Thursday, January 17, 2019

Yankees Sign RHP Adam Ottavino


Three-years and $27 million later and the New York Yankees bullpen is complete as the team inked a deal with RHP Adam Ottavino, formerly of the Colorado Rockies. The Yankees payroll now sits at an estimated $232 million, for those keeping score at home.

And another beard bites the dust...

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Making A Case For Playing LeMahieu At First Base

I want to preface this post by saying that I believe DJ LeMahieu should be the Yankees regular second baseman. The guy has won the National League Gold Glove award at that position three times, including the past two years.

Sure, Gleyber Torres was the regular second baseman last season but let's be honest here... he didn't play it too well (-16.7 UZR/150). But in the minors Torres played almost 1600 more innings at shortstop than second base. Hell, Gleyber played more innings at third base in the minors than he did second. So it makes sense that Torres didn't look so good over there last season, as he's not very familiar with the position.

So this is the perfect opportunity to make things right on defense by playing LeMahieu at second and Torres at short. Then you keep Andujar at third base and hope that he can improve his defense there like Adrian Beltre did early in his career (by the way, that didn't happen overnight, so let's temper our expectations a bit).

Of course that means Troy Tulowitski would be on the bench, and although he may be able to handle any position in the infield, the fact of the matter is he's only ever played shortstop in the Majors. So if an injury occurred anywhere but short some changes might need to be made.

Oh, and when Didi returns around June... I really don't know. I guess I'll tackle that question when his return is imminent. Besides, who knows what Aaron Boone will actually do position-wise?

But I got to thinking about another spot where Boone could play LeMahieu.

With Torres having played almost a full season at second base, perhaps they don't want to move him from there. Especially with Didi returning this season, there's a chance Boone and the Yankees would rather not move Torres back and forth, and that makes sense too. It's not like Didi stinks, and the team has shown zero interest in signing him to an extension.

And with Tulowitski apparently being healthy, it makes sense that the Yankees would want to see if he has anything left by playing him regularly to at least start the season. That way he gains value as possible trade bait when Didi returns, or he at least gets enough reps to earn playing time at other positions.

So what about first base? That would make your infield on Opening Day consist of Miguel Andujar at third base, Troy Tulowitski at shortstop, Gleyber Torres at second base, and DJ LeMahieu at first.

Before getting into the handful of other reasons for putting DJ at first base, I want to address the idea that his bat won't play well at first base. Typically a team's first baseman provides a good chunk of offense, namely in the power department, which is something LeMahieu wouldn't do. But let's just remember that, like past teams that had Robinson Cano, the Yankees get more than the average amount of offense out of second base thanks to Gleyber Torres. So I believe that negates the lesser offensive production they would get out of first base.

Besides, it's not like the Yankees have been getting a ton of productivity out of their first basemen recently. Last season their regular first baseman (at least before Luke Voit came aboard), Greg Bird, gave the team an OPS+ of 79. In 2017 the duo of Chris Carter and Greg Bird gave the Yankees OPS+'s of 71 and 84. And in 2016 Mark Teixeira had an OPS+ of just 74. And the Yankees offenses were still pretty productive the past three years. So I think the "doesn't play well at first base" thing can be put to bed.

As for the other reasons why Aaron Boone may want to make LeMahieu the regular first baseman, here you go...
  • While I understand why the Yankees would want to see if Luke Voit is more than a flash in the pan, it may be a good idea to try and trade him while his value is as high as it is. Mind you, other teams may see him as a possible flash in the pan too, so the return wouldn't be substantial. But Luke is still 27 (he'll turn 28 next month), and he's not even free agent eligible until 2025, so I imagine the Yankees would get much more than minor league filler in return. Personally I think it's worth holding onto him, but a case can be made to strike a trade while the iron is hot.
  • DJ LeMahieu has missed very little time since 2014, in which he's averaged 146 games a season. He did just turn 30, and did go on the disabled list three times last season, but DJ would allow Greg Bird the ability to work on things and ease his way back into regular first base duty without the added pressure to perform regularly for the Yankees.
  • LeMahieu is an elite defender at second base, so there's a very good chance he could play well above average defense at first base. That would make it so the team wouldn't have to absorb as much poor defense from Torres at second base or Andujar at third (assuming they don't improve there). That's not to say that Bird is no good on defense, but if Greg doesn't start hitting then there's a good chance Luke Voit would get more starts and he's definitely below average there defensively.
  • Let's start by saying the Yankees do trade Voit. Now let's say Tulowitski fails one way or another, and Greg Bird continues to struggle, both of which are good possibilities. The Yankees could put either LeMahieu or Torres at shortstop, and look at adding another first baseman through trade. You may say that's easier said than done, which is true, but it's a hell of a lot easier than finding a solid middle infielder. Hell, just look at how Brian Cashman found Luke Voit and got him for cheap.
Like I said, I'd rather keep a guy at the same position in which he won the last to Gold Glove awards, and let Luke Voit and Greg Bird split time at first base, but I can't call anyone foolish for thinking DJ LeMahieu would be a good choice for first base. 

