MLBTR’s Jeff Todd breaks down Kris Bryant’s situation with the Cubs and DJ LeMahieu’s walk year with the Yankees in today’s video:
7:30pm: General manager Brian Cashman also tells Ken Davidoff of the New York Post that he has yet to engage in extension talks, though he of course wouldn’t broadcast the fact if the two sides to sit down to talk dollars and years. “[O]bviously if we did start any negotiations with anyone at any time absent of free agency, we would always try and keep them private, to the degree that is ever possible,” said the GM.
Davidoff also spoke to manager Aaron Boone about LeMahieu’s fit with the club, and the skipper unsurprisingly sounded like someone who’d be on board with LeMahieu continuing to don pinstripes for the foreseeable future: “[T]here’s just something a little bit different that he brings to the room that I think guys are drawn to. Even though he’s not the most vocal guy, I think guys look up to him and enjoy him.”
As Davidoff points out, any new contract for LeMahieu wouldn’t impact the Yankees’ luxury line, so long as it is structured as a new deal beginning in the 2021 season.
9:20am: Yankees infielder DJ LeMahieu says he hasn’t yet held any talks with the club about a new contract, as MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch reports on Twitter. He also reiterated his affinity for the organization after one golden campaign.
LeMahieu’s contract situation isn’t necessarily a hot topic in Yanks’ camp, but it is fair to wonder whether he’ll ultimately be approached about an extension. The free agent deal he signed last January covered two seasons, meaning DJLM is presently slated to return to the open market next winter.
The Yankees have already made out like bandits on this signing. LeMahieu racked up a .327/.375/.518 batting line with a career-high 26 home runs in 655 plate appearances last year, easily topping expectations. He placed fourth in the American League MVP vote. Suffice to say, LeMahieu earned the entirety of his contract and then some in the first year.
Whether LeMahieu can repeat anything approaching that output is an open question. He did have one other high-grade offensive campaign under his belt, 2016 with the Rockies, but has otherwise typically checked in with below-average overall numbers with the bat.
LeMahieu is already 31 years of age, so it’s not as if he’s an exceptionally youthful player. But his history of high-contact hitting presents a decent floor with the bat even if his power recedes. And LeMahieu is an excellent infield defender who can move around as needed.
So, will the Yanks ride out the deal and hope it keeps paying off? Or will they double down on their initial faith, which was proven wise the first time around? The team could go in either direction, but it’s certainly not difficult to imagine the Yankees deciding to pursue talks. If anything, it’s a bit of a surprise that they haven’t yet kicked off a conversation.
Dallas Keuchel and the Braves are squaring off against the Cardinals in a memorable NLDS, but the left-hander recently told Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch he’s surprised the Redbirds didn’t make a bigger effort to sign him when he was a free agent from November to June. “Honestly, I was fully expecting an offer from them,” said Keuchel. “Just never really came about.” Keuchel, whom the Braves signed to a one-year, $13MM deal after a protracted standoff between him and the entire league, added that he viewed St. Louis as “a good destination,” which could be notable with the soon-to-be 32-year-old set to hit free agency again in the coming weeks. Meantime, his club will try to eliminate the Cardinals in a do-or-die Game 5 on Wednesday.
- The manager-needy Mets may have a couple in-house candidates for the job in quality control/outfield coach Miguel Rojas and Single-A manager Edgardo Alfonzo, per Mike Puma of the New York Post. The 38-year-old Rojas, who’s the son of longtime MLB outfielder/first baseman/manager Felipe Alou and the brother of former outfielder Moises Alou, has been a member of the Mets organization for 14 seasons (including eight as a minor league skipper). Now 45, Alfonzo’s best known for a highly productive run as a second/third baseman for the Mets from 1995-2002. Having coached in the organization since 2014, Alfonzo’s hoping New York considers him to replace the fired Mickey Callaway, Puma reports.
- If the Reds are going to re-sign pending free-agent left-hander Alex Wood, Mark Sheldon of MLB.com estimates it would happen by way of a minor league contract. Considering Wood’s past success and relative youth (29 in January), getting him to accept a non-guaranteed deal may be unrealistic. Regardless, it’s inarguable Wood is coming off a contract year to forget. Acquired from the Dodgers last winter, Wood made only seven starts and threw just 35 2/3 for the Reds this year as he battled nagging back issues. Wood managed an ugly 5.80 ERA/6.38 FIP with 7.57 K/9, 2.27 BB/9 and a 38.2 percent groundball rate when he was healthy enough to take the ball for Cincy.
