The New York Yankees’ 2022 season hid the skids midway through the year for numerous reasons, but the loss of the dynamic peak DJ LeMahieu brought to the first half certainly affected their ability to compete.
LeMahieu played through a painful toe issue for a good deal of the second half, but he likely shouldn’t have. After a .272/.398/.424 triple-slash in June and an excellent .344/.462/.490 mark in July, DJ LeWhoopsie ran into a brick wall, hitting a powerless .211 with four extra-base hits in August and .143 in an eight-game, late-season cameo that kept him off the playoff roster.
He posted 3..8 WAR and a 111 OPS+, but it’s almost a miracle his second-half sludge didn’t drag his overall numbers below sea level.
When things started to get really bad in August, word came down from on high that LeMahieu had a toe issue that couldn’t be corrected by any sort of treatment, so he simply had to gut it out. Then, when the gutting got hideous, the Yankees decided to shut him down for a few weeks anyway to avoid the lineup hole.
Of course, it wasn’t too long before we learned that while playing on the bum foot might not make it much worse, there absolutely was a surgical solution. LeMahieu had a toe fracture that doctors have explained could heal without a procedure, but might not.
As of Thursday night, Brian Cashman claims LeMahieu is feeling great! No surgery needed! Except … what does the version of LeMahieu who breaks camp without getting this power-sapping issue fixed look like?
And if surgery might be needed, wouldn’t now be a pretty good time to start, the second-best time being “tomorrow”?
Yankees Injury Update: DJ LeMahieu might need surgery? Might not?
Was there an inciting incident for LeMahieu’s toe fracture? Because it seems to have gone from nagging to never-ending to career-ending, based on 2022’s data, and it would be wonderful to know more about its origin story.
Regardless of any eventual clarity, it’s pretty difficult to operate for at least six weeks of the offseason, through the Winter Meetings, without knowing whether your All-Star-caliber, do-it-all infielder will need surgery that sidelines him for an undetermined period.
LeMahieu’s return to form has been a large part of the justification for trading Gleyber Torres. What happens if the “good feelings” he’s currently enjoying don’t last all offseason, but Torres has already been dealt away?
If it wasn’t already obvious what LeMahieu meant to this Yankees lineup after 2019 and 2020, then 2022 should have been extremely illustrative. The team sprinted to the top of the American League while he approximated his All-Star form, then nearly blew a 15-game lead on the AL East when he lost steam and ducked out of the picture.
The 2023 Yankees are built for LeMahieu, no matter what the finalized roster ends up looking like. Having a finite injury timeline and more direction to work with would benefit all parties … but it’s not going to happen.