Isn't it nice having the problem of too many viable infield options? Now if only the Yankees had that same problem in the outfield. Perhaps if they were to sign, I don't know, Bryce Harper then the outfield situation would be in pretty good shape. But I don't want to go down that road again, do I?

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Looking at the Yankees Payroll After the DJ LeMahieu Signing



So, you guys and girls remember that time I broke it down and explained how the New York Yankees could not only sign both Manny Machado and Bryce Harper off the free agent market, but they could also do it while staying under the luxury tax? Yeah, about that. That didn’t exactly work out and now it seems like it is unlikely that the Yankees sign either of the 26-year old “generational” talents off the free agent market this offseason. I mean, they could, but after crunching the numbers on the payroll does it look completely unlikely? Keep reading…




Guaranteed 2019 Contracts (AAV in Parenthesis)



Giancarlo Stanton - $26 million ($25 million)

13-year deal worth $325 million with a full no-trade clause, an opt-out clause after the 2020 season, and a 2028 team option worth $25 million with a $10 million buyout. Stanton also receives $50,000 for each All-Star appearance, Silver Slugger Award and Gold Glove Award. Stanton also receives $100,000 per MVP Award and $500,000 for each World Series MVP Award achieved throughout the contract. If Stanton does not opt-out after the 2020 season the Miami Marlins will retain $30 million in Stanton’s salary.





Masahiro Tanaka - $22 million ($22,142,857 million)

Seven-year deal worth $155 million with a full no-trade clause.





Jacoby Ellsbury - $21,142,857 million ($21,857,143 million)

Seven-year deal worth $153 million including a team option for the 2021 season worth $21 million and a $5 million buyout. Ellsbury also contains a full no-trade clause written into his contract.





Aroldis Chapman - $15 million plus $2.2 million signing bonus ($17.2 million)

Five-year deal worth $86 million including an $11 million signing bonus paid in equal increments ($2.2 million) annually throughout the length of the contract. Chapman has an opt-out clause after the 2019 season and a full no-trade clause through 2019. Chapman has a modified no-trade clause for 2020 and 2021 if he does not exercise his opt-our clause that keeps him from being traded to a West Coast team.



JA Happ - $17 million ($17 million)

Two-year deal worth $34 million including a vesting option for 2021 worth $17 million if Happ pitches 165 IP or makes 27 starts in 2020.





CC Sabathia - $8 million ($8 million)

One-year deal worth $8 million





Brett Gardner - $7.5 million ($7.5 million)

One-year deal worth $7.5 million






Zach Britton - $13 million ($13 million)

Three-year deal with an opt-out after two years if the fourth-year team option and player option is not picked up by the club after the second year. The contract could be anywhere from two-years and $26 million, three-years and $39 million if the fourth-year option is declined but Britton does not opt-out, to four-years and $53 million. Britton will also receive $1 million if he is traded any time throughout the contract.




DJ LeMahieu - $12 million ($12 million)

Two-year deal worth $24 million





Troy Tulowitzki - $555K ($555K)

One-year deal worth $555K (remaining salary paid by the Toronto Blue Jays) with a full no-trade clause.



Total: $144,397,857 million (145,155,119 million)

All salaries via Spotrac.com



Remember, and I don’t know why there is a difference here, that arbitration salaries are classified as non-guaranteed contracts. That’s why those salaries that were agreed upon by eight of the nine arbitration eligible Yankees players this week are not listed here.




