Yankees’ shortstop pursuit is open secret of DJ LeMahieu negotiations
The Yankees quite clearly want an elite shortstop next year, and DJ LeMahieu could be a casualty of that desire.
We’ll caveat this opinion with the same condition that’s been placed on the Yankees’ chase of DJ LeMahieu by every insider, outsider and aggrieved super fan who’s written about the pursuit so far.
Yes, the Yankees are still the favorites. No, it’s not a killer if the two sides are still $25 million or more apart — though it looks bad. Yes, he could still go elsewhere, even if both parties are otherwise aligned. We know everything and nothing.
The dirty secret of the Yankees’ pursuit of LeMahieu remains just beyond the forefront of the negotiations, however. Of course they want LeMahieu to return — he’s their lifeblood.
But his emergence was largely an accident, and it definitely doesn’t coincide with the grand plan the team’s braintrust seems to have put forth.
The bottom line is, they need a shortstop, and there are plenty of shortstops arriving on the free agent market next season. LeMahieu’s return wouldn’t put the kibosh on that pursuit, but would complicate it quite a bit.
As LeMahieu’s negotiations have droned on, the Yankees have held a secondary circus of Gleyber Torres conversations, all of which have indicated they’re not entirely satisfied with the way their shortstop of the future played in 2020.
Brian Cashman went so far this week as to admit that Torres is a “better second baseman” than a shortstop, which is not the kind of thing you say if you enthusiastically plan to keep both Torres and LeMahieu.
Next offseason, the market for free agent shortstops is robust, with Francisco Lindor leading the way and Trevor Story, Corey Seager, Javier Baez and Carlos Correa all trailing very slightly behind. Every time the Yankees assess Torres, they are winking at this pursuit.
And every time someone drops a hint about the current gulf between LeMahieu and the Yankees, the subtext seems to scream, “We will only go so far, because the second we sign this contract, our future pursuit of a shortstop is dead and buried without a Torres trade.”
LeMahieu at first base on a permanent basis? Come on now.
Obviously, the Yankees are thrilled with how the first two bargain-basement years of LeMahieu’s initial contract turned out.
But the fact that he’s become absolutely essential to this team has definitely complicated future signings which the team had likely plotted.
And as negotiations drag on, we can’t help but shake the feeling that LeMahieu is their “top priority” this offseason, but isn’t at all the only thing on their minds when it comes to 2021-22.