Do Yankees actually have to consider letting DJ LeMahieu walk in free agency?

DJ LeMahieu of the New York Yankees (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
DJ LeMahieu of the New York Yankees (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) /

It’s time to consider a really crazy situation involving the Yankees and DJ LeMahieu.

You know how things work. When the entire world is banking on a certain scenario being a foregone conclusion, something insane happens, that scenario gets flipped on its head, and everyone is left dumbfounded. “How did THAT not transpire the way we were picturing it?!”

So as we approach free agency — and no, we are NOT advocating for this — is it time to think about a reality in which the New York Yankees let DJ LeMahieu walk in free agency? Remember two years ago when general manager Brian Cashman signed the former Colorado Rockies slugger? That two-year, $24 million contract popped up on your timeline, you grinned, and said, “OK! I like this!”

The fact of the matter is that LeMahieu was brought to New York to serve as a utility player — not establish himself as an irreplaceable offensive figure who would upend the team’s future infield plans. In case you don’t recall, he spent 2019 Opening Day on the bench in favor of Troy Tulowitzki.

We want him back, too! But what about Gleyber Torres? It’s clear, based on Cashman’s comments from Wednesday, that the Yankees will evaluate his defense at shortstop moving forward and that it’s hardly a guarantee he’ll remain there for the rest of his career. Torres has 25 errors in 138 career games at shortstop. He looked much better as a second baseman, which is where LeMahieu primarily plays.

We’ve heard the Francisco Lindor trade rumors. We know Marcus Semien is available this offseason. Corey Seager is a free agent after 2021. Are the Yankees considering moving Torres back to second base, jettisoning DJLM, and just adding a high-profile shortstop to complete the equation? We doubt it, but we really don’t know.

The problem with LeMahieu is that he’s now such an influential player that it’s hard to imagine he’ll be willing to bounce around the infield and play first, second and third throughout the course of a four- or five-year contract. Maybe he is, but how can we be so sure?

That’s why we’re raising an eyebrow when we hear about the Yankees potentially trading Gio Urshela and/or Luke Voit. Are they really going to part ways with that kind of effective, cheap talent and bank on the possibility of LeMahieu, who will probably cost around $80 million, moving all around the infield or, hypothetically, exclusively playing first or third base, especially if Torres doesn’t work out at shortstop? He’s played over 1,000 games at second base, 104 at first, and 55 at third. Those are just the facts.

And what about another possibility we haven’t really considered: the Yankees getting into a bidding war on the open market for him. Is it crazy to think Cashman will bow out if another team swoops in looking to pay upwards of $100 million? LeMahieu just turned 32 and you have to think there will be obvious signs of slowing as we approach Year 3 of any future deal.

We’re here to simply make you aware of all the surrounding factors. We’ll admit, too, that it seems more likely than anything that DJLM returns to the Yankees, but when you consider the team’s comments on Torres, the need for more left-handed bats, and the potential of getting into a bidding war, this shouldn’t continue to be spoken about like a foregone conclusion.