Pre-Arbitration 2019 Salaries – Valued at $555K each (waiver options in parenthesis)

Albert Abreu (3)
Domingo Acevedo (3)
Chance Adams (3)
Miguel Andujar (2)
Luis Cessa
Thairo Estrada (3)
Clint Frazier
Domingo German
Chad Green
Joe Harvey
Ben Heller
Kyle Higashioka
Jonathan Holder (2)
Aaron Judge
Tim Locastro (3)
Jonathan Loaisiga (3)
Jordan Montgomery
Gary Sanchez
Stephen Tarpley
Gleyber Torres (3)
Luke Voit (3)
Tyler Wade


Total: $11,655,000 million (21 players x $555K each)



Without waiver options for the Minor Leagues the players without a waiver option by their name cannot be sent down to Triple-A without first clearing waivers and cannot be sent down without their consent. Also, I am well aware that there are 22 players listed here and the tally only has 11 players on it. I am assuming that one of these 22 players, Luis Cessa please, will be designated for assignment once the DJ LeMahieu contract is official, presumably next week.

All courtesy of Spotrac.com





 2019 Contracts for Arbitration-Eligible Players (MLBTR Projections in Parenthesis)

Dellin Betances (Arb 3) – $7.125 million ($6.4 million)
Greg Bird (Arb 1) – $1.2 million ($1.5 million)
Sonny Gray (Arb 3) – $7.5 million ($9.1 million)
Didi Gregorius (Arb 4) – $11.75 million ($12.4 million)
Aaron Hicks (Arb 3) – $6 million ($6.2 million)
Tommy Kahnle (Arb 2) – $1,387,500 million ($1.5 million)
James Paxton (Arb 3) – $8.575 million ($9.0 million)
Austin Romine (Arb 3) – $1.8 million ($2.0 million)
Luis Severino (Arb 1) – $5.1 million (projection, potentially heading to arbitration hearing)



Total: $44,437,506 ($53.2 million)

Let me be the first, well probably the 1,000,000th, to say that I find it to be absolutely ridiculous that the Yankees are pinching pennies (at all) with ace Luis Severino. It has been reported that the Yankees offered $4.4 million while Severino asked the Yankees for $5.25 million. The Yankees are really going to squabble over $850K? Seriously? Especially with the obvious fact that the Yankees could see a contract like Sonny Gray moved in a deal now that his potential new team, cash-strapped teams like the Milwaukee Brewers, Cincinnati Reds or San Diego Padres, know exactly how much salary they would be taking back in a potential deal. This isn't the beginning of the end of Severino inside a Yankees uniform like some have made it out to be, but damn it's not a good look either. 





Retained Salaries per Spotrac


Brett Gardner – $2 million buyout of his 2019 team option

Alex Rodriguez – $4 million in deferred salary



Total: $6 million

  

Why in the world is this team STILL paying Alex Rodriguez?





The Final Tallies


2019 Total Yankees Salaries As of 1/12/19
$223,490,363 million




2019 Luxury Tax Threshold According to MLB.com
$206 million

And now it makes sense that the Yankees would argue with Luis Severino over $850K? Maybe? Not really, as you add payroll every time you purchase a contract and add someone to the 40-man roster throughout the season. The Yankees are over the luxury tax threshold, but just barely (if at all… remember, Luis Severino’s salary is still a projection) Especially when you consider just how likely it is for Sonny Gray to be traded, as we mentioned earlier, now that the team and 5th starter CC Sabathia has a clean bill of health, all things considered. So, do the Yankees have the money to add much more? Do the Yankees have the ability to add a reliever in Adam Ottavino? An infielder in Manny Machado? An outfielder in Bryce Harper? The luxury tax and the penalties for going over the luxury tax may have the answer for that.




EDIT: According to Fangraphs you have to include an extra $17 million to your luxury tax to cover medical expenses, travel expenses, etc. according to the Collective Bargaining agreement. Either way, the Yankees are over the luxury tax threshold. 


