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SportsColumnistsAnthony Rieber

What is the end game for Yankees this offseason?

Could signing of DJ LeMahieu signal a trade of Andujar for a starting pitcher?

Colorado's D.J. LeMahieu scores on a single against

Colorado's D.J. LeMahieu scores on a single against the Dodgers on Aug. 12, 2018. Photo Credit: AP/David Zalubowski

Hey, look! It’s the hot stove!

Finally, finally, finally, stuff is happening, interesting stuff, stuff that seemingly comes out of nowhere and makes you think, “Huh, I didn’t see that coming. What does it mean? What’s next?”

At least that’s how it feels after our local teams each agreed to terms with a second baseman who might not end up playing second base.

First, the Mets snapped up Jed Lowrie even though they already have Robinson Cano. Then, on Friday afternoon, word broke that the Yankees had agreed to terms with DJ LeMahieu even though they already have Gleyber Torres.

The Mets analysis is easy: They need offensive talent more than they need to worry about what position that talent plays. So if Lowrie plays third or first or moves around, the key is he’s a better hitter than Todd Frazier or Dom Smith and more of a sure thing than Peter Alonso, so welcome to Flushing, Jed, and good job, Brodie Van Wagenen.

With the Yankees, the instant thought is that adding LeMahieu after signing Troy Tulowitzki is about more than having a former Rockies convention in the infield. It’s about walling off the roster so there’s no room or need for Manny Machado, his price tag and his considerable baggage from last postseason.

The disclaimer you’ll get from every baseball writer and tweeter is that with the Yankees, you never know, so maybe they end up with Machado anyway. It just seems less likely today than it did yesterday.

So what’s Brian Cashman’s end game? He’s added the two infielders, brought back J.A. Happ, CC Sabathia and Zach Britton and traded for James Paxton. A pretty darn good offseason.

However, the finishing piece on this team doesn’t have to be Machado or Bryce Harper (both of whom we have advocated should be Yankees, in a complicated formula that included trading away Giancarlo Stanton and not being afraid of the luxury tax and acting not just like the Yankees, but the Damn Yankees, aka the team everyone hates because they spend so much money.)

But Cashman has shown no interest in Harper and hasn’t, to date, made an offer to Machado, who might have to give up his dream of playing in pinstripes and “settle” for $300 million or so from the Phillies or White Sox.

No, at this point the finishing piece should be what this Yankees team needs the most: a No. 1 starting pitcher. Given that there isn’t one left in the free-agent market (sorry, Dallas Keuchel is on the down side of ace-dom), that leaves a trade.

And what do the Yankees have to offer that would entice the Indians to give up Corey Kluber or the Mets to part with Noah Syndergaard?

Miguel Andujar.

We’ve felt all offseason that the Yankees were going to move Andujar for pitching, and their stockpiling of infielders makes us believe that even more. 

But Andujar can’t be traded for just any pitching. It has to be ace pitching. It’s the one thing that separates the Yankees from the World Series champion Red Sox. Chris Sale and David Price, when healthy and performing at their best, are  better than anyone on the Yankees’ starting staff. For all the Yankees have done this offseason, that hasn’t changed.

Andujar is a wondrous hitter and an absolute butcher at third base. He also happens to be what teams such as the Indians and Mets will demand for their ace pitchers: a big bat with years and years of team control. 

The Yankees and Mets already have talked during this offseason about Syndergaard coming to the Bronx. It’s a bold and audacious thought for both teams and absolutely would be in keeping with Van Wagenen’s DNA as a GM thus far. And we’ve known for decades that Cashman is fearless. 

That being said, Kluber-for-Andujar as a starting point for a deal is more likely just because neither team’s ownership or fan base will faint at the idea. It’ll just be a good baseball trade. 

But, boy, would Syndergaard-for-Andujar be fun. The hottest of hot stove deals and much more exciting than the excruciating wait for Machado and Harper to sign somewhere, anywhere, so we can all get on with our lives.

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