It turns out Yankees general manager Brian Cashman doesn’t need to flash the big bucks to put together a serious contender.
In fact, 2019 may be forever remembered as the year of the bargain hunter.
The Yankees had ample opportunities to go out and sign a bona fide offensive difference-maker over the winter.
A loaded free-agent class was headlined by two of the game’s best young players in left fielder Bryce Harper and third baseman Manny Machado.
The Yankees always have the money to woo any big-name free agent, but they were surprisingly quiet. Harper went to the Phillies while Machado signed on with the Padres in mega-deals that began at $300 million.
Instead, Cashman made smaller, much cheaper signings. Though it didn’t provide nearly as much star power. Hence some uneasy feelings heading into the season.
No one saw the signing of DJ LeMahieu as a game-changer. At most, he’d be a nice utility infielder to provide off days for Luke Voit, Gleyber Torres, and Miguel Andujar.
But then the injuries hit.
Didi Gregorius was still recovering from Tommy John surgery, prompting the team to sign Troy Tulowitzki; who quickly landed on the IL as well. Andujar suffered a shoulder injury that required season-ending surgery back in May.
It forced the Yankees to rely heavily on LeMahieu and Gio Urshela.
A 27-year-old utility infielder with a .225 average and eight career home runs in 167 games dating back to 2015.
But as is the story with plenty of Yankees over the years, the Pinstripes provide a certain surge of power to those who don the jersey.
That’s the Yankee mystique.
Not only have LeMahieu and Urshela answered the call this season for the Yankees, but they’ve put together better seasons than Harper and Machado.
After batting .276 with the Colorado Rockies last season — which suggested his better days were behind him — LeMahieu is leading the American League with a .337 batting average along with a career-high 19 home runs and 81 RBI.
He had never hit more than 15 home runs with 66 RBI in any of his first eight MLB seasons.
While LeMahieu’s power has been a pleasant surprise for the Yankees, Urshela’s emergence has been something completely out of left field (where Harper plays).
In 100 games this season, Urshela is batting .335 with 18 home runs and 64 RBI, epitomizing the “next man up” mantra that has fueled the Yankees to the top of the American League this season.
Just look how the two Yankee surprises compare to Machado and Harper this season:
2019 Statistical Breakdown: Harper vs. Machado vs. LeMahieu vs. Urshela
Now take a look at how much money they’ll be making over the life of their current contracts.
LeMahieu: 2 years, $24 million
Urshela: 1 year, $550,000
Harper: 13 years, $330 million
Machado: 10 years, $300 million
Who got the better deal?