Perspectives: D.J. vs Didi, Maybe It’s Time To Go Another Direction…
by Paul Semendinger
January 13, 2021
A few weeks ago, on December 29, I argued that D.J. LeMahieu is the most powerful person in New York baseball. At the time I stated:
The New York Yankees are being held hostage by this player. They have said it time and again. Their first priority is figuring out what will happen with D.J. LeMahieu. Until they determine what will happen with him, they cannot do anything else. As the rest of baseball awakes from its months-long slumber and starts addressing their teams for 2021, the Yankees sit and wait (and literally beg LeMahieu to come back). It’s embarrassing. The entire Yankees’ 2020-21 off-season rests in the hands of D.J. LeMahieu. He is driving the ship. If the Yankees resign him, they’re done. That’ll be their big deal. If they don’t, they’ll look around for the scraps that come after the other big names have gone off the board.
Much of what I wrote above was absolutely correct – and very little has changed since I wrote that.
The Yankees are still unable to do anything until they figure out what to do with LeMahieu. He holds all the keys to the Yankees 2021 season (and beyond). The Yankees have invested the entirety of their off-season in their pursuit of D.J. LeMahieu.
D.J. is running the ship.
In that post, I was incorrect about one thing… D.J. isn’t the most powerful man in New York baseball. That man is Steve Cohen who, since that article was written, acquired Francisco Lindor for the Mets. The Mets are moving and creating excitement.
At some point, the Yankees will have to make a decision on LeMahieu. This negotiation must eventually come to and end. And, if LeMahieu signs elsewhere, the Yankees may have to turn to an old favorite – Didi Gregorius.
If they do, there could be a lot of positives to that move. Among these would be:
Gregorius will come at a much cheaper cost in years (LeMahieu is asking for five, the Yankees seem stuck at four but Gregorius could come for as little as two or three)
Gregorius will also come at a much lower salary (LeMahieu is seeking more than $20M per season, Gregorius could probably be had for half that)
The money saved by acquiring Gregorius would allow the Yankees to address other needs (pitching) that they will not be able to if they sign LeMahieu and remain committed to staying under the luxury tax threshold
Signing Didi Gregorius allows Gleyber Torres to return to second base in 2021 – the position he is better suited for. (If you had a young superstar wouldn’t you want to play him where he be most comfortable?)
Quick Aside #1 – One thing that no person has written about in all of this are the perspectives of Gleyber Torres. I have to wonder how he feels about all of this. All winter long he has had no clue what position he’ll play in 2021. Will he be a shortstop? Will he be a second baseman? Might this lack of knowledge about his position impact on his own preparation for the season?
I thought it would be valuable to compare D.J. LeMahieu to Didi Gregorius statistically over the last few years.
The common narrative is that LeMahieu is the vastly superior player, but is that completely true?
Is D.J. LeMahieu worth a contract that would most likely be double in years and cost of what a contract for Gregorius would be?
Quick Aside #2 – Baseball players are human beings. Human beings who have feelings. It seems, because they remain so far apart and unwilling to budge, that the Yankees and LeMahieu are at bitter odds. It seems logical to assume that LeMahieu must be feeling disrespected by the Yankees. How will that play out – even if they do resign him? How will he feel if he has to settle for the Yankees’ lower offer? However this plays out, there is the possibility that genuine bad feelings have been established that could impact LeMahieu’s performance. He would not be the first player to feel disrespected by a team and have those feelings impact his playing performance. This is something we will only find out with time.
Comparing Didi to D.J.:
Didi Gregorius plays the more premium position (shortstop over second base)
Didi Gregorius is younger. 2021 will be his age-31 season. In 2021, D.J. LeMahieu will turn 33.
Over the last four seasons, D.J. LeMahieu has a higher batting average than Didi Gregorius (.312 to .270)
Over the last four seasons, Didi Gregorius has out slugged D.J. LeMahieu (.477 to .466) (I’ll bet no one saw that coming. Didi has a higher slugging percentage than LeMahieu over the last four years, one of which was when he was out for much of the season due to surgery and was rushed back.)
Didi has out-homered D.J. over the last four years by a significant margin (78-59)
D.J. has a higher WAR than Didi in that time (14.6 to 10.7)
It’s time that the Yankees and D.J. LeMahieu sit down and hammer this thing out. It has dragged on for far too long, maybe too long. Maybe the time for reconciliation has even passed.
At this point, the Yankees might well consider bringing back Didi Gregorius.
It might be the smarter move for any number of reasons.