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Imagining the middle infield without DJ LeMahieu

We are now approaching Christmas and the one thing most New York Yankee fans have been asking for in their stockings is for the Yankees to re-sign DJ LeMahieu. We’re about halfway through the offseason and the latest reports state that the Yankees and LeMahieu are $25 million apart in the deal.

It still seems more likely than not that LeMahieu will be back with the Yankees, it seems to be what both sides want. However for context, Gerrit Cole was already a Yankee this time last offseason, so the fact that this is dragging out so long is mildly concerning. Should LeMahieu go elsewhere, general manager Brian Cashman will have a plan B, C, and even D in place.

There are plenty of different routes the Yankees could choose to take. Gleyber Torres is able to play second base and Cashman believes he’s a better second baseman than shortstop so the Yankees will take that into consideration when negotiating with LeMahieu.

Option 1: Bring back Didi

This option actually makes a lot of sense. Essentially the only reason Didi Gregorius did not return to the Yankees was that Torres and LeMahieu were occupying the middle infield positions. He signed with the Philadelphia Phillies last offseason on a one-year, $14 million deal. If he didn’t have a rocky 2019 returning from Tommy John surgery, he likely would have received a longer deal.

Now he is a free agent again and will likely be looking for a longer deal. In 2020, he appeared in all 60 games where he hit .284 with 10 home runs and 40 RBIs. His OPS was the second-highest in his career (.827).

Gregorius will be 31 in February, but he has shown he still has plenty left to offer. There would be no one better to fill in the gap than the man who was asked to fill Derek Jeter’s shoes and has already spent five years with the Yankees filled with clutch moments like this one:

Gregorius would also be much cheaper than LeMahieu. Gregorius is projected to receive a deal in the three years/$40 million range which means an AAV of approximately $13.3 million. If we were told two years ago, the Yankees could sign Gregorius for $13 million a year, all of us would have taken that in a heartbeat. This deal would leave the Yankees with some extra money to make moves elsewhere like their bullpen or starting pitching.

Most importantly, a reunion would mean the return of Gregorius’ post-game tweets and I’m curious which emoji he would use for Cole.

Option 2: Sign Ha-Seong Kim

The Yankees can also search the international market for LeMahieu’s replacement. Ha-Seong Kim was recently posted by the Kiwoom Heroes. The 25-year-old KBO shortstop has been impressive in his seven years in the league. Kim consistently batted around .300 in the KBO and can hit for power and has plenty of speed as well.

In 2020, his slash line was .306/.397/.523 with an OPS of .921 good for a 141 wRC+. He hit 30 home runs and 109-RBI as well as having 23 stolen bases last season. The pitching faced in the KBO is adequate compared to MLB pitching, however, ZiPS projections have him performing at a high standard in the majors. In 2021, his projected slash line is .274/.343/.477 with 23 home runs, 82 RBI, and a WAR good for 3.8.

Obviously, these are all projections and we have no idea how a player like this will translate at the Major League level. Whoever signs him will have to pay the posting fee of approximately $7.5 million and he is projected to receive a contract in the five-year/ $40 million range.

Signing Kim to a deal in the $8 million a year ballpark also gives the Yankees flexibility to fill other needs as well.

Option 3: Trade for Francisco Lindor

This is another one every Yankee fan and their mothers are asking for if LeMahieu walks. Understandably so. He’s the best shortstop in the league, has an explosive bat, and has won four Platinum Gloves. Gio Urshela and Lindor would act as a brick wall on the left side of the infield.

However, Lindor would not come cheap by any means. The trade package would yield a fair share of prospects, then the Yankees would have to pay him his 2020 arbitration salary which is projected to be around $20 million. They would also likely try to re-sign him.

While I’m all for trading for Lindor, realistically, I can’t see the Yankees making a deal like this right now.

If the Yankees really want Lindor, an alternative option may be taking on a cheap shortstop for one year and get under the luxury tax threshold and try to sign Lindor next offseason.

Option 4: Trade for Trevor Story

Story is another player the Yankees could target via trade. The shortstop is in the last year of his contract and is due $18.5 million. Story would likely cost fewer prospects than Lindor if they choose to trade for him, but the salary they would have to pay out is near the same.

Story provides solid offense, he had an OPS of .900+ in ’18 and ’19, and in ’20, it was .874. Story’s wRC+ has been in the 120 range the past three seasons as well. The only question with him is his K% which is consistently around 25% and his BB% has never reached 10%.

Like every player that comes from the Colorado Rockies, there will be questions if he’s a product of Coors Field. We saw that when LeMahieu came to New York and he quickly put those questions to rest.

Story has improved his defense drastically over the past few years. His DRS in 2018 was 1, in 2019m it improved to 14. Also, his UZR, -2.2 in 2018, increased to 8.6 in ’19 and was at 4.0 last season.

He has taken plenty of strides to show he is a reliable SS on both sides of the ball. If the Yankees can get him for the right price, they should go for him.


Personally, I would not be against any of these options. Bringing Gregorius back would be awesome and I think he still has a lot to offer. Trading for Lindor or Story would help push the Yankees to another level. Kim has plenty of upsides and could be a good option if it’s for the right price. It brings solace to the Yankees organization that Torres can play both middle infield positions.

Bringing back LeMahieu still makes the most sense and should continue to be their top priority. He provides that consistency in the offense that we haven’t seen in so long. If I’m Cashman, try to get LeMahieu to take a four-year deal with a fifth-year vesting option. If he’s still performing at age 36, he comes back. LeMahieu is a strong contact hitter, he should be able to continue hitting into his late 30’s barring any injuries. They were willing to bring back Brett Gardner year after year, they can give LeMahieu potentially one additional year.

What do you think?  If you could have any of the players listed, who would it be and why and what emoji do you think Gregorius would use for Cole? Leave a comment or tweet me @sashalueck and let me know!