For teams that are exceeding the luxury tax threshold for the first time, which the Yankees are after resetting their penalties by getting under the luxury tax threshold last season, the penalty for every dollar spent over the $206 million luxury tax threshold is a 20% penalty up to $20 million. To use even numbers, for every $10 million the Yankees go over the threshold the team must pay an extra $2 million to the league in penalties, obviously meaning $20 million would force the team to incur $4 million in penalties. If the team exceeds $20 million over the cap, but spends under $40 million over the luxury tax threshold, the penalty grows to 32% after a 12% surtax. Exceeding $40 million over the cap penalizes a team 62.5% (42.5% surtax on top of initial 20% tax) on every dollar as well as costing the team 10 places in the Rule 4 MLB Draft. The top six picks are protected, but a team with a 7th overall pick or later would see their highest selection in the MLB First Year Players Draft moved back 10 places. If your team falls in the top six of the MLB Draft, which the Yankees do not, they would see their second highest pick in the draft moved back by 10 places instead.


So, a hypothetical deal worth $30 million annually in salary for either Harper or Machado would cost the Yankees an extra $9.6 million in 2019 alone. Signing both to a pair of $30 million annual salaries would end up costing the Yankees $85.5 million in 2019 instead of the $60 million that most Yankees fans see, thus making it like the Yankees are signing three generational talents instead of just two. That’s also not counting the fact that the tax penalties get tougher each year the Yankees are over the cap and the fact that New York will slide 10 places in the draft.

A hypothetical deal with Adam Ottavino though, projected to earn $10 million annually over three-years according to MLB Trade Rumors, would only cost the Yankees a total of $12 million though and would allow the team to keep their current position in the 2019 MLB Draft. That’s before considering that the Yankees could potentially move at least $7.5 million in Sonny Gray’s salary, thus costing the Yankees less in terms of luxury tax penalties by signing Ottavino.


In closing, Ken Rosenthal and many other insiders may not be counting out the Yankees just yet, but the numbers don’t lie. Aside from the possibility of signing RHP Ottavino, a signing I am a huge supporter of, it looks like the Yankees heavy lifting this offseason, barring a major trade, is over. The Yankees may grab Ottavino to finish off the bullpen, or they may head into spring training with the team as it is currently assembled, but one thing seems really clear though, given the history of Hal Steinbrenner as the Yankees principal owner, neither Machado nor Harper will be donning pinstripes in 2019.

Grab your pitchforks, Yankees fans, this is going to be a wild month of January and February when these two 26-year old players sign elsewhere. Be ready. 






So Far No Manny but That’s Okay!!! 

The Yankees have been very busy as of late.  

They signed DJ LeMahieu to a two-year, 24 million dollar contract. Resigned Zach Britton to a 3 Year deal, avoided arbitration with everyone Luis Severino, and signed Troy Tulowitzki, to supposedly be their everyday Shortstop. So where does that leave the Yanks now? Well in a nutshell it totally means they don’t need Manny Machado. However that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t sign him anyway. Depending on how you feel about the Bombers not having enough Lefty Hitters Bryce Harper may still look good too.😎Let’s take a look at all of the above in no particular order.  I know some fans are not to happy with the LeMahieu signing, however I think it is a great depth move. For one there is speculation the Yankees intend to use LeMahieu as a utility player which could mean they are not out on Manny Machado. I don’t see Machado being signed it at this point, but Cashman is very sneaky, so you don’t know until you know. With Didi Gregorius out for who knows how long and the oft-injured Troy Tulowitzki in his place, shortstop could turn out really bad for the Yankees. While at third base in Yankee Land, Andujar’s defense will likely stop him from sticking at the position long-term. Machado would provide a much needed presence at both positions, which is why I wanted him so much. But the Yankees are already a really good team they did win 100 games last year with much of this same same roster.  

There are fans that seem upset about the Tulo signing as well. Listen Tulo is past his prime for sure, however there is something to be said about wearing the Pinstripes. I can see Tulo having a big year, and hell 99% of his pay is coming for the Blue Jays, so I am all for that.  The only issue I see being a problem until Sir Didi returns is our lack of Lefty Batters. That is what leads me back to Bryce Harper. We need a lefty bat and well a better Left fielder. Clint Frazier or Brett Gardner could both play left, and Gardner would be a lefty bat. At this point thou I do not believe Grady is a starter and better served being out 4th outfielder. We have no real clue what Frazier brings to the table for a full season, being he had concussion issues all of 2018. Plus bot would most likely bat 9th specially Gardner so that doesn’t help the balancing lineup. We could maybe sign Mike Moustakas have him DH and play 3b some days but I don’t see it. That would put Stanton in LF. Would give us some balance but think I’d pass having Stanton play Left everyday. I will put this out there Greg Bird will rebound and hit about .270 with 30-38 home runs, and reclaim First Base, which will help with the balance a tad bit. Once Didi comes back if Bird is hitting like I predict they will be ok.  

