Two years ago, DJ LeMahieu tallied a double, walk, and a strikeout against the Milwaukee Brewers in the clinching game of the National League Division Series. When he left, so did the security he brought.
At November’s onset, in 2018, I put together a piece. I wrote, “Swallowing the loss of a franchise mainstay is a difficult proposition. DJ LeMahieu has seen his Colorado Rockies career reach an impasse, and there’s only one solution.”
The solution: move on from LeMahieu and find a viable replacement, saving money in turn.
Of all the columns I’ve written, few predictions have gone worse. He signed a two-year, $24 million deal with the New York Yankees, roughly the exact deal the Rockies gave Daniel Murphy.
LeMahieu has slashed .336/.386/.536 in 195 games since the two deals were signed. He’s made an All-Star team and likely would’ve made another if the festivities commenced in 2020. He finished fourth in the American League MVP voting last year and figures to bring in another heap of votes and another Silver Slugger this year.
Now, he’s on the market again. This time, he won’t be cheap, nor will he be attainable by the Rockies, so the options are scarce.
Tommy La Stella (1.2), Mitch Moreland (0.9) and Brad Miller (0.8) are the three options behind LeMahieu with the three-highest WAR totals last season who’ve seen action at first base. Of them, it’s hard to predict any, besides La Stella, to be impactful.
Before last season, La Stella was signed by the Los Angeles Angels for $3.25 million. The one-year pact was paid out by the Oakland Athletics after he was traded near the deadline.
En route to 0.5 WAR, he slugged .449 and had a park-adjusted OPS of 127 – not terrible. Murphy had an OPS+ of 54 last season while Fuentes finished at 90.
The Rockies currently have six hitters on their 40-man roster who hit left-handed. Among them, David Dahl has dealt with injuries, Raimel Tapia and Ryan McMahon have dealt with inconsistency, and Charlie Blackmon will turn 34 next season.
Adding La Stella could be a valuable move for versatility sake as he’s both left-handed and has appeared at every infield position, except shortstop. The last time the Rockies made a move for a versatile, yet inexperienced first baseman was Murphy. Before that, they tried to bring in Ian Desmond, who eventually took the same role.
Both moves were horrendous, so optimism for La Stella would be limited.
Several switch-hitting options exist for the Rockies as well. Carlos Santana, Asdrúbal Cabrera, and Neil Walker are all free agents. All three are at least 35 years old, so a one-year, mentor-type contract could make sense.
La Stella will likely require a multiple-year deal, but the virus’ financial impacts figure to limit the year-to-year values of several contracts this offseason. Maybe the club simply gives him the money they were giving to Murphy.
The other three options all represent both a fiscal and performance discount. As of now, there’s been no indication a move will happen at all.