It’s an understatement to say that the New York Yankees have been very quiet two months into the offseason. The Yankees have been stagnant in the free agency for their many needs. Why? Because the Yankees feel with so little money to spend that they can’t really do anything significant until they find out if they can re-sign batting champ DJ LeMahieu.
At the end of the season Yankees, fans were sad that LeMahieu refused the only qualifying offer that the Yankees issued. The Yankees fans gained excitement with the news that the Yankees were negotiating for the star’s return. Every day a new story came out about the negotiations. But now, two months later and the negotiations seemingly further apart, writers are getting tired of writing about it and fans tired of reading the stalemate.
As the negotiations dragged on, it seems that DJ LeMahieu has gotten more adamant that he wants a 5-year contract to protect his security through age 38, when he will probably retire from baseball. The New York Yankees don’t want to take the risk that LeMahieu will be the player he has been the last two years in the final two years of a five-year contract. The Yankees would like to see a three-year contract for about $75 million. So the sides are $50 million apart, and that’s not chicken feed.
Many fans are wishing that the Yankees would give DJ a final offer and if he doesn’t accept it, move on to fill the other needs of the club. With those that have left the team through free agency, it appears the Yankees have taken $74 million off their 2020 payroll. That may seem like a bundle of money, but it’s not. Owner Hal Steinbrenner has, as of this point, ordered general manager Brian Steinbrenner to stay below the luxury tax threshold. If that’s the case, the Yankees only have $44 million to spend. If they sign LeMahieu, they will only have $19 million left in the cash box to spend on their other needs.
Don’t expect the Yankees to sign any front-line players, either hitters or pitchers, with that little money. If the Yankees decide to try to resign Masahiro Tanaka, feeling that for the money, there are no better pitchers out there, that will take another $10-12 million off the available money leaving $7-9 million. If you include a reunion with veteran Brett Gardner for outfield backup, the Yankees only have a few million to upgrade a bullpen that direly needs help.
It would be irresponsible for me not to add that everything could change between now and spring training. Two major scenarios are in play. DJ doesn’t resign, giving the Yankee over $40 million to spend. The other is that Steinbrenner could relent and allow Cashman to spend more while staying under last year’s payroll.
If the New York Yankees have $40 million to spend or if Hal allows Cash to spend more, they could pick up a number two-like starting pitcher. (Ordorizzi $12 million, Tanaka 10-12 million, Kluber $7 million). Bullpen (Hendriks $5 million, Joakim Soria $5 million, Aaron Loup $1 million. SS (Didi Gregorius $10-12 million, Andrelton Simmons $10-12 million.
If I was a betting man, which I’m not, I would guess that the New York Yankees will ultimately sign LeMahieu for four years and 100 million dollars, which would still be a bargain for a player of this caliber. The Yankees will add Tanaka or a mid-rotation guy to the pitching rotation and find a cheap mid-tier arm for the bullpen. They will do nothing with Torres at short and nothing more than signing a low-level backup catcher to the minor league team so that if Sanchez or Higashioka become injured, they will have someone qualified to call up.
In addition to these expenditures, the Yankees do have to give raises to their arbitration-eligible players their 2021 raises. Keep in mind that the Yankees do have the financial wherewithal of going over that tax threshold if they chose to take advantage of a golden opportunity this season when the Tampa Bay Rays seem not to be a threat they were in 2020.