1. Aaron Hicks CF 

2. Aaron Judge RF 

3. Greg Bird 1B 

4. Giancarlo Stanton DH

5. Gary Sanchez C 

6. Didi Gregorius SS

7. Miguel Andujar 3B 

8. Gleyber Torres 2B 

9. Clint Frazier LF 

That would leave a bench of 

D.J. LeMahieu UTLI 

Brett Gardner OF 

Austin Romine Back Up C 

Troy Tulowitzki SS 

Sorry Mr. Voit

Yes this would be a 4 man bench and require having the traditional 7 man Pen again. Not to shabby but still missing something in my opinion when Didi is out. Anyways fans thanks for reading, that’s hope we get that Lefty Bat.   

I am be reached at JamesCPalma@Yahoo.Com 











Thoughts After the LeMahieu Signing...


DJ LeMahieu Signs 2-Year Deal w/Yankees…

The Yankees caught everyone by surprise on Friday when it was reported they had signed former Colorado Rockies second baseman DJ LeMahieu to a two-year contract worth $24 million, pending a physical. I knew the San Francisco Giants were interested in LeMahieu and were willing to move Joe Panik if necessary and the Los Angeles Dodgers had long been mentioned as a favorite but I hadn’t really given any thought to DJ as a Yankee. So, when I first heard the news, I was a bit underwhelmed.  

This, in no way, means I do not recognize LeMahieu is a very good baseball player. He is. I guess going into the off-season, I felt the Yankees had a tremendous opportunity to substantially improve their club at a time when the Boston Red Sox are struggling with the pains of a very high payroll. I don’t want to beat the Red Sox, I want to crush them. I had felt if the Yankees could sign Patrick Corbin and Manny Machado and/or Bryce Harper, they’d be the clear most powerful team in the AL East. As we know, the Yankees expressed interest but did not play in the Corbin negotiations when other offers exceeded their comfort zone. Now, it appears the Yankees are out on both Machado and Harper.  


I’ll remain on Team Machado until he signs with another club. Even Ken Rosenthal, while he believes the Yankees are no longer “in” on Machado, will only believe he’s not going to be a Yankee when he pulls up another jersey at an introductory press conference. To me, Machado is missed opportunity. A large number of fans are quick to say Machado was merely a ‘want’ and not a need. Okay, I get it. But how often are young (very young) superstars available for only money? And how many of those young superstars have always wanted to be Yankees? I guess we’d like to think everyone wants to be a Yankee. But that’s a rather narcissistic view. Both Harper and Machado are players who wanted to wear the famed Pinstripes and it’s disappointing, to me, that neither dream will come true.

Setting aside Machado and Harper, the Yankees ARE an improved team. I like the infield with LeMahieu at second and Gleyber Torres at shortstop over Troy Tulowitzki at short and Gleyber remaining at second even though I didn’t really want to see Gleyber sliding back and forth. I am not convinced Tulo can stay healthy and I certainly do not want to pin any hopes on him. LeMahieu, on the other hand, can play a vital role for this team.  

Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports (Kelley L Cox)
Down the stretch last year, Colorado’s great third baseman Nolan Arenado was quoted as saying this about LeMahieu: “If fans knew how much we appreciate DJ and saw how much we care for him and how important he is to this team, they’d realize what a big factor he is. He sets the standard for us. We go where he goes, really.” That’s very high praise from one of the game’s true superstars. Charlie Blackmon is also on record making similar comments. I listened to an interview with Blackmon a few days ago and he was still expressing hope the Rockies would re-sign LeMahieu despite the team’s acquisition of Daniel Murphy. It appears the Rockies intend to play Murphy at first, assuming they figure out what do to with Ian Desmond, and open second base for competition between a couple of young players. The Rockies hold aspirations of competing with the Dodgers for the NL West title and LeMahieu would have helped their cause.

While I probably would have preferred Marwin Gonzalez for his ability to play shortstop and left field, it’s hard to find fault with the defensive prowess LeMahieu brings to the team. He may not have much power but he’s certainly not going to disappoint you with his bat. He has a batting title to his credit (NL, 2016) and has appeared in a couple of All-Star games. He has won three Gold Gloves, including the past two years. He has also been the Wilson Defensive Player of the Year at second for the last two seasons and in 2013.  

