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The hidden advantage of a Rockies, DJ LeMahieu reunion

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Colorado Rockies analysis and links for Tuesday, November 10, 2020

I know, it sounds like some twisted version of Pretty Woman. The clerks don’t treat the second baseman dressed in raggedy clothes well, so they kick them out of the store but Brian Cashman takes that second baseman in and shows him the finer things in life, like how to be true to yourself and winning lots of baseball games (and also a bunch of home runs). He even gets his ownBig mistake. Big. Huge!” moment.

Now imagine if those clerks turned around and said, “Hey, we get it now, and we’re sorry. Here, come play for us now!”

Okay, all analogies break down at some point but hear me out a bit (and I promise we won’t be going back to the “Sign DJ LeMahieu” well once a month until he signs).

Early reports indicate that DJ’s most likely destination is the Bronx, though some find it significant that an extension was not reached before he hit the open market. After two years in New York, it seems that the reports of his demise were greatly exaggerated. Unimpressive home/road splits and a three-year-low wRC+ of 87 in 2018 led many in Rockies land to acknowledge that it may be time to say goodbye. After all, if the Rockies had one strong position in the farm, it was in the middle of the diamond.

I’m sure by now we all know what happened, but here are some numbers to back up how monumentally bad that good-process-bad-result decision went for the Rockies.

First and Second Basemen, 2019-2020

Position PA HR RBI SB ISO AVG/OBP/SLG wRC+ fWAR
Position PA HR RBI SB ISO AVG/OBP/SLG wRC+ fWAR
Rockies 1B 1015 28 148 5 .158 .255/.311/.413 73 -1.6
Rockies 2B 1475 49 165 27 .163 .236/.302/.399 69 -0.7
DJ LeMahieu 871 36 129 8 .199 .336/.389/.536 146 7.8
Stats include 2019 and 2020 seasons via FanGraphs

It’s easy to be overwhelmed by the disparity in those numbers but take note that I included all Rockies second basemen and first basemen in the total (I don’t want to pick on any player in particular for the Rockies). DJ said after signing that he signed with the Yankees despite the lack of clear path to regular playing time because he wanted to play for a winner. That led him to getting regular reps at second, third, and first. Would he have been willing to do something similar in order to stay put in Colorado? We’ll never know.

Those numbers and that versatility turned DJ into an MVP finalist and make him a prime candidate for any team, despite what will likely be a depressed free agent market due to the lack of revenue in 2020. What makes him so intriguing for the Rockies is that he would provide a significant boost to an offense that has been putrid in the last few years. As a whole, the team posted a wRC+ of 88 each year from 2016 to 2019 before cratering to a 76 wRC+ last season. They need the offense, but they might need DJ’s knowledge more.

DJ famously made some adjustments at the plate when he got to New York that shifted him back to being the best version of the player he had always been. The Rockies had tried to help him change his approach to get more power in 2018 and it worked! He hit 15 home runs. Then he went to New York, they told him to go back to the old approach and, since Yankee Stadium has a ridiculously short porch in right field, he went on to hit 26. And they say Coors Field is a hitter’s haven.

But here’s where DJ’s potential value to the Rockies shoots up. DJ’s success after leaving Denver coincides with Jake McGee’s (yes, that Jake McGee) when he went to the Dodgers after being let go. There is little question that the Yankees and Dodgers have some of the best coaching and analytics out there, so any lessons DJ can bring to the team would provide a helpful boost. Yes, the offensive boost will help, but the knowledge transfer would be big as well.

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Each team’s perfect free agent to sign | MLB.com

Well hey, look at that! Someone else thinks DJ would be a good fit for Denver. The Yankees may make this a moot point by giving DJ a long enough contract that he’ll eventually decline. But that doesn’t mean it wouldn’t be a good idea for the Rockies.

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