Good news, bad news

The Yankees and DJ Lemahieu have come to an agreement on a 6 year, $90 million dollar contract, according to multiple sources (although as I’m typing this, it has yet to be made official).

The good news is that I get to watch D.J. Lemahieu play baseball every day – what fan wouldn’t be happy about that? The guy is a line drive hitting machine who plays second base at a plus level and two other positions at a competent level. He plays hard, and never utters a word – there’s nothing to NOT like.

The bad news is that I’m not sure the Yankees are a better team as a result of the signing. Having DJ at second base, Gio Urshela at 3rd base, Luke Voit at 1st base and Giancarlo Stanton DHing means Gleyber Torres will be the shortstop more or less every day.

And there are two things that both you and I know, dear reader:

One: If your shortstop is a defensive liability, you have a serious problem. The list of teams who have won a World Series with a poor defensive shortstop is a very short list – ironically, the ’09 Yankees may be the last to do so.

Two: If the question is “Who is the worst defensive shortstop in baseball?”, Gleyber is in that discussion.

If you’re unsure about point two or if you’re unsure of the extent of the liability, consider:

Among 39 qualified shortstops in 2020, Gleyber ranked 37th in outs above average, according to Baseball Savant, and he’s at his worst going to his right – more on this in a second.

Fangraph’s combined defensive metrics put him 37th out of 37 qualified shortstops in 2020.

Baseball Reference has him 37th out of 37 shortstops in defensive WAR in 2020. Every measuring tool they use, of which there are more than a half-dozen, he’s rated below average.

And if going to his right is a weakness, remember that despite a great backhand that lands him on SportsCenter regularly, Gio Urshela has no range at 3rd base. This is why he’s ranked below average on all the above measurements as well, despite the occasional highlight reel play. Having one player on the left side with no range is one thing – two is a big problem.

Is it possible Torres will improve? Of course. This isn’t like the Miguel Andujar situation in which the player was historically bad – no one that bad had ever stayed at 3rd base. Gleyber just turned 24, has only played 138 games at shortstop spread over three seasons and obviously 2020 is a small sample size.

But the problem is this: He had better improve. Because if he doesn’t, you have a 24 year old, two time All-Star 2nd baseman and nowhere to play him because you just signed a 32 year old 2nd baseman to a six year contract.

The fan in me is ecstatic about knowing I’ll be seeing DJ every day and has his fingers crossed that Gleyber’s defense improves. The detached observer in me wonders if this was the wrong play. Putting the 24 year old All-Star 2nd baseman back at second, and acquiring a plus defensive shortstop may have been the better roster construction move.

Did I miss something? Let me know.

*Baseball Savant uses number of defensive chances to determine “qualified” – I used a minimum number of games played on Fangraphs and Baseball Reference to determine “qualified” – in case you were wondering about the different number of qualifiers.


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