Infield defense was a huge concern prior to LeMahieu’s signing so his presence is much needed and as it stands right now I am glad he’s a Yankee. If Tulo shows anything at shortstop, the Yankees have the option of moving LeMahieu to third with Miguel Andújar shifting to DH and Giancarlo Stanton playing left field which eases some doubts I have with the dependence on Brett Gardner as an every day option in left field. To sign Machado now would probably mean the end of the Yankees career for Didi Gregorius, a free agent after the upcoming season. I want Didi back as the team’s starting shortstop so maybe all things considered, the LeMahieu signing is a blessing.  

Photo Credit: Instagram via @sirdidig18
Like Tulo, LeMahieu will have to find a new number. The number 9 he wore in Colorado is retired for the late Roger Maris. The Yankees retired the number for Maris in 1984, a few months after they had traded Graig Nettles, the last to wear the number, to the San Diego Padres.  

Photo Credit: Getty Images
The fringe players are slowly coming off the 40-man roster. RHP A.J. Cole was claimed by the Cleveland Indians on waivers yesterday.  He had been designated for assignment to make room for Tulowitzki. I thought the Yankees might be able to pick up a lower-ranked prospect for Cole but it was not to be. Yesterday, to make room for LHP Zach Britton, infielder Hanser Alberto was waived and almost immediately claimed by Britton's former team, the Baltimore Orioles. Once the LeMahieu signing becomes official, the Yankees will need to make another move so Luis Cessa, Ben Heller and Tim Locastro are probably the most vulnerable unless the Yankees finally move Sonny Gray for prospects (I’d prefer MLB talent in return). I like Heller despite his current recovery from Tommy John surgery (which means he can’t provide any immediate help) but would prefer to see the exit of Cessa over Heller.  

The Yankees are always slow to announce their non-roster invitees for Spring Training but the list is building:

LHP Rex Brothers
LHP Danny Coulombe
RHP Drew Hutchison
OF Billy Burns
OF Matt Lipka

I don’t see any great upside with these players but Scranton/Wilkes-Barre needs some help after the losses they’ve suffered in the last few months so they represent organizational depth. Brothers is a one-time Colorado Rockie and teammate of Tulo, LeMahieu, Tommy Kahnle and, cough-cough, free agent reliever Adam Ottavino.  

Lastly, while I was glad to see the Yankees agree with all of their arbitration-eligible players on new contracts for the upcoming season except one, I was disappointed the one player is Luis Severino. I don’t like the arbitration process which requires the team to tell an arbitrator the entirety of the player’s faults to build their case for the lower salary. If Dellin Betances leaves via free agency after the season, I will look back to the contentious hearing he had with the team a couple years ago and the poor choice of words by Yankees President Randy Levine after the decision in the team’s favor as a reason for his departure. I know, Dellin’s final decision will most likely be based on money but he surely has the negative feelings in the back of his mind regardless of his love of wearing the hometown Pinstripes. I think what bothers me more about Sevy’s case is how close the two parties are. Severino wants $5.25 million while the team offered $4.4 million. It seems like there was room for compromise. The two sides can continue to negotiate so I hope there is resolution before the actual arbitration hearing is held. We need to build Sevy up to be the ace he is destined to be, not tear him down.  

I was very glad the Yankees settled with new starting pitcher James Paxton for $8.5 million. I want Paxton’s experience to be very positive from the start. By all accounts, he is very excited about pitching for the Yankees. In reading and listening to Zach Britton’s words about re-signing with the Yankees, it is very clear how he and his family were treated by the Yankees played a very strong factor in his decision to return. I want Paxton fully appreciate his first year in the Bronx too. 

Pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training a month from tomorrow. I am anxious to see Tampa and Steinbrenner Field buzzing with Yankees again. There’s no doubt Manager Aaron Boone will carry greater confidence and preparedness into camp this year with a year under his belt. I am convinced he’ll be much stronger this year and that bodes well for the team.  

Good times in the Yankees Universe.

As always, Go Yankees! 