- It’s already known the Marlins had interest in DJ LeMahieu last winter, but Joe Frisaro of MLB.com writes the Fish “made a strong push to sign” the second baseman in free agency. The former Cub and Rockie ultimately accepted a two-year, $24MM contract from the Yankees, with whom he has enjoyed a career season. The low-budget Marlins, meanwhile, ended up guaranteeing a mere $4.5MM to players in free agency, inking infielder Neil Walker (who served as a lesser version of LeMahieu for the club) and reliever Sergio Romo to one-year contracts.
Once the ace of the Athletics’ rotation, Frankie Montas has been something of a forgotten man since being issued an 80-game PED suspension on June 21. Montas will be eligible for the last five games of Oakland’s regular season, however, could still help the A’s get into the playoffs. GM David Forst told Chris Townsend of the A’s Cast podcast (partial transcript from Ben Ross of NBC Sports Bay Area) that the team is prepared to use Montas as either a starter or reliever, and has kept him stretched out in simulated games in case a start is required in one of those five games. Montas could also get a minor league game under his belt if Oakland’s Double-A or Triple-A affiliates advance in the postseason, as Montas is eligible to begin a rehab assignment beginning on September 10.
Montas was in the midst of a breakout campaign at the time of his suspension, with a 2.70 ERA, 9.7 K/9, and 4.62 K/BB rate over 90 innings. Though he won’t be eligible for the postseason if the Athletics are able to claim a wild card, Montas could certainly still be a valuable x-factor during what could be a very tense final week of action as the A’s, Indians, and Rays battle for the two wild card slots.
Some stray items from around baseball…
- After returning from the injured list just yesterday, Ramon Laureano left the Athletics’ 10-2 win over the Tigers tonight due to what the A’s described as a right leg cramp. After a leadoff double in the sixth inning, Laureano made it into second base despite “limping right out of the box,” as MLB.com’s Martin Gallegos described the situation. Manager Bob Melvin told Gallegos and other reporters that he hoped Laureano would be back on Monday, as the outfielder was already scheduled for a planned day off on Sunday. Laureano missed over five weeks due to a stress reaction in his right shin, and another absence would be the last thing he and the A’s need as the club chases down a wild card berth.
- Amidst the speculation about whether or not J.D. Martinez will exercise the opt-out clause in his Red Sox contract after the season, Ken Rosenthal (in his latest video report for FOX Sports) points out that Martinez doesn’t necessarily have to decide right now if he wants to leave Boston. The slugger also has opt-out clauses after both the 2020 season and (assuming he can avoid another Lisfranc-related right foot injury) 2021 season, so he could perhaps wait one more year to see if his market evolves. Despite Martinez’s hitting prowess, there aren’t too many obvious suitors for a mostly DH-only player….unless the National League were to become involved, as Rosenthal wonders if Martinez would stay in his contract to see if the NL adopted the designated hitter in the next collective bargaining agreement.
- Also from Rosenthal’s video, he makes a case for why Didi Gregorius could be “the odd man out” for the Yankees even if he performed well for the remainder of the season. New York might simply prefer to use Gleyber Torres at shortstop in 2020 rather than re-sign Gregorius, who is almost seven years older than Torres. Recovery from Tommy John surgery kept Gregorius from playing until June 7, and he is one of the few Yankees not tearing the cover off the ball, with a .252/.282/.462 slash line and 14 homers over 280 plate appearances (for a below-average 90 wRC+). If the Yankees did decide to move on from Gregorius, however, Rosenthal figures the team would still need to extend another veteran infielder, as DJ LeMahieu (who’d play every day at second base if Gregorius departed) is only under contract through the 2020 season.
- The Rangers and Yohander Mendez will learn in the offseason whether the left-hander’s one remaining minor league option will still be retained for 2020. Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram details the situation, as the league already granted Mendez a fourth option for this season, though the lefty only made his 2019 debut today after missing the first five-plus months rehabbing a sprained UCL. This means Mendez hasn’t accumulated the 20 days of optional minor league assignment necessary to burn an option year. If Mendez is ruled to be out of options, the Rangers would then have to designate him for assignment (and thus expose him to a waiver claim) if they wished to remove him from the 40-man roster.
