Well, the inevitable has finally become official.
Longtime Rockies second baseman DJ LeMahieu has signed a 2-year contract for $24 million with the New York Yankees. He’ll join old friend Troy Tulowitzki in a reshaped Yankees infield that should have no shortage of power, defensive acumen, or top-level professionalism.
Looking back on LeMahieu legacy with the Rockies, we can see a player that grew past all expectations while helping the organization reach new heights competitively. In his seven seasons in Denver, LeMahieu established impeccable credentials, winning three Gold Gloves (2014, ’17, and ’18), making two All-Star teams (’15 and ’17), and even winning the 2016 batting title.
LeMahieu first came to the Rockies in a trade with the Cubs following the 2011 season that, at the time, was most notable for shipping one-time prospect Ian Stewart out of Denver. The new acquisition brought with him a reputation as a decent contact hitter and solid defender with middling prospects for ever developing into a full-time regular, let alone an All-Star.
It should be noted that the Rockies definitively won that trade with the Cubs, sending Stewart and Casey Weathers to Chicago for LeMahieu and Tyler Colvin. Stewart had two disastrous seasons with the Cubs and later the Angels before exiting the majors for good and Weathers never made it above AA. Colvin posted a solid 1.7 WAR 2012 before flaming out, leaving LeMahieu as the lone consistent major leaguer involved in the transaction.
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LeMahieu stands as far and away the team leader in games played at second base and he managed to work his way into the top ten in a number of significant offensive categories as well. He walks away from the Rockies ranked 8th in total games, hits, and at-bats, 7th in triples, 9th in batting average, runs scored, and stolen bases, 4th in defensive WAR, and 7th in overall WAR.
Despite playing exclusively at second base the last four years, the Yankees plan to use LeMahieu as a sort of super-utility infielder, according to Jack Curry of the YES Network. He’s expected to see some time at both third and first, where he occasionally played during his first few years in the majors. Depending on Tulowitzki’s health, he may also potentially see some reps at short, at least until Didi Gregorius is ready to return from Tommy John surgery.
Regardless of how the Yankees use him, it will be hard to watch LeMahieu play in any uniform other than Rockies’ purple and black. His towering 6’4” frame and distinctive hitting approach have been mainstays in Denver for the better part of this last decade, a period that saw the Rockies transform from middling also-rans to a perennial playoff contender that is looking to make the post-season for the third straight year.
It remains to be seen how the second base job shakes out for the Rockies in 2019. Garrett Hampson and Ryan McMahon will be given the first crack, with uber-prospect Brendan Rodgers waiting in the wings – and who knows, maybe newly acquired Daniel Murphy will get some reps at his old position too. Regardless of who plays the keystone next year, however, they’ll have some awfully big cleats to fill.
Good luck in New York, DJ. We’ll miss you big guy.