Yankees News: The truth behind DJ LeMahieu’s contract negotiations

New York Yankees, DJ LeMahieu
Oct 8, 2020; San Diego, California, USA; New York Yankees second baseman DJ LeMahieu (26) throws to first base to retire Tampa Bay Rays shortstop Willy Adames (not pictured) during the seventh inning of game four of the 2020 ALDS at Petco Park. Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

The year has finally turned to 2021, but the New York Yankees are still lost in translation with DJ LeMahieu and his contract extension. Ultimately, it could be a few more weeks before the Yanks, and DJs representatives find a compromise, if at all. General manager Brian Cashman has taken longer than expected to unfold this process, and it has come to the point where DJ could easily walk and take his talents elsewhere.

Reports have indicated that the Los Angeles Dodgers, New York Mets, and Toronto Blue Jays have all inquired about LeMahieu this off-season, but the Yankees feel confident they can keep him if they just wait a bit longer.

“He’s a special player,” Cashman said. “He’s just done everything right. We were fortunate to have him for two years. We’d like to have him for longer, and it just remains to be seen if it’s going to work out that way or not.”

The question is, why are the Yankees waiting so long in the first place?

With COVID-19 significantly hurting team revenues, managing partner Hal Steinbrenner indicated that they would be less flexible this off-season. The Yankees already have the highest payroll in baseball and will once again in 2021, but their inability to reach the World Series has become disappointing. When you spend that much money on great players, you expect a certain level of performance, and the Yankees have dealt with too many injuries and inconsistent players these past few years.
LeMahieu has been one of their constant performers, winning the batting title in 2020 and dominating in 2019. Cashman waiting is a sign of the Yankees don’t have an unlimited amount of money to spend this off-season. Ideally, they would finalize a deal no matter how long it takes.

“Hopefully, we can have that type of experience where it doesn’t matter how long it takes, as long as it has an ultimate outcome that’s successful,” Cashman said. “But there’s no guarantee that it will.”

“In the end, for instance with DJ LeMahieu, who’s clearly someone we’ve thrown a lot of bouquets our way to him and rightfully so. We’d like to keep him,” Cashman said. “I’m sure other clubs would like to take him. We want him to feel good about, ultimately, his decision, and we’d like him to be here. But he also, if he chooses to be here, he has to feel good about staying here. And that comes through conversations and communication, again, through representation and, as well as a player himself.”

The idea behind stalling comes down to money. If the Yankees can wait out other teams who don’t offer as much as them, they can force DJ and his representatives to compromise on a contract that helps them save a bit of cash.

Both sides are apart by about $25 million, which indicates an entire season, as the Yankees don’t want to offer five years, a deal that would end when DJ is 37. They already have multiple players on long-term contracts, so keeping any more below five years only helps the team avoid any Jacoby Ellsbury situations. We are currently experiencing a similar reality with Giancarlo Stanton, who can no longer play defense due to injuries.