DJ LeMahieu is the Yankees top offseason priority, but it’s not a foregone conclusion he returns to the Bronx.
LeMahieu slashed .364/.421/.590 in the shortened 2020 season, and was just as good in 2019. The Yankees signed the former Colorado Rockie to a relatively short-term deal in the 2019 offseason, and he’s paid them back and then some. The second baseman is a regular among AL MVP finalists, and one of the best hitters in all of baseball.
It’s not all New York’s fault, surprisingly. Yankees ownership, like most in baseball, saw significant losses in the 2020 shortened season, due to the lack of fans in the stands and television contracts. Hal Steinbrenner and Co. don’t want to spend an exorbitant amount of money on their team this offseason. But there’s a difference between adding talent and losing it, and the Yankees are at risk of losing arguably their best player, even if he’s the quietest.
LeMahieu wants a long-term contract, and the Yankees are reportedly around $25 million off from his asking price. That sounds like a loss, but it’s attainable as negotiations continue throughout the offseason. In fact, the only way LeMahieu isn’t a Yankee at the start of 2021 is if one of these three teams steps in and offers him a deal he cannot refuse.
Who could steal LeMahieu from the Yankees?
To figure out which teams have such a motive, just follow the money.
The New York Mets:
The Mets would love to possess a talent like LeMahieu in the middle of their infield, and he’d fit right in. Regardless of where New York would prefer he play — second base is conveniently open — LeMahieu could fit right in without a hitch.
Steve Cohen’s still waiting to make his since-promised big splash after buying the franchise this offseason. As the richest owner in all of baseball, there’s an expectation that Cohen must live up to if he wants to win the trust of the Mets fanbase. Signing LeMahieu would do just that, and the 32-year-old wouldn’t have to move far.
The Los Angeles Dodgers:
LeMahieu could play at second, or even third base for the Dodgers, should Justin Turner not return to Los Angeles. His flexibility in the infield makes LeMahieu an attractive target for a contending team, though the Dodgers might balk at giving DJ the four-year contract he covets.
The Dodgers have shown their willing to spend to improve the roster, but after winning their first World Series since the 80’s, it might not be smart for LA to shake up their core. Instead, signing Turner and waiting on the likes of Gavin Lux to man the infield with Corey Seager feels like a more realistic approach. But the Dodgers have surprised us many times before.
Toronto Blue Jays:
When are the Blue Jays going to put their money where their mouth is? Toronto’s been in on just about every big-name free agent thus far, including JT Realmuto, Trevor Bauer an George Springer. Is taking meetings enough to satisfy Toronto’s ownership group?
The Jays are the most realistic destination for LeMahieu because they have a hole in their infield, and have been trying to fill it all offseason via trade. In the American League, LeMahieu could also eventually transition to the DH as he ages and his ability in the field diminishes, making him more valuable to the Jays long-term.
LeMahieu could be the splash the Jays have long been hinting at.