With no decisions made, New York Yankee fans are getting antsier by the day while waiting to see what their team will look like in 2021. It appears that general manager Brian Cashman has everything on hold until he finds out if the team can resign the second baseman and batting title holder DJ LeMahieu. It now appears that if they can get a deal done, even if it’s a compromise, it will cost them more than they wanted.
Although the Yankees would love to resign their best player, it does present problems in an offseason where the front office doesn’t want to spend much money to stay below the luxury tax threshold after tremendous losses last year due to the coronavirus and the unclear outlook for 2021. The Yankees, after the season, let three pitchers walk, Masahiro Tanaka, James Paxton, and J.A. Happ. Previously it only seemed that they might be interested in only resigning Tanaka, but that might not be the case.
For years Masahiro Tanaka has said that he would like to end his baseball career back in Japan with his team, the Rakuten Golden Eagles, who he last pitched for in 2013. Tanaka is a national hero in Japan. But that might be delayed. He recently admitted to NJ.com that he wants to remain a New York Yankee and will not consider playing for another American team in favor of returning to his homeland.
That statement may make it easier for the Yankee front office to resign the pitcher that has been good to very good for five of his seven years with the team. As the days pass, it seems likely that the Yankees will offer Tanaka a contract for one or two years at roughly half what he earned in 2020, if that. Tanaka had a solid 2020, finishing with a 3.56 ERA, 44 strikeouts even though he went only 3-3 in ten starts. Seeing that Tanaka has indicated he won’t likely deal with another team may get a deal done.
Four Players the Yankees could trade, two will shock you!
The New York Yankees will not be spending big to improve the team for the 2021 season, or at least it appears that way as they look to cut $30-40 million off their 2020 payroll expenditures. With that in mind, general manager Brian Cashman will be forced to trade off some players he may not want to, to make improvements in the team, most likely before spring training.
Even though the New York Yankees have pretty much been dead in the search for free agents, once they know the outcome of their priority to re-sign DJ LeMahieu, things will shift into high gear. If they can’t resign him, they will have $20 to $25 million more to spend. Although that amount may seem like a lot, just one number two-like starter could eat all that up. The answer is to trade prospects to get what they need.
Two of the most likely to be traded are Miguel Andujar that they don’t have much use for and number two pitching prospect Clarke Schmidt. The other two would shock Yankees fans, Deivi Garcia or Luke Voit. Although Voit would be the last resort after hitting the most home runs in baseball, Garcia could be in the mix. There is no question that if the Yankees are to make improvements, mostly in the starting rotation and the bullpen, they will have to make some trades that will hurt to get deals done.
Could the Yankees be taking a second look at James Paxton?
With the only pitchers in free agency that would dramatically change the Yankees’ chances of getting to another World Series after a very long drought being very costly, the Yankees will be looking for mid-rotation pitchers for relief. It appears the Yankees will need one veteran pitcher that can give them innings. They also need a good arm to replace Tommy Kahnle that has now signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers for the next two years and the faltering Adam Ottavino.
Reports are that the Yankees are not all out on the familiar James Paxton for another try. Paxton went 1-1 with an ERA of 6.64 this past season as dogging surgery issues allowed him only 5 starts on the season. A completely rehabbed Paxton could be a solid addition to a rotation that will lack veterans. He is 57-33 in his career and was one of the best 2019 pitchers for the Yankees when he recorded 15 wins against only six losses.
If the Yankees decide to sign Paxton for the 2021 season, it will not be near his 2020 salary after his poor showing. It is also not likely that other MLB teams will throw a lot of money at him either. He will likely only earn in the $7-10 million range for the 32-year-old. In this cost-cutting year, if the Yankees re-sign Tanaka and Paxton, they will get solid production near half the cost of last year.
Plan B is more likely by the day
With each passing day, it is less likely that the New York Yankees will be able to re-sign Yankee star player DJ LeMahieu. According to who you want to believe, the deal could be off the table due to the sides being off as much as $50 million in money and two years in contract length.
All of this, as other teams are hot on the trail of tieing up the star for a multi-year deal. The Los Angeles Dodgers have already taken star relief pitcher Tommy Kahnle from coming back to the Yankees also want DJ LeMahieu for his hitting ability and ability to play any infield position. Most industry insiders feel that DJ will end up with the Toronto Blue Jays, which would be the Yankees’ worst nightmare.
It appears that the main sticking point to the Yankees making a deal with LeMahieu is not money; it’s contract length. DJ is demanding five years of security, and the Yankees don’t want to go for more than three years. If the sides could both compromise for a four-year deal, DJ might accept it. However, if the Dodgers or Blue Jays drop five years on DJ, he will be gone, leaving the Yankees with a whole new plan to improve the team.
If unable to sign LeMahieu, it will leave the team with an additional $25 million to get a hard-hitting shortstop or second baseman possibly. They could also further address the catching situation. Not signing LeMahieu will turn the offseason for the Yankees on its head. There will be acquisitions and, more likely several trades on the block for a team with early exits in the postseasons and has not had a World Series win since 2009.