3 roster changes Yankees could make ahead of ALCS vs Houston

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ANAHEIM, CALIFORNIA – AUGUST 29: DJ LeMahieu #26 of the New York Yankees hits a sacrifice rbi bunt against the Los Angeles Angels during the third inning at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on August 29, 2022 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Michael Owens/Getty Images) /

1. DJ LeMahieu Returns

It’s almost unbelievable that the Yankees exiled a clearly-hobbled DJ LeMahieu prior to the ALDS, even though the team’s line drive king wanted to return and prepared to do so.

It was obvious to the naked eye that LeMahieu wasn’t himself, though, even after weeks of rest and rehabilitation for a balky toe (which is apparently fractured?).

If the veteran isn’t able to spray line drives across the diamond, it’s probably still in the team’s best interest to keep him on the sidelines. The LeMahieu who played in August and Sept. (.211, .143) was not the same guy who posted a 125 OPS+ in the first half, batting a resurgent .279 with a .383 OBP.

LeMahieu’s the only legitimate (and experienced) game-changer the Yankees have in their arsenal who could lead off ahead of Aaron Judge. Gleyber Torres had a very fun ALDS, but he still didn’t make clear sense playing that role. If he can give you 80%, wouldn’t you want him?

The Yankees’ ability to carry LeMahieu likely hinges on how confident they are Matt Carpenter/Giancarlo Stanton could play a short left field in Houston consistently. Carp/Stanton in left, Cabrera at short, LeMahieu/Torres playing second/DHing? It’s strange, but it could happen. LeMahieu would, of course, be a patient at-bat off the bench preferable to Tim Locastro or Marwin González.

If LeMahieu really is ready, he could give the Yankees a bigger boost than anyone other than Benintendi. If he’s still hobbled, though, the fans all know what that looks like, and it isn’t good enough.

Our take? Peraza and LeMahieu for Hicks and González, Marinaccio for Castro. Play ’em all.