Possible Replacements For DJ LeMahieu

As disheartening as it may sound, there is a possibility that DJ LeMahieu does sign elsewhere this offseason. The Yankees will try to sign him but they are operating on a budget due to financial losses because of the pandemic.

Fortunately for Yankee fans, the likelihood of that happening seems small.  All roads on the LeMahieu front appear to lead back to New York.  He has personally come out and said he wants to remain in the Bronx, and the Yankees have publicly stated they wish for him to continue his career with the team as well.

But for the right price.

The Yankees have been adamant about getting their payroll under the luxury tax threshold.  They could certainly still do that while retaining LeMahieu, but they would still like to be as cost-effective as possible in doing so.

This year’s Winter Meetings will most likely be the quietest they’ve been in a long time.

Unfortunately for Yankee fans, as they’ve become notorious for their diligence at the Winter Meetings in years past.  They like the easy access to other teams’ decision-makers, and take full advantage of every opportunity afforded to them. Particularly using the entirety of their allotted time for face-to-face meetings with agents to their negotiating advantage. The Yankees use these tactics advantageously, which is why they’ve had such success with making splashy transactions here in years past.

Their ability to target a player and garner a deal in a short window of time is second to none in the game.

Notable Yankee trades/free agent signings at the Winter Meetings since 2000:

 

All signs are seemingly pointing towards a LeMahieu-Yankees reunion.  Since both sides have expressed their desires to remain together, all that should remain now is to iron out the details.

This does not mean anything is a done deal though.  We have seen plenty of deals in the past lose traction and fall apart at the eleventh hour.  It really makes for an ambivalent situation when you add in the fact they are negotiating in the middle of a global pandemic.

Should the Yankees not bring LeMahieu back, they’ll have to find somebody else to fill his spot.  Shortstop will undoubtedly be their position of need, as Gleyber Torres, whose skills are better suited for second base, has proven to be defensively inferior at the shortstop position.  There are a variety of ways the Yankees could go in this situation.

Here’s a look at who some of his potential replacements could be:

 

 

Kim Ha-Seong (Kiwoom Heroes/ KPO League)

Although he has talent and a very reasonable posting fee, of just $7.625 million, Kim Ha-Seong is still considered a long-shot.  The track record for shortstops making the jump from the NPB or KPO to the MLB has been very poor.

Ha-Seong, 25, is already a seasoned veteran, with seven professional seasons under his belt in the KPO.  He could be the exception though, considering his age along with his blend of power, speed, and defensive disposition.

Through his seven seasons in the KPO, Kim has earned two Gold Glove awards and batted .292 with 133 home runs and 575 runs batted in.

In May of 2020, Baseball America said he would be a top 100 prospect at that time if he were to join an MLB team.  That was before he torched KPO league pitching, by posting a slash line of .314/.405/.541. His 147wRC+ was a career-high, and he walked more times than he struck out (12%/BB vs 10.4%/K).  For the 2020 season, Kim belted an impressive 35 home runs with 21 stolen bases on 23 attempts.

Fangraphs Eric Lojenhagen describes Kim as a “5’9 stick of dynamite”, with “thunderous” physical tools.

It is rare to see a player at his position leave the KPO/NPB while still in their prime.  In the past, almost all have left either at the tail end of their prime or after their prime has passed altogether.

Ha-Seong is bucking this trend.  He aspires to become the first to do so, as well as the first to succeed.

The biggest question mark surrounding Kim is how he would fare against the superior pitching he would face in the MLB.

His risk is exceedingly remarkable when considering he is also doing so during an uncertain economic climate.

It remains to be seen who buys into Ha-Seong’s hype.  But he could be a nice fit for the Yankees should they decide not to bring back DJ LeMahieu.

Much like LeMahieu, he will offer a contact bat with potentially good power.  Similarly, he also presents the ability to play second base, third base, and shortstop.  And will do so at a much lower price.

Likelihood to sign with the Yankees should LeMahieu move on: 3/10

Estimated Contract:  four years/$38 million

 

 

Andrelton Simmons

At 31 years of age, Andrelton Simmons is still widely viewed as the best defensive shortstop in the game today.  Over eight seasons in the big-leagues, Simmons has accrued four Gold Glove awards.  From 2013-19, he lapped the rest of the field in defensive metrics such as UZR and DRS.