Friday, January 11, 2019

DJ LeMahieu and Hitting Inside Yankee Stadium (And Outside of Coors Field)



The New York Yankees signed second baseman and former Colorado Rockies hitter DJ LeMahieu today to a two-year deal rumored to be around $24 million. Presumably, LeMahieu will be the Yankees starting second baseman on Opening Day 2019, assuming health of course, but New York has already been quite vocal about DJ’s ability to play all over the infield. The Yankees pretty much know what they are going to get from LeMahieu defensively, DJ is a multiple-time Gold Glove winner as well as a 2018 Fielding Bible Award winner at second base in the National League, but do they know what they are going to get from their new second baseman offensively? Do the fans who are already crucifying LeMahieu and Yankees GM Brian Cashman know what they are going to get from LeMahieu offensively, aside from his splits inside Coors Field? No, they don’t, but thanks to Baseball Reference and Fangraphs we can make an educated guess at what to expect from the latest “DJ” inside the Yankees infield.


 Looking at LeMahieu’s spray chart and hit chart, courtesy of Fangraphs, you can see that DJ has surprising fly ball and line drive power to all fields, but especially to right field. This is especially important for a player that plays 81 of his games in the Bronx and inside Yankee Stadium. Many fans were quick to point out LeMahieu’s splits at home and away from Colorado’s Coors Field, but none of them even considered what it would be like hitting in the traditionally hitting friendly stadiums throughout the AL East.


 Yes, DJ LeMahieu benefited from hitting inside Coors Field for 81 games a season, but do you really think he benefited just as much hitting inside San Francisco’s spacious AT&T Park? What about San Diego’s Petco Park? I would think these stadiums would hurt his road stats more than they would help him. Equally, I would think playing those 10-12 games in each stadium inside Boston’s Fenway Park, Baltimore’s Oriole Park in Camden Yards, Tropicana Field down in Tampa, and the Rogers Centre in Toronto would help him tremendously with his home/road splits. Keep in mind, the below spreadsheet does not factor in the team’s performance and talent levels, obviously facing a stacked Boston Red Sox team is different than facing a 96-loss San Diego Padres team in 2018, but it only factors in the dimensions of every park and projects what he could do in 2019. While we are on the subject, though, the AL East won a combined 418 games (including the Yankees 100 wins which takes it down to 318 wins as LeMahieu is now a Yankee) while the NL West won a combined 404 games (including 91 by the Rockies bringing the number down to 313 wins) which goes to show you the potential level of competition LeMahieu may face in 2019 in the AL East. Teams like San Diego, San Francisco, and the Dodgers are all trying to get better while LeMahieu arrived just in time for a rebuild down in Baltimore and Toronto, with Tampa Bay on the cusp of competing again in my opinion.


As you can see, and I tried to keep this as simple as I could for simplicity’s sake, LeMahieu will surely benefit from playing in smaller ballparks throughout the AL East Division, including Yankee Stadium where he can torment opposing pitchers by using the short porch in right field. Yes, despite what the dimensions say the ball really flies out of and carries inside Coors Field, but at the same time we all know, again despite the dimensions, that AT&T Park and that huge wall in right field as well as Petco Park play a lot bigger than what the dimensions may suggest. In my opinion, keeping in mind that LeMahieu not only has to stay healthy but also has to put the barrel of the bat on the ball, what DJ loses by playing outside of Coors Field he will more than make up playing inside Yankee Stadium and the other four ballparks in the AL East.


Yes, LeMahieu has some ugly stats away from Coors Field, but that doesn’t mean that we are automatically going to see that player with the Yankees in 2019. You also have to factor in that LeMahieu will not only be playing his home games inside Yankee Stadium, but that he will also be playing his road games in traditionally hitter-friendly ballparks within the AL East. LeMahieu, and the New York Yankees, will be fine. Yankees fans have to know that, and they have to truly believe it as well.

Thoughts Concerning Harper/Machado After Signing Of DJ LeMahieu

For the second time this off season the Yankees have signed someone that basically kills an idea I posted about moments before.

I just wrote about the Yankees signing Marwin Gonzalez, and not two minutes after I did so news came out that they agreed to a two-year contract with infielder DJ LeMahieu.

While there's a chance Gonzalez could be signed to start regularly in left field over Brett Gardner, I don't believe they will do that. Nor should they. I wasn't attracted to Marwin because he was so much better than Gardner offensively (he's not), but because of Marwin's ability to play at so many positions both in the infield and outfield. That's not necessary any longer.

