Will DJ LeMahieu return to the Yankees? Strangely enough, their Domingo German decision could affect the likelihood.
The Yankees and DJ LeMahieu have spent the past two years as a match made in heaven, as we’ve seen a bargain pre-2019 signing turn into the team’s MVP in consecutive seasons.
And as we enter LeMahieu’s free agency, it’s clear that both parties value the partnership.
LeMahieu has said repeatedly that he’d like to stay in New York if possible (a fact echoed by Luke Voit this week), and both Brian Cashman and Hal Steinbrenner commented on The Machine’s obvious importance to the roster in their post-2020 press conferences. So what’s taking so long?
For one thing, it’s an offseason dominated by the waiting game. Nobody wants to make the first maneuver, especially one that will cost four years and at least $80 million by most estimates, and could climb higher. In an offseason where no team is spending to their upper limits, it could be difficult to hamstring yourself before the rest of the league gets moving.
This molasses offseason also affects the pitching market, which means the Yankees also have another unexpected factor affecting this chase: Do they really still believe in Domingo German after his actions at the tail end of the 2019 season? If so, then saving money to pay for arms isn’t as much of an issue. If not, much more money will need to be earmarked to shore up the rotation, as a roundtable of Yankees experts put forth this week.
When beat writer Bryan Hoch raised the issue of how the team could sign LeMahieu, improve elsewhere, and still sneak in with a payroll under $210 million, Mark Feinsand dropped this nugget in response:
"“To me, this is where the return of Luis Severino and Domingo Germán come into play. If they’re happy going into the 2021 season with Gerrit Cole, Severino, Jordan Montgomery, Germán and Deivi García as their rotation, it’s a no-brainer that LeMahieu is back. Even if they re-sign Tanaka, LeMahieu fits.”"
Most of us wouldn’t be fully happy with that rotation, especially with Severino’s return slated for midsummer, but perhaps just one more cheap veteran addition would ensure more comfort? We’re also leaving the inexperienced Clarke Schmidt out here, but the larger point still rings true.
As for who’s approving German’s ultimate return? That could fall on Hal Steinbrenner, and it could be quite awkward, especially with Aroldis Chapman still manning the closer’s role.
Since we’re all in need of a little positivity, it seems important to note that the experts all ultimately settled on LeMahieu returning to the Bronx, either at a four-year, $80 million-ish deal, or a creative three-year deal with a fourth-year option.
But a decision may come sooner rather than later, depending on how the team manages to swallow its rotation pride (or open their purse strings a little wider).