LeMahieu's Presence Haunts Rockies; It's a Different Story at Shortstop

© Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

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The presence of DJ LeMahieu will shadow the Rockies in their weekend visit to Yankee Stadium. A staple in the Rockies lineup at second base, LeMahieu departed as a free agent last fall, eventually signing a two-year deal with the Yankees, and embarking on what is easily the most impactful season of his career.

With the Rockies in a funk, it’s a decision that has now become an issue for the disgruntled. A seven-year member of the Rockies, who was a staple at second base in the final five-plus seasons, LeMahieu has become a focal point for the Yankees enjoying the best winning percentage in MLB despite a flurry of injuries that has 10 players on the 60-day Injured List, including another former Rockies icon, Troy Tulowitzki.

The Rockies did not make LeMahieu an offer when he entered free agency, but did have some discussions with his agent, and at the age of 30 the feeling was he would want long-term security. The fact he wound up with a two-year, $24 million deal was a bit of a surprise, but not a total shock.

It was, after all, just a winter earlier that the Rockies made a formal effort to retain catcher Jonathan Lucroy, but when his agent countered to their initial three-year, $18 million offer with a proposed five-year, $60 million deal the Rockies moved to sign Chris Iannetta. Lucroy, meanwhile, signed a one-year, $6.5 million deal a year ago with the A's, and then a one-year, $4.35 million deal with the Angels this year.

With LeMahieu, the Rockies opted to give emerging prospects an opportunity, led by Ryan McMahon, at second base, and added the veteran bat of Daniel Murphy for two years at $12 million to take over at first base and provided a left-handed bat to protect Nolan Arenado in the lineup. Murphy's start with the Rockies was blurred by a broken finger suffered in the second game of the season, but since May 30 he has hit .340 (.441 with runners in scoring position) with six home runs and 29 RBI

Just think. It’s just 10 days shy of the fourth anniversary of the Rockies trading Tulowitzki to the Toronto Blue Jays along with veteran reliever LaTroy Hawkins for a package of that included pitchers Jeff Hoffman, Miguel Castro and Jesus Tinoco along with shortstop Jose Reyes, a concession the Rockies made to help offset the contract Tulowitzki carried with him.

None of the three pitchers have made an impact for the Rockies, but the initial outbursts about the Rockies letting Tulowitzki go – including Tulowitzki making a public issue out of the fact the Rockies did not consult him in advance of a trade – have subsided.

For all that Tulowitzki meant to the Rockies in his early years, the Rockies felt the deal was wise because of (1) Tulowitzki’s increasing frailty and (2) the emerging presence of Trevor Story.

Story has more than eased the angst fans and media members expressed over the trade of Tulowitzki, underscored by Story being selected to the last two All-Star teams, and putting together offensive numbers that have him among the most impactful players in the game.

He has become the first shortstop in Major League history with 20 or more home runs in each of his first four seasons and is among four players in history with 110 or more home runs and 50 or more stolen bases in the first four seasons of their big-league career.

Tulowitzki? The deteriorating body that concerned the Rockies has become an issue. Released by Toronto in the off-season, despite the Blue Jays owing him $44 million, which includes $20 million for this year and next, and a $4 million buyout on his 2021 option. The Yankees did sign him in January, but it was for the Major League minimum $555,000, leaving the Blue Jays to pick up the remainder of the contract.

Five games, 11 at-bats and two base hits into 2019 and his season was over, leading to speculation his career also may have come to an end.

Since the Rockies traded him by the end of this season, Tulowitzki will have appeared in only 243 out of a possible 1,033 regular season games (not counting the next two years). And that covers a contract that from 2015 through 2021 will have earned him $118 million.