Yankees: Waiting to pay DJ LeMahieu may have been a huge mistake
Yankees slugger DJ LeMahieu is on a tear once again and he’s increasing his price tag.
To quote the famous GOB Bluth, “I’ve made a huge mistake.” That’s not exactly what New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman is thinking, but he’s definitely watching the scenario with DJ LeMahieu unfold and thinking, “You’ve gotta be kidding me.”
The Bombers signed the former Colorado Rockies slugger before the 2019 season to a two-year, $24 million deal, and all it took was one full season in pinstripes for the world to realize this was one of the bigger free-agent steals in recent memory.
He’s now once again producing at an absurd rate, leading the AL with a .431 batting average and trailing only former teammate Charlie Blackmon (.472) in that department. That means the Yankees are going to have to open up the checkbooks and not think twice, because DJLM is not slowing down and this team needs him for the foreseeable future.
LeMahieu was already willing to start talking about a contract extension last September, but it’s likely the Yankees figured they’d wait and see how he performed in 2020, as well as how they’d assess their starting rotation, with Masahiro Tanaka and James Paxton also hitting free agency after this year.
But after a campaign in which he slashed .327/.375/.518 with 109 runs scored, 26 home runs and 102 RBI, LeMahieu is blowing everyone away after just 17 games into this shortened season. There’s a very good chance he bats .400 or better over the course of the 60-game season, which is bound to increase his price tag in free agency.
Perhaps the Yankees knew they’d be spending money hand over fist to keep him in the Bronx for the rest of his prime, so they didn’t even bother to move forward with it as they focus on capturing World Series No. 28 and possibly adding long-term pieces at the trade deadline. After all, money isn’t a problem for the Yankees, so what’s the rush?
But, if money was EVER a problem for this team, it’s under Hal Steinbrenner, who, outside of the Gerrit Cole deal, has been reluctant to spend big. The Yankees have built this team through their farm system and some shrewd trades (though they inherited Giancarlo Stanton’s $325 million deal and paid big for multiple relievers) while largely relinquishing their aggressive reputation on the open market.
Wanna hear something funny? After Stanton, Cole and Tanaka, JA Happ has the fourth-largest salary on the team for 2020! That doesn’t sound like the Yankees, now does it?
So while there’s the possibility Steinbrenner has already surrendered himself to the fact he’ll be handling DJLM a blank check, Yankees fans have a right to be concerned given his lackluster track record when going after big-time free agents in recent years. Couple that with the fact the front office needs to prepare/budget for extensions for Aaron Judge, Gleyber Torres, Gary Sanchez and others, then this becomes even more problematic in theory.