One of the most sought after free agents is DJ LeMahieu, and that’s not a good thing for the New York Yankees. The Yankees have many needs, including rebuilding a pitching rotation that can win a season for them. But another priority is re-signing DJ LeMahieu, their award-winning second baseman. General manager Brian Cashman got him from the Colorado Rockies for $24 million on a two-year deal.
Fortunately and unfortunately, LeMahieu was more than the Yankees ever could have asked for and outperformed his contract big time. He was a Silver Slugger batting .327 with 26 home runs and providing excellent defense. This year he just got better, leading all of baseball with a hitting title .364 batting average and hitting 10 home runs in this short season. He became the first player in modern times to win the title in both leagues.
There is little information out there that tells us the New York Yankees are negotiating with LeMahieu or even talking to him as yet. But that is not unusual for general manager Brian Cashman; he seldom drops a hint or shows his hand to the public. Several sources say the Yankees will not want to meet his demands for money, consider a five-year contract that he has made known, that he wants.
Simultaneously, some sources say the Yankees are indeed negotiating with the Wasserman Group, DJ’s agent. The Yankees would like to see a three-year contract for $60 million, but that is not likely to cut it. Some of the scuttlebutt is that general manager Brian Cashman might get really creative in a way to keep LeMahieu in pinstripes. He could entice him to stay in the Bronx with a longer contract, maybe going as much as five years or even six years via the vesting option, based on performance.
The way this could work is the Yankees give DJ the approximate $22 million for three years. Then add a fourth or even fifth year to the contract vesting based on performance. In other words, if DJ reached a specific batting average or number of home runs in this third or fourth year, he would automatically get an additional season added to his contract at an agreed-upon rate. With LeMahieu already indicating that he likes New York and wants to stay with the team, this creativity may be the straw that stirs the drink and make the Yankees’ top priority happen.
Most sportswriters agree that the Yankees will want to solve the problem of retaining LeMahieu before they tackle the club’s other needs. If that is true, we may see action on LeMahieu sooner than later. Now the disclaimer: it is very early in the offseason; when and if any of these things come true is up in the air and subject to change until an actual deal is signed.
Many industry experts expect that LeMahieu will look for an amount in the $20 million range and a period of five years. He will surely have enough money for a quarter pounder and a car wash if he gets that. The New York Yankees afforded LeMahieu their only qualifying offer of $18.9 million for the 2021 season. DJ refused that, making him a free agent and able to test the market for his services.
Most sportswriters knew that the Blue Jays were interested and a few other teams. Then the Washington Nationals who have courted him before are interested in kicking the tires too. But, the newest development could drive his value up even more. The New York Mets have lost their second baseman Robinson Cano to a PED suspension, keeping out the 2021 season. The Mets also have a new cash-rich owner in Steve Cohen who always wants to be seen as a winner, much like previous Yankee owner George M. Steinbrenner.
Many see Cohan wanting to make a splash to improve the team, and what better way to do it than to acquire LeMahieu. Others say that he can move his centerfielder to second and go after George Springer. Whatever the case, it’s good news for LeMahieu and not for the Yankees.
With the New York Yankees being short on funds and with other needs to address, if DJ LeMahieu is not reasonable with the Yankees, the Yankees will not be pushed beyond their limits and still could let him walk.