Yankees Update: DJ LeMahieu joining the Pinstripes highlights odd offseason spending
On Friday morning, the Yankees announced the signing of former Colorado Rockies infielder, DJ LeMahieu for $24 Million across 2 years. The signing by most accounts signals the Yankees throwing in the towel in the Manny Machado sweepstakes, as dedicating an AAV of $12 Million to LaMahieu clogs up the projected payroll for the infield.
Speaking of payroll, this signing is projected to push the Yankees payroll north of the $200 million luxury tax mark that they worked so hard to trim down below. It is a bit confusing for Yankees fans as bleeding into the luxury tax threshold was by all accounts the reason the Yankees refused to even come close to matching reported offers for Machado and are not engaging with Harper.
The LeMahieu signing throws a wrench into what how many fans expected to approach this offseason. While the Yankees have a boatload of money to spend, owner Hal Steinbrenner has gone on record saying that you can build a championship caliber team for under the luxury tax limit and that smart spending was a priority. Signing LeMahieu almost certainly puts them over the luxury tax limit.
This raises the question as to if the Yankees are going to bleed into the luxury tax to begin with, why not go after an elite star such as Machado or Harper? The Yankees own the highest annual revenue in Major League Baseball yet are set to spend a historically low percentage of that this coming season. Money is clearly not an issue and never has been for the Yankees.
Especially when you consider how frugal the Yankees have been, spending an AAV of $12 million on a defensive utility infielder seems to go against everything the team has both preached and put into action this offseason.
The Yankees do project to trot out a terrible defensive infield to start the year, so DJ and his defense definitely fills a void, but at the expense of a bat in the lineup. While LeMahieu had a solid offensive 2016 season, he hasn't come remotely close to replicating that success again, even considering he played in the friendly confines of Coors field.
Speaking of the fact that LeMahieu is leaving Coors Field, let's take a look at his numbers away from the hitter-friendly ballpark last year. Posting a slash line of .229/.277/.698, LeMahieu was nearly non-existent when playing away from Coors. Moreover, he's been a non-factor in the past 3 postseasons for the Rockies, hitting just .150 across 23 plate appearances.
Considering the Yankees' struggles to hit a baseball in the ALDS, those numbers don't instill much confidence that he will provide any sort of offensive value when we need him most.
All in all, this is a strange signing for the Yankees. It does help them to some degree, but I can't help but feel like they overpaid for a declining player. Moreover, the signing sends mixed signals to fans as far as what the spending strategy is moving forward.
Dedicating that much money to a bench player contradicts all their actions leading up to the signing. Thankfully the deal is a short 2 years, but the fact remains that the money could have gone towards bolstering either the starting rotation or bullpen.