Heading into the offseason, DJ LeMahieu’s free agency appeared destined to end back where it started: Yankee Stadium.
As the weeks have drifted by, and reports surface that the Yankees are a long way from LeMahieu’s demands, the possibility that LeMahieu signs as a free agent elsewhere grows. He will have plenty of potential suitors, and there’s a case to be made for pretty much every team in MLB as a landing spot for the three-time All-Star.
The two years and $24 million deal LeMahieu inked with the Yankees two offseasons ago will be dwarfed by this winter’s commitment. LeMahieu has registered a 146 wRC+ in almost 900 plate appearances. He’s remained an elite defender at second and finished fourth in 2019 MVP voting.
Contract projections for LeMahieu start at three years and $45 million. He might be 32, but there’s no sign of decline. LeMahieu’s representation will be looking for longer and more money – if the floor this offseason is three years and $45 million, the ceiling is closer to five years and $90 million.
He’ll likely sign for somewhere between those two potential contracts.
LeMahieu’s ability to play second, third or first makes him even more valuable. George Springer is arguably the only other free agent who is an elite hitter and a plus on defence.
If the Yankees do not want to commit long-term, or opt to swing a trade for a certain big-name infielder instead, there are several landing spots which make sense for LeMahieu.
Although there are signs that LeMahieu’s new-found power will not necessarily convert away from Yankee Stadium, the high-average, low-strikeout rate and good exit velocity will still lure in a lot of front offices.
The Angels are a good fit. The same can be said for the Nationals and Rangers. Maybe the Giants could get in the mix despite Donovan Solano’s strong 2020 performance.
LeMahieu slotting in ahead of Anthony Rendon, Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani in the Angels’ line-up is a scary prospect. Assuming the Angels have a finite amount of money, though, they should be looking for pitching if they are willing to spend the amount it would take to sign LeMahieu.
Washington needs an offensive boost. They are short on firepower beyond Juan Soto and Trea Turner. Bringing LeMahieu in to play wherever needed on the infield makes a lot of sense. Again, though, how willing are the owners to spend? Will they be happy to play .500-ish ball with an already large payroll?
Projections for the Rangers’ offence are bleak. Joey Gallo is the only above-average hitter. Texas are looking to get better, and LeMahieu certainly does that for them. The Lance Lynn trade doesn’t scream of an organisation willing to sign a 32-year-old long-term, though.
LeMahieu, similarly, doesn’t fit the Giants’ timeline. The Dodgers will be thrown about as a possibility if Justin Turner doesn’t pen an extension.