Could the Yankees be competing with the Mets for star infield DJ LeMahieu?

Alexander Wilson
New York Yankees, DJ LeMahieu
USA Today

The New York Yankees will likely have competition for star infielder DJ LeMahieu this off-season. Despite hitting him with a qualifying offer, teams will see him as a valuable addition to their rosters, even if it means forfeiting a draft selection to the Yankees in the process.

If you are unaware of LeMahieu’s quality, he was named an AL MVP candidate for his 2020 performance, posting a .364 batting average with 10 homers and 27 RBIs. He won the batting title with the Yankees the season and was defensively stout, as his past three Gold Gloves would attest.

Given the value he brings to any given team, the Yankees must be worried that another club will poach him. As the Bombers’ leadoff hitter and best defensive player, letting him walk would be catastrophic to their hopes and dreams for the 2021 campaign.

He simply isn’t replaceable, even from a numbers standpoint. Nonetheless, across town, the New York Mets are gearing up for an eventful off-season with new owner Steve Cohen.

Mark Feinsand of MLB.com believes that the Mets could be in on DJ:

What’s more fun than an old-fashioned bidding war between crosstown rivals? The perception is that once Steve Cohen is approved as the new owner, the Mets will jump into the free-agent frenzy with both feet. The fit isn’t clear for LeMahieu, but if the designated hitter returns to the National League next season, that could open second base for the Mets, who currently have Robinson Canó under contract for three more years.

The Yankees are trying to stay far away from a bidding war, including DJ, which is why they utilized the qualifying offer and didn’t offer him a multi-year extension.

They are essentially trying to scare away opposition by forcing them to give up a draft selection in exchange for signing LeMahieu. The Mets are one of the few teams that are willing to spend big money after a tumultuous 2020 campaign that saw revenue slashed around the MLB. Managing partner Hal Steinbrenner stated previously that the Yankees lost more money than any team in baseball.

Given the team’s significant losses, financial flexibility isn’t something we should expect from the Yankees this time around. Having signed “white whale” Gerrit Cole last off-season, the Yankees have to pick and choose who they want to invest in.

Luckily, they have three starting pitchers coming off the books, which will open up $52 million in available money. They will likely be trying to find a way out of the luxury tax to a degree, so investing in LeMahieu and another starting pitcher might be their goal moving forward.

That doesn’t rule out an aggressive new Mets owner in Cohen, who will be looking to make major upgrades and formulate a plan to build a playoff-caliber roster. That could very well include LeMahieu, who can play multiple positions in the infield.