But one thing to keep in mind, which has already been talked about all over Twitter, is the signing of LeMahieu does not kill the chances the Yankees sign Manny Machado.

It would be great having a multi-time Gold Glove winner regularly in the infield, but the fact is DJ is not so good that he wouldn't be used more as a utility player. DJ's OPS+ over the past two seasons is only 91.

So the idea that this signing kills the chances of bringing in Manny Machado is silly.

The same goes for Bryce Harper, although that's more obvious since Harper does not play the infield like Machado does.

However, one thing you can take from this latest signing is that the Yankees will not be signing both Manny Machado and Bryce Harper. Although that doesn't upset me because I didn't think that was going to happen anyway, no matter how much I thought they should do that.

To prove those things to you here are the two rosters we'd likely see if either Machado or Harper were signed...

with Machado
1. Hicks - CF
2. Judge - RF
3. Machado - SS
4. Stanton - DH
5. Sanchez - C
6. Andujar - 3B
7. Torres - 2B
8. Voit - 1B
9. Gardner - LF

Bench: Romine, Bird, Tulowitski, LeMahieu

with Harper
1. Hicks - CF
2. Judge - RF
3. Harper - LF
4. Stanton - DH
5. Sanchez - C
6. Andujar - 3B
7. Torres - 2B
8. Tulowitski - SS
9. Voit - 1B

Bench: Romine, Bird, Gardner, LeMahieu

Now, I will admit that the roster with Machado is lacking something... an outfielder on the bench. So if there's any reason why Manny is less likely after the news of signing LeMahieu then that is it.

Of course, the Yankees could always choose to trade one of Bird or Voit, allowing them to open up a roster spot for an outfielder on the bench. Which is not that far out of the realm of possibility.

So let's not lose hope yet. And let's certainly not lose our heads, either.

Machado And Harper Are Not The Only Free Agents To Covet

I get it, Manny Machado and Bryce Harper being a free agents is huge. It's rare that players as good as they are, and at their age, can be acquired via free agency. But if you've been so focused on what's going on with Machado and Harper that you haven't paid any attention to other free agent hitters then you're missing out on someone that could be an excellent signing for the Yankees.


Marwin Gonzalez is someone every team would, or at least should, want to have on their roster. While he may not be the same hitter he was for the Astros in 2017, when he slashed .303/.377/.530, I have no doubt that he'll at least be a slightly above average hitter. Not to mention that the combination of him just now entering his age 30 season, and the likelihood of him agreeing to a contract of no more than 4 years at a much lower AAV than the aforementioned two, is very attractive.

It's not Marwin's bat that makes me hope the Yankees sign him, though. There are plenty of players out there that could give a team slightly above average offensive production. But look at what position, or I should say what positions, Marwin can play.

In 2018 alone Gonzalez played at least 176 innings at first base, second base, shortstop, and left field (he played the most in left field at 533 innings). That type of flexibility would make Aaron Boone smile extremely wide.

Not only could Marwin play left field instead of the declining Brett Gardner, he could also help solidify what has been a sore spot at first base, and if the Yankees miss out on Machado he could help at shortstop should Tulowitski get hurt again or play poorly.

With or without Machado, Gonzalez would be a big boost to the Yankees. Just take a look...

with Machado
1. Hicks - CF
2. Judge - RF
3. Machado - SS
4. Stanton - DH
5. Andujar - 3B
6. Sanchez - C
7. Gonzalez - LF
8. Voit/Bird - 1B
9. Torres - 2B

without Machado
1. Hicks - CF
2. Judge - RF
3. Andujar - 3B
4. Stanton - DH
5. Sanchez - C
6. Voit/Bird - 1B
7. Gonzalez - LF
8. Tulowitski - SS
9. Torres - 2B

note: I'm not trying to get into a conversation about the batting order, just showing you what could happen here.

And that assumes everyone is and stays healthy. Having someone like Gonzalez that could cover you very well should you be hit with an injury at four different positions is huge.

Look, if the Yankees don't sign Marwin I won't be too upset about it, unlike if they pass on both Machado and Harper (these are extremely rare opportunities, guys!). But Gonzalez should absolutely be on Brian Cashman's radar.