Monday, November 23, 2020

The Pros & Cons of Lindor vs. LeMahieu

Let me start this off by saying that I don't believe the Yankees would be able to pull off a trade with the Cleveland Indians for Francisco Lindor. Sure, Brian Cashman could very likely put together a package that would be interesting to the Indians, but with the Yankees already having a "meh" farm system I don't think Cashman would want to do something to make it worse. That's especially true since DJ LeMahieu would only cost the Yankees money.

On that note, I'm almost 100% sure the Yankees would not trade for Lindor and sign LeMahieu. I'm not among those fans that believe the Yankees will shoot for a team payroll below the Luxury Tax threshold, though. I'm sure that Hal Steinbrenner would love to avoid the Luxury Tax, I just don't see how they can put a better team on the field in 2021 than they had in 2020, while lowering the team payroll that much*. I won't argue that George cared more about winning than Hal does now, but I don't believe Hal would be okay with having a worse team next season than the one that barely made an expanded postseason this past season.

*the Yankees team payroll last season would have been around $265 million (pre-coronavirus), while the tax threshold for 2021 is $210 million. 

I've actually gone back and forth on which move I'd prefer the team made... sign DJ or trade for Lindor? But when it comes down to it I found that really didn't care which way the Yankees went, as long as they actually did one of those two things. Then again, they may be able to trade for Trevor Story, which would also be fine with me. No matter what, though, I'm just not comfortable riding the fence like that. 

So I made a list of pros and cons to help me finally come to a definitive conclusion. And here goes...

Pros to trading for Francisco Lindor
1. Lindor just turned 27, while LaMahieu is 32. So it's fair to say that Francisco is still in his prime years while DJ may be on the downside of his own career.
2. Lindor is a switch-hitter, which could help the Yankees balance their right-handed heavy lineup.
3. Although the Yankees already have plenty of power, the fact is Lindor is a bit more powerful than LaMahieu, and along with being able to bat left-handed, he could really take advantage of the short porch in right field.
4. Lindor is faster than LaMahieu. Not that DJ is a bad runner, but Francisco is better at stealing bases and taking an extra base.

Cons to trading for Francisco Lindor
1. Lindor would cost two or more good to great prospects, taking away from an already weak farm system.
2. Piggybacking off of #1, unless the Yankees can figure out an extension as part of the trade, it's possible the Yankees would give up a big package of prospects for just one year of Lindor. Putting them back in the market for a middle infielder again next offseason.
3. Trading for Lindor, money-wise, would be more expensive. Whether the Yankees extend Lindor or shop for a new shortstop next offseason (Corey Seager and Trevor Story could also be free agents), the Yankees will be paying a middle infielder a lot more money from 2022-2025 (assuming 5-year contract for LeMahieu). More money in the middle infield leaves less money for other parts of the team, which could be big if Hal is that worried about the team payroll.

Pros to signing DJ LeMahieu
1. DJ has a better career batting average and on-base percentage than Lindor.
2. LaMehieu likes the Yankees and the Yankees like him. While Lindor seems like a good guy, and could absolutely fit in well with the team, you just don't know how someone will react to New York until they get here.
3. Signing DJ will only cost the Yankees money, while trading for Lindor... as I've already shown... would cost prospects that the team can't really afford as well as cost the team more money after 2021.
4. Since his MLB-debut, Gleyber Torres has actually been a better defender at shortstop than he has at second base (UZR/150 of -14.5 at 2B and -10.7 at SS). So, defensively, the middle infield combination of Torres and LeMahieu would be better than Lindor and Torres.

Cons to signing DJ LeMahieu
1. DJ is a right-handed hitter in an already righty-heavy lineup.
2. Players typically start to decline as they enter their mid-30s, so it's very possible that we've already seen the best from LeMahieu and will be watching him decline.

That last con to signing LeMahieu, in comparison to trading and extending Lindor (or paying Seager or Story), is a little unfair. Because, while the Yankees could be paying DJ $20 million a year during his decline years, the team could be paying Lindor/Seager/Story more than $30 million a year during their decline years. 

And while LeMahieu hits better against left-handed pitchers (.325/.381/.475), it's not like his batting line against right-handed pitchers is bad (.298/.348/.414). Actually, DJ's career batting average and on-base percentage against same-sided pitching are better than Lindor's overall numbers.

So this exercise came to a surprising conclusion... the Yankees should clearly sign DJ LeMahieu instead of trade for Francisco Lindor. Would I get upset if they passed on bringing back DJ and did deal for Lindor (or Story)? No. But it feels better not riding the fence.

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