DJ LeMahieu already taking reps at third base is every Yankees fan’s dream

SEATTLE - AUGUST 10: D.J. LeMahieu #26 of the New York Yankees plays second base during the game against the Seattle Mariners at T-Mobile Park on August 10, 2022 in Seattle, Washington. The Mariners defeated the Yankees 4-3. (Photo by Rob Leiter/MLB Photos via Getty Images)
SEATTLE - AUGUST 10: D.J. LeMahieu #26 of the New York Yankees plays second base during the game against the Seattle Mariners at T-Mobile Park on August 10, 2022 in Seattle, Washington. The Mariners defeated the Yankees 4-3. (Photo by Rob Leiter/MLB Photos via Getty Images) /
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Part I of the plan to dispel Josh Donaldson out of the New York Yankees starting lineup focused on determining if DJ LeMahieu needed surgery on his foot. Part I was a success. DJLM got through his injury with rest and rehab and he’s apparently a full go for the 2023 season.

Part II of the plan hinged on the trade market. Were the Yankees going to move Gleyber Torres for a pitcher? Since the market has yet to materialize and we’re already approaching February, that seems like a longshot. Torres will likely be the Opening Day starter at second base.

Part III of the plan was getting LeMahieu on the field to start spinning the narrative months ahead of Opening Day. And that’s where we’re at right now.

At the Yankees’ complex in Tampa, Florida, Yankees insider Bryan Hoch tweeted a video of LeMahieu fielding grounders at third base. Gleyber Torres did the same at second base, and both also took some batting practice.

Part IV is … trading Donaldson to the Mets if LeMahieu’s health is able to sustain into March? One can dream!

DJ LeMahieu is already taking reps at third base for the Yankees

Since 2019 with the Yankees, LeMahieu has logged 1,171.2 innings at the hot corner and has been good for 4 Defensive Runs Saved and 8 Outs Above Average. In fact, his 385.2 innings in 2022 netted 7 DRS and 4 OAA, ultimately awarding him the first ever Utility Gold Glove in American League history.

Donaldson provided Gold Glove caliber defense of his own (7 DRS and 7 OAA in 902.2 innings), but he couldn’t hit water if he fell out of a boat. LeMahieu matched Donaldson’s defense and notably outperformed him on offense even while battling his foot injury for a majority of the season (before he was ultimately shut down).

There’s a clear succession path here if the Yankees want to make the statement switch, that’s all we’re saying. Donaldson can then serve as a part-timer a few times a week, especially at the start of the season, so DJ can get off his feet as he looks to get back up to game speed and keep his foot in the best shape possible.

The Yankees can hold out hope Donaldson will experience a bounce back season on the offensive end come 2023, but at some point they’ll have to learn. They can’t keep banking on turnarounds and return to forms, especially when aging players are the subject. Far too many times that philosophy has burned them.

This time, they have what’s shaping up to be among the easiest solutions imaginable, whereas previously they perhaps weren’t afforded that luxury in other situations. Will they buck the trend?