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Josh Donaldson’s injury is why the Yankees retained infield depth

DJ LeMahieu will move into a more permanent role at the hot corner.

New York Yankees v Oakland Athletics Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images

The importance of depth is preached so much in baseball that it can even get a little tiresome, but at the same time, as soon as the Yankees or any team has surplus or even the expectation of surplus, you start to hear many an idea of how that could be used to improve another area of the roster. While one should never rule out any options, there’s something to be said about simply holding that depth — and in this young season, the Yankees have already shown how it inevitably comes into play across 162 games.

The Yankees came into the season with a pretty experienced infield: between DJ LeMahieu, Anthony Rizzo, and Josh Donaldson, you have three veterans with starting roles. With Anthony Volpe, Oswald Peraza, and Gleyber Torres, not to even mention Isiah Kiner-Falefa, this team certainly carried many options to play across the diamond.

Well, we’re a week into the season, and Josh Donaldson has already hit the IL with a hamstring issue, which will force DJ LeMahieu into a semiregular role at third base. DJ’s ability to swiftly do that is one of the many reasons why the front office held firm on not moving any of its infield options. It is unrealistic at best to expect Donaldson, Rizzo, and even LeMahieu in his own right, to play close to 162 games at this stage in their careers, and the ability to move around pieces without entering a liability into your lineup — that’s one of the many aspects that separates a good team from a very good team.

Oswaldo Cabrera did something last season which cannot go understated, as the young hitter came up to the bigs with virtually no outfield experience, and yet managed to stand out in the utility role, even robbing a home run in his first game up. LeMahieu’s ability to move into an everyday role at first, second, and third, on a per-need basis, combined with Cabrera’s ability to play the outfield means that the Yankees carry in their active roster reliable options to replace quite literally any injury to their lineup, outside of catcher, obviously. Even at shortstop, God forbid something were to happen to Anthony Volpe, you do have Oswald Peraza in the minors as a steady less flashy alternative.

Yes, ideally you’d like to have another high-end outfielder in this lineup, particularly one that can play center field regularly, and with the multiple injuries to the rotation, another starter would come in handy right now. However, you can’t force the issue with these things, and particularly considering how stacked the rotation looked entering the year it’d be a little audacious at best to argue that they should’ve done more.

This type of foreseeable short-term loss is one of the primary reasons why Cashman elected to hold on to all these options, and it took about a week for it to be a factor. Ideally, you want to avoid any and all injuries, but any team would be foolish not to plan for them. We’ve seen clubs like the Rays, and Dodgers all benefit from deep lineups, with ultra-versatile options, and it’s nice to see the Yankees in that group as well.