The Nationals shouldered another late-inning loss at Citi Field last night as Sean Doolittle folded in the ninth for four runs and the loss. Max Scherzer’s return is more vital now than ever for the Nats, but there’s still not a clear timetable for his activation from the injured list. He threw off flat ground yesterday and may follow it up with a bullpen session today, but the Nationals are content being cautious with their ace, per MASN’s Byron Kerr (via Twitter). Joe Ross has stepped up in Scherzer’s absence with back-to-back scoreless outings on the road. Lowering a 9.85 ERA to 6.75 over the course of two starts must feel pretty good for Ross, but Scherzer’s health remains Washington’s focus. When he does return, Washington will decide between Ross and Erick Fedde for the fifth starter spot. Let’s head to the American League for a couple of health updates…
- Yankees first baseman Luke Voit is doing his best to return to the team, but there won’t be a clear timeline until he resumes baseball activities, per George A. King III of the New York Post. He is running now, but hernia surgery remains a possibility for the 28-year-old Missouri native. Voit built upon his surprising 2018 breakout with more of the same this season. In roughly one season’s worth of playing time between this year and last, Voit appeared in 141 games for 577 plate appearances with a .291/.393/.545 line, 34 home runs and 90 RBIs. With a batting champion taking over for Voit at first (DJ LeMahieu) and another unearthed offensive marvel covering for him at third (Gio Urshela), the Yankees aren’t exactly suffering in Voit’s absence. With a 9 1/2 game lead in the division, they are willing to wait out Voit’s injury in the hopes that he can avoid season-ending surgery.
- The Blue Jays are placing outfielder Lourdes Gurriel Jr. on the 10-day injured list, as Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca tweets. He has been diagnosed with a quadriceps strain. Gurriel is one of the many MLB legacies making waves in Toronto this season with an overall batting line of .279/.331/.548 with 19 home runs. Gurriel Jr. struggled early in the season to the point of being sent back to Triple-A, but since returning from a six-week exile in Buffalo, Yuli’s little brother has looked like an All-Star, hitting .295/.344/.591 with all 19 of his home runs coming since his return. The Blue Jays are rapidly putting together a lineup worth talking about, and Gurriel Jr. is no small part of their future.
The Yankees announced today that an MRI showed inflammation in the right knee of infielder DJ LeMahieu. He suffered a contusion on Friday night and has been limited since. It’s a tough balance for the Yanks, who are already pressing numerous players into unexpectedly significant roles. While the preferred course might be to put LeMahieu on the shelf and bring in a replacement, the club is surely wary of keeping him out longer than needed and must also keep a close watch on 40-man roster pressures. It’s a tough spot — one that makes the club’s ongoing success all the more impressive (and frightening for the rest of the American League East).
Here’s more from the game’s eastern divisions:
- Brock Holt’s path back to the majors has encountered another roadblock. The Red Sox utilityman is now dealing with a shoulder injury, as Chris Cotillo of MassLive.com was among those to report. Details aren’t yet known — he’s due for a medical exam tomorrow — but it seems Holt came down with the ailment recently. He has been working back after suffering a scratched cornea. Holt, 30, turned in a strong .277/.362/.411 slash in 367 plate appearances last year. His absence is amplified by the fact that both Dustin Pedroia and Eduardo Nunez are also on the injured list at the moment.
- Braves outfielder Ender Inciarte left tonight’s game with a hamstring injury. Initial indications are that he is in good shape, skipper Brian Snitker told reporters including David O’Brien of The Athletic (Twitter link), but the true condition of the muscle will be more apparent tomorrow. It’s conceivable that a roster move will be needed. The club wouldn’t necessarily need to bring up an outfielder, though it’s already running out an eight-man bullpen. Adam Duvall surely wouldn’t mind an opportunity. He’s playing at Triple-A for the first time since 2015 and doesn’t seem to want to stay (.306/.388/.647 with seven home runs and 16:11 K/BB through 98 plate appearances).
- It seems that Mets second baseman Robinson Cano has avoided a significant injury after being struck by a pitch on Sunday. X-rays on his hand were negative, so it seems the club needs only to wait for the swelling to subside before it’ll be able to slot him back in the lineup. Cano is off to a solid but hardly overwhelming start to his tenure with New York’s National League entrant. Through 108 plate appearances, he carries a .270/.324/.430 slash line with three home runs. UZR and DRS have soured on his glovework a bit in the early going, though it’s tough to put too much stock in a short-sample run of defensive metrics.
The Angels’ Shohei Ohtani won’t make his season debut during their homestand from April 30-May 5, manager Brad Ausmus told Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register and other reporters Sunday. The two-way star is still on the mend from the Tommy John surgery he underwent on his right elbow last October, which will keep him from pitching this season but won’t prevent him from helping the Angels’ offense. Los Angeles entered Sunday with a middle-of-the-pack offense, though designated hitters Albert Pujols and Kevan Smith have only combined for average hitting to this point relative to their position. Ohtani was far better than that as a rookie in 2018, when he slashed .288/.361/.564 with 22 home runs and 10 steals over 367 plate appearances.
