Yan­kees’ LeMahieu leads off lineup of some of the best off­sea­son moves

The News-Times - - SPORTS -

NEW YORK — The dust is now set­tling from a free agent off­sea­son that was con­sumed with Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, both of whom finally did get their money. Whether they were worth it won’t be known for at least five years.

What we are al­ready see­ing, how­ever, is that hid­den among all the hype and hul­la­baloo for Harper and Machado, there were some re­ally smart much smaller sign­ings that are hav­ing sig­nif­i­cant im­pact on their teams’ early per­for­mance — none more so than the Yan­kees’ DJ LeMahieu.

Look­ing back now, it’s a won­der LeMahieu, af­ter seven solid sea­sons (av­er­age .299 in­clud­ing one bat­ting ti­tle and three Gold Gloves) in Colorado was still hanging around the mar­ket un­signed as late as Jan. 14. Per­haps it was because he’d turned 30 and spent three short stints on the dis­abled list in ‘18, but Brian Cash­man was able to sign him for two years/$24 mil­lion in what is now look­ing as the bargain of the win­ter. Cash­man, of course, could not have fore­seen the mind-bog­gling spate of in­juries the Yan­kees have in­curred this sea­son. It’s safe to say, though, with­out the versatile LeMahieu, who went into the week­end leading the team in hits (42) and dou­bles (10) and sec­ond in bat­ting while fill­ing in ably at sec­ond, third and even first, they would have taken a much big­ger toll.

“If you ask me, if they had a vote right now for Amer­i­can League MVP, LeMahieu would have to be in the con­ver­sa­tion,” said a scout who has fol­lowed the Yan­kees. “He’s been that good and that im­por­tant to them.” In par­tic­u­lar, the scout said, be­sides his de­fense LeMahieu has pro­vided the Yan­kees with some­thing they sorely lacked last year - a guy who puts the ball in play, who will go to the

op­po­site field and is one of the best two-strike hit­ters in the game.

It would also seem LeMahieu’s move to the Yan­kees has had a neg­a­tive ef­fect on the Rock­ies, who’ve been mired near the bottom of the NL West and who rank 23rd in the ma­jors in on-base per­cent­age.

Here are some other free agent sign­ings that went largely un­no­ticed last win­ter but are now mak­ing their teams look smart:

No team had a more pro­duc­tive win­ter on the freeagent mar­ket than the Twins, spend­ing a to­tal of $14.7 mil­lion on lefty starter Martin Perez (5-0, 2.83), sec­ond base­man Jonathan Schoop

(.283/6HR/17RBIs/.845 OPS) and closer Blake Parker (6

saves/1.54 ERA), all of whom have played a big part in Min­nesota’s rise to the top of the AL Cen­tral.

A pedes­trian starter (43-49.

4.54) in seven sea­sons with Texas, Perez, who signed a one-year deal for $4 mil­lion, has emerged as a No. 1 in the early go­ing for Twins GM Thad Levine (who signed him in Texas). He is now fully re­cov­ered from the el­bow in­jury that plagued him last year.

Af­ter a career year with the Orioles in ‘17 (.293/32 HR/105 RBI) Schoop, de­clined dra­mat­i­cally in ‘18 and wound up get­ting non-ten­dered by the Brew­ers, which is why the Twins were able to sign him for a rather mod­est one year/

$7.5M.

The 33-year-old Parker has bounced around with four teams, in­clud­ing the Yan­kees in ‘16, but had a break­through year with the Angels in 2017, strik­ing out 86 in 67 1⁄3 in­nings and con­vert­ing seven of eight save op­por­tu­ni­ties af­ter tak­ing over as their closer in mid-Au­gust. He tailed off in

2018 and the Angels de­clined to of­fer him a contract and the Twins signed him for

$3.2M, where he’s set­tled right in as their closer.

The Di­a­mond­backs are also get­ting a big closer div­i­dend from 33-year-old Greg Hol­land, who they signed to a one-year $3.5 mil­lion contract. He has so far re­verted to his All-Star form with the Rock­ies and Royals (1.93 ERA/8

saves/18K in 14 IP).

We said it at the time and we’ll say it again: One of the ab­so­lute best sign­ings of the win­ter was the Astros land­ing three-time All-Star left fielder Michael Brant­ley for two years/$32M. The left­handed-hit­ting Brant­ley, whose 11 per­cent strike­out rate was the third lowest in the ma­jors last year, fits per­fectly into the righty-heavy Astros lineup and is off to a

.338/9 HR/28 RBI/.979 OPS start. But it’s his club­house lead­er­ship that’s im­mea­sur­able — and it speaks vol­umes about the In­di­ans and where they’re head­ing that they felt they couldn’t af­ford to bring him back.

Pi­rates GM Neal Hunt­ing­ton is no doubt smart­ing over his trade of Tyler Glas­now and Austin Mead­ows to the Rays last year for Chris Archer, but it may be some­what as­suaged by his sign­ing of Jor­dan Lyles for one year/

$2.05M. Hunt­ing­ton’s scouts were im­pressed by the changes Lyles made in his pitch se­lec­tion as a bullpen oper­a­tive for the Brew­ers last sea­son and felt he was ready to move into a starter’s role. In his first six starts for the Pi­rates, Lyles has fash­ioned a

2.20 ERA and 1.163 WHIP. On the flip side, even though the sea­son is barely a month and a half along, there are al­ready a few free agent sign­ings gone hope­lessly bad. The Na­tion­als had hoped to solve their sec­ond base sit­u­a­tion and their back end bullpen is­sues with the sign­ings of Brian Dozier for $9 mil­lion and Trevor Rosen­thal for $7 mil­lion, but so far both have been busts. Dozier’s hit­ting only .187 while Rosen­thal had to be send back to the mi­nors when he couldn’t get anybody out (36.00 ERA, 5.33 WHIP).

The White Sox signed Ervin San­tana (for $4.3M) to bol­ster their start­ing ro­ta­tion and Jon Jay (for $4M) to pro­vide out­field depth and hope­fully re­cruit his best friend, Machado, to the South Side. But Machado spurned the White Sox and Jay has been on the dis­abled list since spring train­ing with a groin in­jury. As for San­tana, he was cut loose last week af­ter giv­ing up 19 hits and 14 runs over 13 1⁄3 in­nings.

The Phillies have good rea­son to be con­cerned about their two-year/$23M in­vest­ment in David Robert­son. Af­ter fail­ing in his first seven ap­pear­ances (5.40 ERA), the ring­leader of the Yan­kee play­ers’ de­ci­sion to stiff the team’s sup­port peo­ple out of any post­sea­son money went on the IL with an el­bow is­sue. But the worst sign­ing of all was un­ques­tion­ably the Mets’

three-year/$30M deal for Jeurys Fa­milia. We could never fig­ure out what Brodie Van Wa­ge­nen was think­ing on this deal. Fa­milia had some truly aw­ful out­ings with the A’s down the stretch last year and at times looked like there wasn’t a whole lot left there — and then he mer­ci­fully went on the IL last week with a shoul­der in­jury, sport­ing a 6.28 ERA with 16 hits and 13 walks in 14.1 in­nings. Met fans can only hope they’ll be spared ever hav­ing to watch Fa­milia come into a game and walk the first bat­ter he faces again.

Steve Nesius / As­so­ci­ated Press

The two-year, $24 mil­lion deal the Yan­kees signed DJ LeMahieu to this off­sea­son is look­ing like a bargain.

Steve Nesius / As­so­ci­ated Press

DJ LeMahieu went into the week­end leading the Yan­kees in hits (42) and dou­bles (10).

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