If the Yankees were looking for an infield shoreup in free agency, you’d think they’d want someone with the ability to play multiple positions and present an average at worst bat.
Instead, they signed DJ LeMahieu, and I am Mad Online about it. LeMahieu started his career with the Cubs before becoming the Colorado Rockies’ primary second baseman in 2012. He has had exactly one season where he was an above average player, posting a 130 wRC+ and 4.4 fWAR in 2016. That’s great! He was basically Didi Gregorius, who is a really good player.
Unfortunately, the rest of his career he averages a 78 wRC+ and a paltry 1.2 fWAR over 150 games. He really isn’t a very good player, and while the Yankees are clearly betting on the upside of 2016, the floor is awful low, especially at $12 million in AAV.
As for that prospective upside, that’s also confusing. LeMahieu ranked 202nd in baseball in max exit velocity in 2018, and 183rd in barrels per plate appearance %. By those metrics, he was a little worse than former Yankee Starlin Castro. Yet his average exit velocity was roughly equal to Mike Trout’s, and his hard hit percentage - rate of balls hit harder than 95 mph - was pretty much the same as Juan Soto and Jesus Aguilar.
Now the Yankees clearly plan to use DJ as a utility infielder, giving him time around the diamond. The problem with that is he hasn’t played anywhere but second since 2014. Asking a guy to adjust to a new league and new team is hard enough without hoping he remembers what is was like to play third base five years ago.
All in all, this deal smells a lot like the Brandon Drury acquisition last season, which went poorly. Both players were guys that hadn’t really produced at all in the majors, but if you squinted you could see productivity. In Drury’s defense, he battled migraines his whole career and that obviously affected his ability to play. For LaMahieu, he’s just not that good, and I’m left scratching my head at why the Yankees will think he’ll succeed in a new city, new league, and essentially new positions.