A day after the Mets secured a free-agent second baseman — despite having a full infield already — the Yankees did the same thing by adding D. J. LeMahieu, a three-time Gold Glove winner who won the National League batting crown in 2016.
The Yankees reached a two-year, $24 million contract agreement on Friday with LeMahieu, according to a person with knowledge of the agreement. The deal, which will not be official until LeMahieu passes a physical, came one day after the Mets reached a two-year, $20 million agreement with Jed Lowrie.
LeMahieu, 30, has been a mainstay for seven seasons with the Colorado Rockies. He is a solid contact hitter who batted .348 in 2016 but slipped to .276 last season while hitting a career-high 15 home runs. For his career, he is a .298 hitter with a .350 on-base percentage and a .406 slugging percentage.
The signing of LeMahieu is another signal of the Yankees’ seemingly tepid interest in Manny Machado, the star free-agent shortstop. The Yankees courted Machado, 26, in New York last month, but they have shown little desire to give him the type of groundbreaking contract he is said to be seeking.
Like many Rockies, LeMahieu has hit much better in Denver, with its thin air and its vast open spaces in the outfield. The right-handed LeMahieu is a .329 career hitter at Coors Field, compared with .266 on the road. The split was more pronounced last season, when LeMahieu hit .317 in Denver and .229 elsewhere.
Even so, he should help the Yankees reduce their strikeouts — only two American League teams, the Texas Rangers and Chicago White Sox, fanned more times last season — while bolstering their infield defense. LeMahieu has played only second base over the last four seasons, but he also has played 41 games in the majors at third base and four at first.
The Yankees will probably use LeMahieu at all of those spots, but he has excelled at second. Fangraphs ranked LeMahieu as the best defender among 16 qualified major league second basemen last season, and his presence complicates the position of Gleyber Torres, who ranked as the worst defensive second baseman.
With shortstop Didi Gregorius recovering from Tommy John surgery, the Yankees last week signed the veteran shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, who missed last season with bone spurs in his heels, to a one-year, minimum-salary contract. But they could also use Torres at short, his regular position in the minors.
Torres also made seven starts at third base in the minors last season, and 15 in 2017. Fangraphs ranked the Yankees’ Miguel Andujar last on defense among 19 qualifiers at third base, and the Yankees seemed to agree in October: They removed him for defense in both of their playoff victories, and benched him for their elimination game against Boston.
While a trade could always ease their infield logjam, the Yankees for now plan to benefit from LeMahieu’s presence in the same way the Mets hope to benefit from Lowrie’s. A deep roster of dependable, versatile players — and the bonus of the designated hitter spot, a luxury the Mets do not have in the N.L. — would allow the Yankees to keep everyone fresh and construct lineups based on platoon advantages, a successful formula for several contenders.
The Mets re-signed starter Jacob deGrom to a one-year, $17 million contract on Friday, avoiding arbitration. DeGrom earned $7.4 million last season while winning the National League Cy Young Award, and his $9.6 million raise is a record for an arbitration-eligible player. Boston Red Sox outfielder Mookie Betts briefly held the record on Friday after agreeing to a $20 million salary — $9.5 million more than he made last season, while winning the American League’s Most Valuable Player Award. The Mets — whose new general manager, Brodie Van Wagenen, is deGrom’s former agent — remain interested in a long-term extension with deGrom, 30, who will be eligible for free agency after the 2020 season.