The New York Yankees and DJ LeMahieu still haven’t agreed to a new deal. And LeMahieu is reportedly unhappy with the Yankees’ inaction.
DJ LeMahieu, like a majority of 2020 free agents, remains unsigned midway through January. And according to Tim Brown of Yahoo Sports, a source close to LeMahieu’s family says that the reigning AL batting champion “has become dismayed by the slow-play tactics of the Yankees, along with other clubs.”
Well he’s not the only one upset with the pace of 2020 free agency.
So far, all the major moves this off-season have been trades. Along with LeMahieu, Trevor Bauer, George Springer and J.T. Realmuto are all still free agents.
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Major League Baseball teams lost fan revenue for the entirety of the season. That’s led competitive teams like the Chicago Cubs and Tampa Bay Rays to sell major assets. And it’s led to the rest of the league into a standoff between front offices and free agents, each waiting to see which side blinks first.
But heading into this expectedly slow off-season, New York Yankees fans had hope that a deal with LeMahieu would be finalized rather quickly. Previous reports indicated that LeMahieu was the team’s top priority, and that he was willing to take a discount AAV in exchange for a five year deal. LeMahieu wants to play for a winner, and he’s been the Yankees most consistent player in both his years with the club. The reunion seemed destined from the start.
But here we are. Mid-January and no deal to report. The Yankees seem unwilling to extend to that fifth year for LeMahieu. And LeMahieu now seems unwilling to take the pay cut that was once reported. What seemed like destiny now seems more unlikely with each passing day.
And according to Brown, LeMahieu has decided to reach back out to other teams that showed interest in him, namely the Toronto Blue Jays, Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Mets. Sure, it could be posturing designed to force the Yankees to compromise. But all three of those teams could use LeMahieu on their roster.
If it’s the Mets, that attention will come with the deepest pockets in Major League Baseball. Steve Cohen is the only owner in baseball that didn’t take a financial hit during the 2020 season. He’s made promises to Mets fans that he intends to keep. They already have Jeff McNeil set to take over for Robinson Cano full time at second. But LeMahieu’s defensive versatility makes him a big upgrade at third over J.D. Davis. Plus, stealing the Yankees MVP would make Cohen even more of a god to Mets fans than he already is.
The Blue Jays face a similar conundrum with Cavan Biggio. Springer makes more sense for them from a defensive standpoint. But Biggio is more than capable of playing a corner outfield position. Should they pursue LeMahieu, they could keep him at his natural position and he could be the anchor of an up and coming team.
The Los Angeles Dodgers make a little less sense. But they have the resources to sign LeMahieu and essentially guarantee a perennial spot in the postseason. They have Gavin Lux, a promising prospect that hasn’t quite lived up to the hype at second base. But like the Mets, they may need to fill a hole at third should Justin Turner depart.
Then, there’s the matter of the Yankees’ positional holes. LeMahieu is extremely important to this team, but they need to address other issues too. First and foremost is the starting rotation. As it stands now, Jordan Montgomery would be the game two starter to begin the season. Montgomery is promising. But on a playoff team, he doesn’t belong that high in the rotation. The Yankees need reliable starting pitching, and the money that would go to LeMahieu may be better spent on that need.
And that’s not to mention Gleyber Torres. In short, Torres is not a major league shortstop. The Yankees may be better served shifting him back to second and signing a stop-gap shortstop like Andrelton Simmons or Didi Gregorius ahead of a strong 2021 free agent class. They could address their infield defense, starting rotation and position themselves to make a big signing next year if they just let LeMahieu walk.
But at the end of the day, the Yankees should make this deal work. LeMahieu has been their most valuable player for two years. He provides great defensive versatility and is one of the best pure hitters in the game.
But with the current state of the free agent market, a deal shouldn’t be coming anytime soon. Teams will continue to wait out free agents in hopes of signing them at a discount. Free agents will continue holding out until they receive their full contract value. Let’s just hope the Yankees don’t wait too long, or somebody else will scoop LeMahieu up. And I’d rather not be on the opposite end of a DJ LeMahieu revenge game.