Even with a tighter budget for 2021, the New York Yankees have no excuse to not re-sign star infielder DJ LeMahieu.
Before we get to DJ LeMahieu & baseball talk today, let’s think outside the box for just a minute.
Imagine, if you will, four people in a moderately sized room whose only entrance and exit is a single door. In one corner stands the Terminator, signature shotgun at the ready. In another stands the Predator, clad in all of his intergalactic armor and weaponry. Next, Thanos laughs and flashes the Infinity Gauntlet.
Finally, in the fourth and last corner, stands DJ LeMahieu. When the dust settles, he calmly exits through the door while the three sci-fi legends lick their wounds.
Anyway, back to baseball. The reason LeMahieu survives the above scenario is that on the diamond, he is practically all three of those adversaries combined. “The Machine” isn’t just a nickname, but practically a birthright for him.
And why does that all matter? Well, the Yankees have been working to re-sign LeMahieu in free agency this winter. Pat Ragazzo of Metsmerized reported the reigning AL batting champ is willing to take less money if given a five-year deal. Contrastingly, according to play-by-play man Michael Kay (h/t Dan Federico) thinks New York won’t offer more than three or four years.
Even at 32 years old, DJ LeMahieu is a special type of elite talent. General manager Brian Cashman needs to not let money get in the way and re-sign LeMahieu as soon as possible.
An unlikely hero
Remember, DJ LeMahieu wasn’t supposed to become a New York Yankee darling. He signed a 2-year, $24 million contract before the 2019 season, but didn’t have a clear role in the Bronx. The Yankees were prepared to start Troy Tulowitzki at shortstop and keep Gleyber Torres at second base until Didi Gregorius was back from Tommy John surgery. With his versatility, LeMahieu was thought of more as a plug-and-play option.
Cut to Tulowitzki getting hurt (again), and Torres moved to shortstop while LeMahieu was penciled in at second. Gregorius eventually returned, but LeMahieu remained a lineup fixture. His bat was that good and he could also play not one, not two, but three infield positions and wasn’t a liability at any of them.
At the plate, LeMahieu was just deadly. His .327 batting average ranked second in the league and he set new career-highs with 26 home runs and 102 RBI. He also made his third All-Star team, won his first Silver Slugger, and finished fourth in MVP voting.
Furthermore, not even the pandemic-shortened 2020 season could stop DJ LeMahieu except for missing 10 games with a sprained thumb. He hit .364 and became the first player to win batting titles in both leagues, leading the AL in OPS, OPS+, and OBP along the way.
The cherry on top? LeMahieu managed to have another great season despite missing practically all of summer camp while recovering from COVID-19.
Whatever the New York Yankees’ plans are with DJ LeMahieu, Cashman needs to make haste with a deal. Ken Davidoff of the New York Post noted that with Robinson Cano serving a PED suspension all of next season, the rival New York Mets could also be in play for LeMahieu.
We all remember the late George Steinbrenner and how much he relished beating the Mets. If Cashman were to draw a hard line with how much he’s willing to spend and DJ LeMahieu signed with the Mets, the Boss would be spinning in his grave. In fact, who’s to say he wouldn’t rise from the dead outright and start running day-to-day operations again?
Alright, fine, that wouldn’t happen, but even so. New Mets owner Steve Cohen is making it his mission to have the team competitive in the next few years. Adding LeMahieu would almost be a coup of sorts.
Likely or unlikely as it is, the Yankees cannot let this happen.
Thankfully, Brian Cashman is a smart man and knows how important DJ LeMahieu has been to the Yankees these last two years. His consistency as the sole constant in an injury-ravaged lineup kept the Yankees competitive when all seemed lost. There’s no reason to believe that both sides won’t be able to come to an agreement.
It also helps that like Cashman, LeMahieu is straight and to the point. He doesn’t talk much and just focuses on baseball. Seriously, his interview with Ryan Ruocco and CC Sabathia on R2C2 is only about 38 minutes. Negotiations between both parties might seem drawn out, but almost certainly have a no-nonsense approach.
It’s just strange because Cashman doesn’t hold all the cards. He knows his options are limited if DJ LeMahieu moves on. Who takes over second base? Tyler Wade and his one-dimensional bat? Does he re-sign Gregorius, who has his own injury issues and has seen his fielding regress? Signing Marcus Semien could be an option, but his bat isn’t nearly as strong as LeMahieu’s.
Rather, Cashman has to just ask LeMahieu and his agent what it’s going to take to get a hometown discount and then work from there. No wining and dining. No bells and whistles. Just brutal honesty and baseball talk.
This is what it’s going to take to re-sign DJ LeMahieu, plain and simple.
At the end of the day, chances are the New York Yankees will indeed come to terms with LeMahieu. Both sides are interested in a reunion and it would only be refusing to acquiesce on money that could kill negotiations.
The Yankees cannot afford to let that happen. LeMahieu already turned down the $18.9 million qualifying offer and probably wants $22 million a year. Meet in the middle at five years and $100 million, with maybe an option for a sixth year.
No disrespect to Aaron Judge, but DJ LeMahieu is the heart and soul of the Yankees lineup. Without him, the New York bats lose a lot of their teeth, and no one wants that. Now, time to say it again.
Brian Cashman, your move.