
Do we love it? Not really. But we also didn’t plan for Torres to fail spectacularly at shortstop and LeMahieu to witness a regression due to injury/deadened baseballs. We have to live with what we have.
It’s not all that bad, though. LeMahieu has 3 Defensive Runs Saved and a 1.4 UZR at first base across 620 career innings, which equates to 69 games. If he can have a definitive defensive home carved out for him, that might be the answer to help him find consistency on both sides of the ball. And it would allow the Yankees to spend big on a top shortstop, keep the payroll in check with Urshela at third base, and help Torres rediscover his All-Star ways at second.
This is just one way the Yankees can solve their infield conundrum, with many more possibilities to be discussed in the coming weeks and months.