- The injury-ravaged Yankees may have to start dipping into the Double-A level to fill their roster at this rate, as a couple more of their players – infielders DJ LeMahieu and Gio Urshela – left Sunday’s game against the Giants with ailments. LeMahieu departed with right knee inflammation, while Urshela exited after Giants reliever Nick Vincent hit him in the left hand with an 88.5 mph pitch. Luckily for New York, X-rays came back negative in both cases, though LeMahieu will undergo an MRI on Monday (via ESPN.com, Jon Heyman of MLB Network and Kristie Ackert of the New York Daily News). LeMahieu and Urshela have handled third base with aplomb in place of Miguel Andujar, who’s one of 13 Yankees currently on the injured list.
- Red Sox infielders Dustin Pedroia and Eduardo Nunez are set to embark on rehab assignments, manager Alex Cora said Sunday. Meanwhile, fellow banged-up infielder Brock Holt was scratched from his Triple-A rehab game Sunday because of right shoulder soreness (links via Chris Cotillo of MassLive.com). Pedroia landed on the IL on April 18 with yet another left knee injury, but he’s “a lot better” now, according to Cora, who announced he’s likely to play with Double-A Portland beginning May 2. Nunez, down since the 19th with a mid-back strain, will go to Triple-A Pawtucket on Monday and could be back in Boston by May 6, Cotillo writes. Holt has been on the IL since April 6 with a scratched right cornea, and there’s no word on how serious his shoulder problem is. When healthy, Pedroia, Nunez and Holt have posted pitiful production this year, which helps explain why Boston second basemen have recorded the AL’s worst fWAR (minus-0.9).
- Athletics first baseman/outfielder Mark Canha suffered a wrist sprain Sunday and may require a stint on the IL, per Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle. Slusser notes the A’s could recall Skye Bolt or Dustin Fowler to replace Canha, who has hit .200/.377/.375 with a pair of HRs in 53 trips to the plate this year.
Josh Harrison made the most of his time off by spending it with his family, staying busy and working through his usual offseason workouts, but he was certainly frustrated by his experience in free agency, per Chris McCosky of the Detroit News. His $2MM deal with the Tigers finally became official yesterday after news broke of the deal on Wednesday. Harrison struggled in his final year in Pittsburgh with just a .250/.293/.363 batting line in 374 plate appearances – though he was nonetheless worth roughly 2.48 fWAR per season over the four seasons prior. Harrison should be comfortable in Detroit, which is very near to his hometown of Cincinnati and already employs his former double play partner Jordy Mercer. The irony of course is that contenders are often on the lookout for a veteran who can play all over the field on a cheap $2MM deal, so a hot start in Detroit means he likely finishes the season elsewhere. Then, of course, he’ll have to do it all again as a free agent next season. Let’s see how free agency went for another couple of second baseman…
- President of baseball ops David Stearns says new Brewer Brett Lawrie will begin the season in the minors as he attempts a comeback. The Brewers have performed a more extensive physical evaluation than usual for Lawrie – who last played in the majors in 2016 for the White Sox. Lawrie, 29, will not yet begin baseball activities, instead spending the next six weeks working with the Brewers medical and strength staff. Given the multitude of lower body injuries Lawrie suffered throughout his career, the Brewers are intent on doing the leg work, so to speak, “to understand what’s going on with Brett’s body from a physical perspective,” though Stearns made sure to point out that Lawrie is not injured at this time. Rather, the goal of these next six weeks is to set up Lawrie, best they can, to get healthy and stay healthy while playing baseball. Watch the video of Stearns addressing Lawrie’s situation on the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
- We already knew the Rays considered signing DJ LeMahieu in free agency, but the interest was apparently mutual. LeMahieu gave “serious thought” to signing with the Tampa Bay Rays before joining their AL East rival, per Eduardo A. Encina of the Tampa Bay Times. It’s not exactly a shocking revelation, as the Rays could offer LeMahieu much the same situation he will receive in New York – at least in terms of playing time on a competitive roster. Still, it’s not often likely these two teams go head-to-head in free agency.
Count the Rays among the teams that chased second baseman DJ LeMahieu during his trip to the open market, according to Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. Before LeMahieu joined the division-rival Yankees on a two-year, $24MM guarantee, Tampa Bay was “very much in on” him, Topkin writes. Now, with spring training approaching, it’s possible the Rays’ roster may be set, suggests Topkin, who runs down the team’s options at each position. However, Topkin still doesn’t rule out further moves, including a trade for Marlins catcher J.T. Realmuto, who has garnered serious interest this month from the Rays and several other teams.
