If the Dodgers pursue DJ LeMahieu, they’re inviting the Yankees into the Corey Seager mix.
The Yankees’ stance in the interminable DJ LeMahieu chase has been clear for weeks: He’s their top priority, and they will get him back, presuming no one blows away their current offer with a guaranteed five years.
If the discussions get to that point, there’s a good chance New York will walk away, contented with their ability to contend in the shortstop frenzy of the 2021 offseason.
As it stands, there’s likely only one team that could overwhelm the Yankees and change the conversation, if they so desire, and that’s the Los Angeles Dodgers, who have had conversations with LeMahieu recently. Their level of interest will vary depending on which MLB Rumor parody account you’ve devoted yourself to following.
On the surface, it makes sense that Los Angeles would attempt to spook the Yankees and fill their Justin Turner void with LeMahieu, an excellent baseball player who should age well. But if LA’s overtures get serious, they’ll be unintentionally inviting the Yankees into the pool of applicants for Corey Seager’s services next offseason.
Taking LeMahieu from the Yankees will involve guaranteeing him five years and between $20 and $25 million annually for the entire period, something New York has been reasonably unwilling to do so far — at least, they have no intention of bidding against themselves.
Though the Dodgers print money, relatively speaking, no team prints endless cash. You’d have to think such a commitment might take them out of the running for retaining Seager, one of many expensive shortstops available next offseason who may someday have to be shifted to second base.
Seager came all the way back last season and reached his final form, hitting .307 with 15-homer power in a 60-game sprint before laying waste to both the NLCS and World Series, earning dual MVP honors. The Dodgers are employing a similar strategy of patience here, waiting until some of the bloom is off Seager’s rose to make extension overtures in hopes that his price will come down slightly. Odds are it won’t, though, and another special 2021 season will see Seager enter that free agent frenzy at the top of the pile.
It will certainly be simpler to retain Seager if the Dodgers don’t have a $125 million commitment on the other side of their infield, and in the dull hours of this offseason, it’s fair for your Yankees-centric mind to wander to a certain place. Are the Yanks secretly crossing their fingers and hoping the Dodgers dare them to overpay for LeMahieu so they can justify walking away and poaching a true shortstop next year?
The easiest option, of course, is guaranteeing yourself LeMahieu now instead of opting into a chance at Seager, Francisco Lindor or Trevor Story a year from now.
But what currently feels like a fait accompli in Seager-to-the-Dodgers will be colored in an entirely different light if the Yankees call their LeMahieu bluff and force Los Angeles to pay up.