Just when you think you’ve exhausted all possible stopgap shortstop options for the New York Yankees, the MLB Lockout discourse pulls you back in.
We’ve breezed through Andrelton Simmons. We’ve acquiesced to Gio Urshela, with a Matt Chapman move to fill third base (or maybe Urshela gets dealt and Elvis Andrus arrives?). Hell, we’ve even begged for Anthony Volpe on Opening Day, if you all love him so much.
Somehow, amid the crumbs, we totally missed one theoretical option, that CBS Sports’ Mike Axisa alerted us to this week in a trade-plotting piece for post-lockout.
He dismissed it as unfavorable. But after you roll it around in your brain a little bit, it certainly feels better than no-bat, some-glove Simmons (not that that’s the gold standard, but it’s what we’re hurtling towards).
Should the Yankees give the St. Louis Cardinals a call about Paul DeJong?
He certainly struggled in 2021, but his worst-case scenario is a solid utility guy — and, oh, well, one problem: he’s under control for a very long time. Could be a good thing! But, at first blush, seems bad.
Could the Yankees call the Cardinals about a Paul DeJong trade?
DeJong is currently signed through 2023, in the midst of a below-market six-year, $26 million deal signed prior to the 2018 season. Still just 28 years old, he also comes with a pair of team options for 2024 ad 2025, options the Cardinals presumably assumed they’d use instead of transferring the shortstop position to Edmundo Sosa for a good portion of 2021 (DeJong played 107 games at short).
Though he’s never won a Gold Glove, DeJong still grades out well above-average in Defensive Runs Saved in a typical full season, and though his average waned last year (.197), he still managed to smack 19 home runs.
Don’t expect an above-average offensive season from DeJong, though, whose reputation as a gritty, pesky battler at the plate comes mostly from the Cardinals uniform he wears. The shortstop hasn’t been decidedly above-average at the plate since his rookie year (121 OPS+ in 2017), even falling below the threshold during his All-Star 2019 season (99 OPS+). It is worth noting that DeJong, without the guidance of Cardinals coaches, has rededicated himself to reworking his swing this offseason, and believes he’s experiencing meaningful growth.
Then, there’s the price. We haven’t touched base with the Cardinals on this (of course), but former GM Jim Bowden theorized the Cards should swap DeJong to the Minnesota Twins for power-hitting top prospect Trevor Larnach, also coming off a down 2021 but possessing all the potential in the world.
In that case, what’s the match here? If it’s Deivi Garcia, who also struggled mightily last year, sure (though how the mighty have fallen). If the Cardinals require power and pedigree and insist on Austin Wells, maybe not so much.
A stopgap in wolf’s clothing is still a stopgap, and we have no overtures that DeJong will suddenly turn back into 2019 DJ LeMahieu the second he gets out of comfortable St. Louis.
If the cost is right and if the Cardinals are interested in dealing, DeJong could be more appealing, at least, than Simmons or Nick Ahmed (although his job security makes this a difficult tightrope to walk if things don’t work out, even before the team options kick in).