More from the East Coast…
- With the Braves looking for help in the grass, general manager Alex Anthopoulos revealed Saturday that there are “probably” three outfielders available who fit what the club is seeking, David O’Brien of The Athletic tweets. Anthopoulos added one or more of those players has been in trade discussions but has not made it into the rumor mill, per O’Brien, who surmises that free agents A.J. Pollock and Nick Markakis and Diamondbacks outfielder David Peralta could make up at least a couple of the Braves’ targets. The Braves have been connected to all three throughout the winter, and the easiest to acquire would likely be Markakis, who capped off a four-year run in Atlanta with a solid showing in 2018. But as a 35-year-old corner outfielder with an unspectacular resume, it’s obvious Markakis – unlike Pollock – is not a candidate to land a long-term contract.
- Before he agreed to sign with the Twins on Saturday, left-hander Martin Perez drew interest from the Mets, Jon Heyman of Fancred relays. However, the Mets wanted Perez as a depth piece, which helped point him to a better opportunity in Minnesota, Heyman reports. Coming off a miserable 2018 in Texas, Perez wouldn’t have been a clear upgrade over anyone in the Mets’ rotation – a group that features reigning NL Cy Young winner Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Zack Wheeler, Steven Matz and Jason Vargas. The Mets’ top depth starting possibilities include Seth Lugo, though he may be too important to their bullpen to move to the rotation if a need arises, and recent minor league pickup Hector Santiago.
- Back to the Braves, who should get back a couple of their own key pitchers in time for spring training. Both starter Mike Soroka and reliever Darren O’Day are on track to return after injury-shortened seasons, Gabe Burns of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution details. The 21-year-old Soroka was terrific during a five-start, 25 2/3-inning major league debut in 2018, but he last took the mound June 19 on account of shoulder inflammation. He’s now a favorite to win a starting spot in Atlanta heading into 2019, Burns observes. O’Day, meanwhile, underwent season-ending hamstring surgery in late June, but the Braves nonetheless took him from the Orioles a month later in a deal headlined by Kevin Gausman. The 36-year-old O’Day had been amid another quality season before he went down, continuing a long run of effectiveness. With a $9MM salary, he’s currently the Braves’ most expensive reliever.
Jan. 14: The Yankees have now announced the deal.
Jan. 11, 7:50pm: The deal promises LeMahieu $12MM in each of its two seasons, Jon Heyman of Fancred tweets.
11:43am: LeMahieu is heading to the Yankees, tweets Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic. His contract is believed to be a two-year deal with a guarantee in the range of $24MM.
11:40am: The Yankees are closing in on a two-year contract with free-agent second baseman DJ LeMahieu, reports Jack Curry of the YES Network (Twitter links). New York’s plan for LeMahieu is to use him as a multi-positional asset, where he’ll see time at second base, third base and even at first base, per Curry.
With LeMahieu and Troy Tulowitzki now in the fold, Manny Machado looks to be less of a fit in the Bronx than ever, although the addition of those two players certainly doesn’t preclude a signing. There’s been talk earlier this winter of the possibility that the Yanks could yet move an infielder, and Tulowitzki’s league-minimum salary doesn’t represent much of an impediment if the Yankees decide to alter their course. That said, there’s no denying that today’s agreement with LeMahieu does seem to make that long-speculated match with Machado considerably less plausible.
The Yankees’ infield now likely consists of Miguel Andujar at third base, Tulowitzki at short, Gleyber Torres at second base and Luke Voit at first, with LeMahieu filling in as a versatile super-sub and Greg Bird also on hand as an option at first base. Didi Gregorius, of course, will join that mix later this season when he is sufficiently recovered from Tommy John surgery. It’s a crowded mix but a deep and highly talented one that should provide the Yankees plenty of insurance against injury while also allowing them to field a strong lineup even on days when their top bats are resting.
LeMahieu, 29, is perennially among the game’s premier defensive second baseman and has consistently hit for average, though his overall production has wavered somewhat on a year-over-year basis. LeMahieu won a surprise National League batting title when he hit .348/.416/.495 in a career year back in 2016, but while he followed that up with a high-quality .310 average in 2017, his power fell off, as he slugged just .409 that season and posted a .099 ISO (slugging minus batting average). This past season, most of his pop returned, but his overall output checked in at .276/.321/.428 — rather pedestrian production when considering his hitter-friendly home setting (86 wRC+).
All in all, LeMahieu generally rates as an average or better overall hitter with premium defensive skills. He’s batted a combined .309/.369/.429 across the past four seasons and been one of the toughest strikeouts in the league over that span, punching out in just 14.2 percent of his plate appearances. And while some will make a point to note that his home/road splits are rather pronounced, he’ll be moving from Coors Field to yet another one of the game’s premier hitters’ parks, Yankee Stadium.