Heading into the offseason after their ALDS loss to the Red Sox, the Yankees had offseason goals to fortify their roster so that result didn't occur yet again. Starting pitching was an obvious top-of-the-list priority, but there was also the prospect of adding All-Star Manny Machado to an already-stacked lineup that touted the likes of Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton.
But the Yankees never made that giant splash many expected GM Brian Cashman to make. He did trade with the Mariners for lefty James Paxton to be the team's hopeful ace (he's finally trending in that direction after his last two starts), but the Machado signing never came to fruition. In fact, the Yankees didn't have too much interest in the young infielder.
Instead, Cashman took a flyer on Troy Tulowitzki to fill in at shortstop while Didi Gregorius rehabbed his way back from Tommy John surgery. And even before that signing, the Yankees brought free agent DJ LeMahieu on board to be their versatile infielder through the season.
After this first month of the season, LeMahieu has arguably been the team's best addition.
So how did the 30-year-old utility man find his way to the Bronx in the first place? The Athletic's Lindsey Adler dug deep into the acquisition and found that Cashman actually inquired with LeMahieu's agent, Joel Wolfe, after the World Series to say there was interest on New York's end. Cashman needed to fill the more important needs, but he wanted to make sure Wolfe knew the Yankees were at play for his client.
"Cashman wanted to be one of the first in to let us know they were interested," Wolfe said.
The Yankees' interest in LeMahieu had one particular scout highly on his side. Jim Hendry, a special assignment scout, drafted LeMahieu to the Cubs back in 2009 as the team's GM after seeing what he could do for the LSU Tigers. He loved his consistent approach at the plate, and his natural ability to hit to the opposite field.
But Hendry knew the Yankees didn't need an everyday second baseman -- a role that LeMahieu had earned over his eight-year career.
"DJ's earned the right to play in a full-time capacity," Hendry said. "And obviously we didn't have a full-time spot."
LeMahieu could have chose one of the other teams interested in offering him their second base role, but the Yankee interest was very mutual. LeMahieu was given a portfolio of teams by Wolfe, but he made sure to let the agency know the Yankees were the first team on his list.
Why? The winning pedigree.
"I saw the talent on this team and how this team has dedicated to winning with the guys in this locker room," LeMahieu said.
"It was a pretty easy choice."
So instead of the guarantee that he would be playing second base everyday, LeMahieu was now the Yankees' Swiss Army knife in the infield. And manager Aaron Boone said from the start that the Yankees were going to try and get LeMahieu in as much as possible not just because of his stout defense, but his bat. The man won a batting title three years ago for crying out loud.
With the Yankees suffering from injuries early on this season, playing time wasn't an issue. LeMahieu has been featured at third base for the hurt Miguel Andujar, and with Tulowitzki going down and Gleyber Torres moving to shortstop, he has been the primary second baseman for some time now.
LeMahieu has played in 21 of the Yankees' 22 games, and is hitting .293/.353/.413 with a homer, six doubles, and 10 RBI. Between that consistent production and a smooth glove, he is showing Yankee fans that Machado may not have been needed in the first place.
But to those who have seen LeMahieu play throughout his career, this isn't a surprise.
"I think now, in the biggest market in the world, people are starting to understand how good of a player he is," Hendry said.
It may have been a quiet signing, but his impact has been anything but that so far this season.