What does a D.J. LeMahieu signing mean for the Yankees?

The Yankees have agreed to a two-year contract with former Rockies second baseman D.J. LeMahieu.  The 30-year old infielder hit .276 with 15 home runs in 128 games for the Rockies last season. He had three different DL stints due to a right hamstring strain, a left thumb sprain and a left oblique strain. 

The three-time Gold Glove winner at second base will be reunited with his former double play partner, Troy Tulowitzki, who signed with the Yankees last week. LeMahieu led the majors in batting average in 2016, when he hit .348 for the Rockies. In fact, LeMahieu has the fourth-highest batting average in the majors since the start of the 2015 campaign. 

Highest Batting Average in the Majors

Since the Start of 2015 with at least 2000 PA

Jose Altuve                 .328

Daniel Murphy            .314

Joey Votto                  .312

DJ LeMahieu              .309

Mike Trout                  .308

So, what does this mean for the Yankees?

1) The chances of Manny Machado to the Bronx are low.

New York has a crowded infield and that’s putting it mildly. 

Yankees options in the infield for the 2019 Season

Luke Voit

Gleyber Torres

Miguel Andujar

Troy Tulowitzki

DJ LeMahieu

Greg Bird

Tyler Wade

Didi Gregorius

There isn’t a lot—if any—wiggle room for the Yankees to add another infielder.  Gregorius will be out for roughly half the season after undergoing Tommy John surgery on his right elbow earlier in the offseason.  Despite that, he is expected to return at some point.  Unless the Yankees deal Miguel Andujar—whose name has been reportedly mentioned in trade discussions—I don’t see a scenario where Machado goes to the Bronx.

2) Where does LaMahieu play?

The way the Yankees’ roster is currently constituted, we would expect the former batting champion to play at second base. He hasn’t started a game at any position other than second since June 13, 2014. He was the starting third baseman for the Rockies that day. Coincidentally, Tulowitzki was the Rockies’ starting shortstop for the game as well. 

In addition to his offensive prowess, LeMahieu is one of the best defensive second basemen in the majors. Since the start of the 2017 season, no second baseman has more defensive runs saved than LeMahieu. 

Highest DRS from MLB Second Basemen

Since the start of 2017

DJ LeMahieu              +26

Kolten Wong              +18

Ian Kinsler                  +16

Rougned Odor            +13

Whit Merrifield           +13

3) If LaMahieu plays second, who starts at first, third and shortstop?

It seems most likely Voit will start at first for the Yankees, though Bird is still in the mix. Torres would likely move over to shortstop and Andujar would be at third.   Tulowitzki didn’t play last season due to surgery on both of his feet, so his durability was already in question. We could also see Tulowitzki and LeMahieu each getting time at third base should Andujar.

Maybe the Yankees will also try LeMahieu at first base? He’s had limited (a term used loosely) experience at first in the majors, having played just 13 innings at the position.  However, I could envision the team using him there occasionally to get Tulowitzki’s bat in the lineup. 

Finally, the hot stove is starting to heat up an otherwise cold offseason.