Not just other shortstops either, he was easily better than all defensive players across the board.

Known as a high contact, low power offensive player, until 2019 he was still second in WAR for shortstops, behind only Francisco Lindor.

An ankle injury limited him to only 265 1/3 defensive innings in 2020.  He posted his first negative defensive runs saved mark ever and was rated in the 20th percentile in outs above average.

2020 was easily his worst defensive season of his career.

Should the Yankees find themselves unable to resign DJ LeMahieu, Simmons could be a perfect fit.  A glove-first shortstop who would help sure up their struggles in the middle of their defense.

Simmons will most likely be looking for a one-year deal to re-prove his worth as a player before signing what probably will be the final multi-year contract of his career.

Likelihood to sign with the Yankees should DJ LeMahieu move on:  7/10

Estimated Contract:  one-year/$13 million

 

Marcus Semien

Marcus Semien has spent the past six seasons as the shortstop for the Oakland Athletics.

He is something of a wildcard.  Before 2019, Simien was known as a durable, speedy, solid defender, with average to above-average power potential.  He became a bit of an anomaly following the 2019 season, when he set career highs across the board in doubles (43), home runs (33), runs batted in (92), batting average (.285), on-base percentage (.369), slugging percentage (.522), and on-base plus slugging percentage (.892).

Following Semien’s exceptional season, he finished third in the 2019 A.L. MVP race.

 

He was unable to duplicate that success during the 2020 season, slashing a pedestrian .223 batting average, .305 batting average, and a .374 slugging percentage.

Semien will be entering his age-30 season and won’t be 31 until September of 2021.

He would surely provide the Yankees with a defensive upgrade over Gleyber Torres.  Unfortunately, outside of 2019, his offensive numbers have been below average across the board.

Every year besides 2019, Semien has posted a below .500 percentage in OWn% (Offensive Winning Percentage), which measures the percentage of games a team would win if there were nine of this same player on the field together.

Also aside from 2019, he posted negative grades throughout his career in both BTRuns (Adjusted Batting Runs, -13.7), which estimates a players total contributions to a teams run total and BTWins (Adjusted Batting Wins, -1.4) which estimates a players contributions to a teams wins with his bat.

Due to his down year in 2020, he will likely look to sign a one-year contract for the 2021 season.  Most likely looking for a bounce-back year in 2021 and attempt to sign a multi-year deal after next year.

Likelihood to sign with the Yankees should DJ LeMahieu move on:  2/10

Estimated Contract:  one year/$14 million

Jurickson Profar  

Back in 2013, Jurickson Profar was widely considered the #1 prospect in all of baseball.  Baseball America claimed, “few prospects represent a safer bet to develop into a first-division regular and All-Star than Profar.”

Injuries riddled the first three seasons of his career. In 2018, at 25-years old, was his first full season in the big leagues without major injury.  He played all four infield positions and posted a 107wRC+ and a career-best 2.8 WAR.

Profar was traded to the Oakland Athletics following the 2018 season. He was immediately plugged in as Oakland’s second baseman for the 2019 season.  Despite a horrible first month of the season, he managed to still post a 105wRC+ for the year.

He was traded again following the 2019 season, this time to the San Diego Padres.  After beginning the 2020 season as the starting second baseman, he was quickly supplanted by rookie Jake Cronenworth.  Profar was moved to left field, where he stayed for the remainder of the year.

He posted respectable numbers for the San Diego Padres in 2020. Slashing .278/.343/.428 with 13XBH, seven stolen bases, and 50 hits in just 56 games.  Profar played six different positions for the Padres over the course of the year and only committing one error all season.

His versatility and ability to play plus defense anywhere across the infield and outfield could appeal to the Yankees.  He is also a switch-hitter who hit 20 home runs in both 2018 and 2019.

Profar is probably looking to sign a multi-year deal and for a place to call home for more than one season.  He is somebody who could draw interest from New York even with the re-signing of DJ LeMahieu.

