Yankees in serious slump, calls grow for Cabrera to unseat LeMahieu at hot corner

Yankees in dilemma over third base options - veteran DJ LaMahieu or young Oswaldo Cabrera?
Esteban Quiñones
Thursday June 27, 2024

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As the skies opened up over Citi Field, the Yankees found themselves mired in a storm of their own making. Wednesday night’s loss to the Mets not only underscored their recent struggles but also highlighted the growing frustration among fans. Despite Aaron Judge’s heroics, which included driving in all of the Yankees’ runs in their two-game Subway Series sweep, the team’s flaws were laid bare. The Yankees, once seemingly untouchable, have now lost four consecutive series, including to the Red Sox, Braves, Orioles, and Mets.

With their batting order struggling beyond the dependable trio of Judge, Juan Soto, and Anthony Volpe, the Yankees’ third base conundrum has taken center stage. DJ LeMahieu, returning from injury, has been underwhelming, while the younger Oswaldo Cabrera offers a glimmer of hope despite his inconsistencies. This has left fans and analysts debating the merits of playing one over the other.

Yankees fans push for Cabrera as LeMahieu’s struggles continue

The debate between DJ LeMahieu and Oswaldo Cabrera has ignited passionate discussions among Yankees fans. The general consensus is clear: give the younger Cabrera more playing time. LeMahieu’s stats this season are a reminder that he’s aging and of his decline: a -0.5 WAR, .178 batting average, and a .452 OPS in 73 at-bats. Cabrera, while not a standout, has fared better with a 0.5 WAR, .238 batting average, and a .630 OPS in 189 at-bats.

On Reddit, user Freeze__ captures the frustration, “People are expecting a 36-year-old coming off 3 injury-shortened seasons to find it again. I don’t get it either.” This reflects a broader skepticism about LeMahieu’s ability to rebound from his recent struggles. LtAldoDurden adds, “That contract is a masterclass in ‘who fu*king knows.’ No one was upset about that deal when he signed it. No way out of it now.” The financial commitment to LeMahieu complicates the situation, as his performance continues to lag behind expectations.

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Meanwhile, TheTurtleShepard offers a value perspective, “Purely looking at it from a value perspective DJ has been worth in excess of his contract. $/WAR is about 9 million per 1 WAR. DJ since his extension has accrued $54.9 million in value (6.1 bWAR) while being paid $45 million.” While this might offer some solace regarding his past contributions, it does little to address his current inadequacies.

A closer look at Cabrera’s upside

Oswaldo Cabrera’s situation is not without its complexities. He started the season strongly, notably against the Astros, but his performance has since normalized. Despite his speed and versatility, Cabrera’s overall impact remains modest. However, when juxtaposed with LeMahieu’s struggles, his potential shines brighter.

User johnnyss1 on Reddit aptly notes, “For some reason, the people who like to throw around the ‘doomer’ pejorative are the same people who constantly crap on Oswaldo Cabrera. They frequently claim that he isn’t a major league caliber player. The trouble with this logic is that DJ is, at this point in his career, worse than Oswaldo at hitting, running, and fielding.”

DJ Lemahieu in action for the Yankees
NY POST

This sentiment is echoed by others who highlight LeMahieu’s perceived lack of hustle and diminishing defensive prowess. CLj0008 comments, “DJ’s lazy play last night should be the final nail in his coffin, yet it won’t be.” This frustration with Boone’s decision-making process is palpable among fans who see Cabrera as a more dynamic and promising option.

Cabrera’s defensive versatility and hustle make a compelling case for increased playing time. Chricton sums it up, “The Yankees have a long history of favoring vets, often to their detriment. Donaldson being the most recent example before this season.” This tendency to prioritize veterans over younger talent, even when the latter shows promise, is a sore point for many fans.

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The narrative surrounding LeMahieu’s potential comeback is also losing traction. While some argue he needs more time to regain his form post-injury, others like Frobishlumpkin provide a more critical view, “DJ is doing one new bad thing, which is that he has a fully negative average launch angle. Just not elevating the ball at all. That’s not a particularly aging-correlated stat. I’d expect that to bounce back up, which should help him finally get some XBHs when he does make contact.” However, patience is wearing thin, and fans are clamoring for change.

Yankees’ struggles and the path forward

The Yankees’ broader struggles extend beyond the LeMahieu vs. Cabrera debate. Their lineup has been largely ineffective, with the exception of Judge, Soto, and Volpe. Gleyber Torres, a former All-Star, who entered his walk year with lots of expectations, has seen his productivity plummet, and the inconsistency at third base is a symptom of the team’s larger issues.

LeMahieu’s struggles are emblematic of the Yankees’ broader problems. With a lineup that has gone silent and a series of tough losses, the team is in a precarious position. The debate over third base highlights the need for a reassessment of strategy. GuyD427 captures this sentiment, “As a team, we need to stop giving money to people past the age of 36. That’s got to be the final year of any multi-year contract.”

The Yankees’ reluctance to embrace younger talent in favor of underperforming veterans is a recurring theme among fans. The push for Cabrera is not just about his individual performance but about what he represents—a shift towards a more dynamic, future-oriented approach. AU16 bluntly states, “You can’t cut him, you can’t trade him, you can’t bench him for 3 years. DJ has been trending downwards for years now and it’s looking more and more like he’s not going to magically find it again at the age of 35.”

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The way forward for the Yankees may involve tough decisions, including possibly moving on from LeMahieu despite his contract. The team needs to focus on rebuilding its lineup around its core stars while giving younger players like Cabrera the opportunity to grow and contribute. Freeze__ aptly sums up, “Drop the old guy who’s never gonna be good again for the mediocre guy who can maybe improve and at least tries his best. It’s the easiest choice ever.”

The Yankees have historically balanced veteran experience with young talent. In this winning yet challenging season, it might be time to tip the scales in favor of the latter, offering a glimmer of hope for a turnaround as the season progresses. What do you think? Leave your comment below!

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