MLB insider provides important free agency comparison to DJ LeMahieu
It’s hard to compare the market for Yankees star DJ LeMahieu in this climate, but now we have an idea.
It feels like everyone knew DJ LeMahieu was entering a unique free agency situation after the 2020 MLB season. Not only was the New York Yankees star set to hit the open market during a global pandemic, but given his career trajectory, there weren’t many past similar free-agent scenarios to compare his to.
LeMahieu is about to enter his age-32 season and is playing the best baseball of his career on one of the league’s best teams. That’s extremely hard to evaluate from a financial standpoint because it’s not easy to come to terms with paying an aging position player somewhere in between $17-$21 million per season, regardless of how good they are. The drop-off is always looming.
But if it makes fans a little bit more comfortable, there’s actually a good frame of reference for LeMahieu’s situation, and somehow we didn’t realize it’s as recent as last offseason.
Here’s what reliable MLB insider Ken Rosenthal had to say about DJLM’s market:
"“The expectation in the industry remains that most free agents will be paid less than they were prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, but top players might get close to full value. If that is the case, the four-year, $92 million deal that third baseman Josh Donaldson signed last season with the Twins might serve as a benchmark for DJ LeMahieu.“Judging strictly by age and performance, LeMahieu is in a stronger position than Donaldson was a year ago. At 32, LeMahieu is more than 2 1/2 years younger than Donaldson. He is a finalist for AL MVP, making it two straight top-four finishes (Donaldson was coming off an 11th-place result last offseason). He also is the more versatile and durable player."
Rosenthal added that it’s doubtful LeMahieu lands a deal of that size, however.
Donaldson won MVP in 2015, fell off the map a bit due to injuries, but then returned in 2019 to log an MVP-like campaign in his age-33 season with the Atlanta Braves, finishing 11th in the voting. His new contract pays him $21.75 million in each of the next three seasons, which feels like the higher end of what the Yankees would spend annually.
Nonetheless, Donaldson’s deal is a good benchmark for LeMahieu, and we can’t believe it took us this long to draw the parallel. Thanks, Ken!