Arguably the best second baseman in Colorado Rockies franchise history has found a new home in the Bronx. YES Network’s Jack Curry first reported early Friday morning that longtime Rockie DJ LeMahieu has agreed to a two-year, $24 million contract with the New York Yankees.
The most interesting part of this deal was the fact that DJ LeMahieu signed a contract identical to that of Daniel Murphy, who will try to provide some offensive stability at first base for the Colorado Rockies.
That fact proves that the Rockies were prepared to let LeMahieu walk, and give Ryan McMahon and Garrett Hampson the opportunity to play for the Opening Day second base job as we progress through Spring Training in a few short months, which is something fans should be excited about.
Don’t get me wrong, DJ was a crucial part of this franchise for the past seven years, winning three Gold Gloves, a Wilson Defensive Player of the Year award, a batting title and earning a pair of All-Star appearances during his time in Denver. His clubhouse presence will certainly be missed by the likes of Nolan Arenado and Charlie Blackmon. (LeMahieu even came to rescue his buddy when he was stranded on the side of the road!)
ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick included this quote from Arenado in his story about LeMahieu as the Rockies neared the end of the regular season and DJ crept closer to free agency:
"“If fans knew how much we appreciate DJ and saw how much we care for him and how important he is to this team, they’d realize what a big factor he is. He sets the standard for us. We go where he goes, really.”"
Letting LeMahieu walk, while certainly a difficult decision, was also the right one. The Rockies offensive struggles the past two seasons have been well-documented, and LeMahieu, while still an exceptional defensive second baseman, has seen a decline in offensive production since 2016 when he won his NL Batting Title and finished 15th in MVP voting.
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During that 2016 season, LeMahieu hit .348/.416/.495 with a .911 OPS and an OPS+ of 128. It was the best offensive season of his career, by far. He hit 11 home runs, the second-best mark of his career, and had a wRC+ of 130. He was a 4.4-win player, according to fWAR.
In 2017, LeMahieu had a fine offensive season. It wasn’t anything like his 2016, but it was still good. He slashed .310/.374/.409 with a .783 OPS. OPS+, which is park-adjusted on a scale where 100 is league-average, reported a below-average mark of 93. His fWAR dropped to 1.9.
Last year, LeMahieu took another step back, offensively. He hit .276/.321/.428 with a .749 OPS and an OPS+ of 88. His wRC+ was 86, and he was a 2.0-win player according to fWAR.
It wasn’t all doom and gloom for DJ in 2018, though. Last year was the best defensive season he’s ever had, and he was rewarded for it. According to Fangraphs, LeMahieu’s total defensive value (Def) was worth 12.9 runs last year. His second-best mark by that stat? 8.7 runs back in 2014.