During the 2020 season, New York Yankees fans called for management to offer DJ LeMahieu a blank check. Considering he won the batting title with a .364 average, 10 homers, and 27 RBIs, his offensive value to the team is next to none. Defensively, he is capable of playing multiple positions and offers above-average value at second base.
Other teams have begun to enter the fold for the star infielder as GM Brian Cashman takes his time, and while LeMahieu rejected the Yankees’ qualifying offer, they are still hopeful of retaining him on a long-term deal. However, there is the possibility that an alternative club steals him away, as the Blue Jays, Mets, and Dodgers have all been in contact with his representatives. The Dodgers are increasing their interest as of late and pose the biggest threat to the Yankees to sign him for 2021 and beyond.
Cashman doesnâ€™t want to overspend on DJ — he wants $25 million per year or five years. Keeping him below the five-year threshold would be beneficial for the Yankees, who are on the hook for Giancarlo Stanton and Gerrit Cole. Theyâ€™ve learned a thing or two about long-term contracts and how they can become negative as time goes on.
The New York Yankees could go another route:
1.) Didi Gregorius
If LeMahieu walks in free agency, an alternative route could propose itself. Former Yankee Didi Gregorius offers a fantastic supplement at shortstop, which would move Gleyber Torres back to second base.
Gregorius had a solid 2020 season, finishing with a .284 average, 10 homers, and 40 RBIs. He logged a career-low strikeout rate of 11.8% and once again showed stability at one of the most important defensive positions. Earlier this off-season, management indicated that Torres was out of shape when the MLB returned to action in the summer and is clearly a better second baseman. The alternative to DJ isnâ€™t as bad as some might think, and the Yankees would have the money to bring back Didi with ease.
2.) Jake Odorizzi
In addition to Gregorius, the Yankees could also make a run at starting pitcher Jake Odorizzi. At 31 years old, Odorizzi has spent the last three seasons with the Minnesota Twins. He only pitched 13.2 innings in 2020, but back in 2019, he posted a 3.51 ERA with a 35% ground-ball rate and 10.08 strikeouts per nine. He primarily utilizes his fastball, cutter, and slider. He has a solid array of different pitches that he can keep batters honest with.
Odorizzi hovers in the 93 mph range with his fastball, which is a bit lower than the Yankees would like, but he offers an adequate supplement to Masahiro Tanaka, who has a much higher market value. Tanakaâ€™s value is at $17 million, while Jake’s is at $14 million. The Yankees could save a nice chunk of change by signing the 31-year-old instead of bringing back Tanaka on an extension.