Likelihood to sign with the Yankees should DJ LeMahieu move on:  5/10

 

Estimated Contract:  three years/ $21 million

 

Didi Gregorius

In the eyes of many, it was a mistake to ever let Didi Gregorius leave in the first place.  Now the Yankees have the opportunity to right their wrong and bring him back on a short multiyear deal.

In his lone season with Philly, Didi slashed .284/.339/.488 with 10 home runs, 40 runs batted in, 34 runs scored, and 24 extra-base hits across 60 games.

Didi plays outstanding defense, is one of the best offensive shortstops in the game, and is a proven playoff commodity in New York.  He received MVP votes during two of his seasons in the Bronx.

The Yankees would be wise to bring him and D.J. LeMahieu back.

Sliding Didi back at his customary shortstop, Gleyber Torres to second, and LeMahieu at first would substantially improve the team’s infield defense.  Possibly look to pair Luke Voit with a prospect and acquire more pitching.

It may not be a popular move to trade Voit, but he is never going to have a higher trade value than right now. He has a team-friendly contract with multiple years of control remaining which would be easy to move.  That can be looked at as a reason to keep him, but he is about the only moveable piece who would bring back anything of substance.

Giancarlo Stanton would be the preference here, but his contract coupled with his injury history makes him untradeable.

Defensive upgrades should be equally as important as pitching upgrades.

After signing a one-year prove-it deal, Didi Gregorius will likely be looking to cash in this year.

 

Likelihood to sign with the Yankees should LeMahieu move on:  5/10

Estimated Contract:  three years/ $39 million

 

Bonus Option

Francisco Lindor

Universally considered the best shortstop in the world, the 27-year-old superstar is going into the final year of his contract with the Indians.

Cleveland has already waved the white flag regarding signing Francisco Lindor long-term, so a trade is all but guaranteed at this point. Players like this don’t come around very often. So it is exceedingly rare when a player this good and this young gets to test the free-agent market without resistance from their original team.

The Yankees have plenty of ammunition to make a trade of this magnitude if they feel inclined to do so. Should they decide not to worry about the Luxury Tax, they could easily have both Lindor and D.J. LeMahieu.

The Yankees would have to give up the likes of Miguel Andujar and a combination of prospects.  To give Cleveland another young shortstop to develop, New York would surely have to part with one of their highly touted shortstop prospects, Oswaldo Peraza or Anthony Volpe.

Along with those aforementioned names above, at least one or two young pitchers would certainly be in the mix as well. Names such as Albert Abreu, Clarke Schmidt, Luis Medina, Deivi Garcia, and Luis Gil to name a few of their highly touted pitching prospects.

They’ve got the depth and the prospects to make such a trade happen should they choose.

 

Here are some of Francisco Lindor’s achievements thus far in his young career:

Four-time All-Star, Two Gold Gloves, two Silver Sluggers, 2016 Platinum Award Winner, Three-time top 10 in MVP Vote/four-time Top 15 (5,6,9,15)

Active 28.4 Offensive WAR/9.4 Defensive WAR—Two Seasons Top 10 Offensive WAR + 2 Seasons top 10 Defensive WAR

Fourth Highest Active Fielding Percentage/11th All-Time

Two Time Leader in Defensive Runs Saved/Third Most Actively

Averages from 2016-19:  .284/.346/.495 .838OPS–402B—30HR—84RBI—21SB—156GP

ESPN Insider Jeff Passan appeared on Jomboy Radio on Thursday to discuss what’s been going on at the Winter Meetings this year.  Eventually, Passan was asked about the most likely trade destinations for Francisco Lindor. He stated the two most likely landing spots for Lindor were in fact, Toronto and New York.

Unfortunately for those ambitious Yankee fans who envisioned a Lindor/Torres middle of the infield, Passan meant the other New York team- the Mets.

His forecast for a Yankees/Lindor partnership?  “No chance”.

 

 

 

Sooo… I guess that settles that.

It was fun to speculate though.

 

Likelihood of a trade to the Yankees:  2/10

Estimated Contract:  13 years/ $416 million

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