The New York Yankees signed infielder DJ LeMahieu, who was coming off a solid, if unspectacular spell with the Colorado Rockies, to a two-year, $24 million contract before the start of the 2019 season. At the time, he wasn’t guaranteed everyday at-bats and was viewed as more of a super-utility type that was going to play a lot, but not necessarily was a regular.
Fast forward two years, and LeMahieu has been the New York Yankees’ best player in 2019 and 2020. He led the team in fWAR in both seasons, surpassing 5.0 in the former. Even at 32 years old, there is still, very clearly, a lot left in the tank.
So the question is raised: now that his deal is up and he’s a free agent, how much could he command in the open market? Are the Yankees in a position to outbid everyone and retain his services?
Well, they should. LeMahieu is a very nice complement to the Yankees’ set of sluggers and OBP kings, as his contact ability is unparalleled in the game. He led MLB in batting average in 2020 with .364 and is a fixture at the top of the lineup.
The Yankees extended him the qualifying offer
The Yankees offered LeMahieu the qualifying offer before Sunday’s deadline, which is worth $18.9 million in exchange of one year of his services. If he takes it, well, he will play the 2021 season at that price. If he declines it (he has until November 11 to provide an answer) he will test the market and the Yankees will receive a high draft pick (after the first round) if he puts pen to paper to play with another club.
What will LeMahieu do? Well, as the New York Post explains here, he is likely to reject the offer since he is arguably the best infielder in the market. He can certainly do better than one year at $18.9 million.
But exactly how much could he be paid as a free agent? Well, Given his age, he may not be able to land a multiyear deal that pays him a $18.9 million average annual value, so he could certainly consider the qualifying offer if he wants to maximize his earnings.
However, and again, given his age, he will likely want to secure a three or four-year deal, even if it means somewhere around the $14 or $15 million per year area.
Mike Moustakas received four years and $64 million a year ago, and LeMahieu is better than him. But he’s also older.
The Yankees may be looking at a three-year deal in the $15 million-per range. And if that’s the case, they should pay the man. The decision gets tougher if he demands four years (and gets those kinds of offers in the market) but even still, the Bombers need to make sure to sign their man.