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DJ LeMahieu is perfect antidote to misguided Machado dreams

You win the pool if you predicted, two months ago, the best day of the Yankees’ 2018-19 offseason would entail them bringing DJ LeMahieu aboard.

Nevertheless, here we are, and here Manny Machado isn’t. If the Yankees haven’t fully broken off their flirtation with Machado, in that the talented free-agent infielder hasn’t decided on his next employer, they’re well on their way. Thanks to their mastery of the proportional response.

Signing Machado to a mammoth contract as a reaction to Didi Gregorius’ Tommy John surgery, or to Miguel Andujar’s poor defense at third base, never made much sense, and that’s even before addressing the legitimate questions about his personality fit. The Yankees’ greater long-term concerns reside in the outfield, where there just happens to be a lefty-hitting, big-stage-loving free agent named Bryce Harper still available. At the least, the Yankees should meet and engage with Harper the way they did with Machado and see if common ground can be found.

They should approach Harper the way the Dodgers have — in other words, “We’re interested in signing you, only on our terms” — and that would mark another admirable emulation of the two-time defending National League champions. For signing LeMahieu to a two-year, $24 million contract, the properly proportionate response to what’s going on with the left side of the Yankees’ infield, is a very Dodgers-esque move.

The Dodgers have become the senior circuit’s best team because they compile quantity of quality and give manager Dave Roberts options for as many situations as they can conceive. The 2018 Dodgers’ home-run leader, Max Muncy, didn’t even start the team’s first two World Series games.

LeMahieu, primarily a second baseman, will get paid $24 million over two years to move around the infield. He helps strengthen a pair of obvious Yankees weaknesses: their infield defense (he has won three NL Gold Glove awards, including the past two seasons) and contact skills. His .276 batting average last year would have ranked him behind only Andujar (.297) and Aaron Judge (.278) among last year’s Yankees regulars, and the 30-year-old owns a career .298 batting average.

Yup, you’ll find a Coors Field disparity: LeMahieu possesses career splits of .330/.387/.448 at home (he played in 37 games for the 2011 Cubs before getting dealt to the Rockies) and .264/.311/.362. Just remember that Yankee Stadium, if not Coors, still serves as one of the industry’s most inviting ballparks. It’s also worth noting this would be a better signing if the righty-hitting LeMahieu batted lefty.

An Opening Day infield featuring Andujar, Greg Bird, LeMahieu, Gleyber Torres, Troy Tulowitzki and Luke Voit carries high upside and a medium floor. None carries the statistical certainty of Gregorius or, well, Machado. But these Yankees have been constructed on good-faith assessments and patience. It’s worth seeing if Andujar can learn the hot corner and if Torres can play a better shortstop if Tulowitzki can’t stay upright, a decent possibility.

Let’s not forget the Yankees’ trade for Giancarlo Stanton, a year ago, ranked as a disproportionate response to missing out on Shohei Ohtani. And while Stanton fit better than expected and produced well enough, the Yankees can’t feel particularly confident about employing him for nine more years after seeing how blue his blue periods get. If you receive an outside player on one of those mammoth deals, you’d best feel splendid about him, like you would about Mike Trout (a free agent after 2020) or Francisco Lindor (after 2021).

Machado, one of the game’s most polarizing players, didn’t create unified giddiness among either Yankees officials or their fan base. As much as anything, his availability served as a moratorium on Hal Steinbrenner’s willingness to spend.

The LeMahieu signing likely means the Yankees will surpass the $206 million luxury-tax threshold. It makes them better, too, and it doesn’t compromise their long-term flexibility or challenge their clubhouse culture.

“Best day of the offseason” might be a stretch. Yet Machado ranked as the wrong risk at the wrong time for these Yankees. So any day that dramatically decreases the likelihood of that occurring has to be a good one.

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