New York Yankees Analysis: After this bizarre season is over, will DJ LeMahieu be a Yankee in 2021? (video)

William Parlee
New York Yankees, DJ LeMahieu
USA Today

The New York Yankees 31-year-old David John “DJ” LeMahieu is in his second year with the Yankees and has quickly become a favorite player among many fans. The Cubs selected LeMahieu in the second round of the 2009 MLB draft, and he made his MLB debut for the Cubs in 2011 before being traded to the Rockies before the 2012 season. LeMahieu won a Gold Glove Award in 2014, 2017, and 2018 and was named an MLB All-Star in 2015 and 2017, and won the National League batting title in 2016. After becoming a free agent, he signed with the Yankees before the 2019 season.

DJ always wanted to play for the New York Yankees. His childhood idol was Derek Jeter. He, in an interview, said that he wanted to be like Jeter and modeled his on the field and off the field life after him. On January 14th of last year, DJ signed a $24 million two year contract with our Yankees. He couldn’t have the number 2 so he selected #26. During his first year with the Yankees, he has played third and shortstop but primarily second base,
where he has excelled. The Yankee organization refers to him as the super-utility player. He quickly became a fan favorite for his frequent and timely hitting and good play. He had the most hits of any Yankee and was third in runs batted in. He also had the most doubles. Although he is not a home run hitter he provided that much needed timely hitting that is missing from some of the home run hitters.

DJ has turned out to be more than the Yankees could have ever hoped for. He plays 2nd 3rd, SS, and a back up of Voit at first. He has made gold glove plays and last year had a batting average of .304 second only to Gio Urshela, he had 26 home runs and led the team with 197 hits. He also had the most singles of any player in baseball.  Fast forward to this shortened 2021 season and DJ is just a good, if not even better. So far this year he has the AL’s highest batting average of .431, 30 hits, and an OPS at 1.000. In one game against the Atlanta Braves, he went 4-5 in the Yankee win. Unfortunately, Saturday night he bruised a thumb in the Boston Red Sox game and is on the 10 IL.

Everything seems rosy with LeMahieu, but the Yankees do have a very big problem on their hands. Following this short season, LeMahieu will become a free agent.  The Yankees failed to offer him a contract extension earlier in the year.  Of course, that doesn’t limit them from during it at the end of the season.  But will they?  The New York Yankee fans will be surprised if they don’t, but there is no surety that will happen. Remember last year with Didi Gregorius?

There are several potential problems with re-signing DJ LeMahieu, and one is complicated by the problem with Didi Gregorius’s replacement at shortstop, Gleyber Torres.  Torres has been anything from disappointing to a miserable failure at short. He leads all of baseball in errors at short. Torres was an adequate second baseman before he was moved to make room for DJ. If the Yankees go out and get the likes of Francisco Lindor to man short, and move Torres back to second base, what do they do with DJ?  He will demand far too much money in a contract extension, just to be used as a backup for Voit at first and Urshela at third base.

How could the Yankees possibly lose the most valuable hitter they have had in years?  Well, it may just come to how much faith and value they have for Gleyber Torres compared to DJ LeMahieu. The two-year contract DJ signed with the Yankees was for $12 million a year.  He will most likely demand near or double that to stay with the Yankees.

LeMahieu has the versatility to play gold glove defense at both second and first. The problem with getting him regular at-bats at first is that it would cause the Yankees to put Luke Voit on the bench. Voit currently leads the league in home runs. He’s one of the first names on Aaron Boone’s lineup card and he can’t play credible defense anywhere other than first.

The re-signing of DJ LeMahieu at the beginning of this season seemed like a no brainer, but now it has become much more complicated.  Add to that the New York Yankees just signed pitching ace Gerrit Cole to a $324 million contract and this shortened season will provide less revenue to offer contract extensions to multiple players, that will reach free agency at the end of this season. And then you have to consider how much money, and what players they may give up before the trade deadline or a combination of both.

At the very best DJ LeMahieu’s tenure with the Yankees after this may be very much in doubt.