The Yankees are still waiting for DJ LeMahieu; here’s why it may have already cost them this offseason

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To date, it has been an inactive offseason for the New York Yankees. They added depth outfielder Greg Allen in a minor trade with the Padres last week and that’s about it. Allen is the only player the Yankees added to their 40-man roster outside the organization this winter. Minor league signings like Jhoulys Chacin and Andrew Velazquez are their only other moves.

The inactive offseason is largely intentional. The Yankees plan to cut payroll amid the pandemic – team officials haven’t given a payroll figure for 2021, but they are expected to squeeze below the threshold of luxury tax of $ 210 million – and their No.1 priority is to re-sign DJ LeMahieu. It’s understandable. LeMahieu is a great player and meets their needs perfectly.

On several occasions last month, general manager Brian Cashman admitted that the Yankees were waiting for LeMahieu’s decision before moving on to other off-season activities. Here’s what he said in a YES Network interview on December 10:

“As always, we’ll figure out what the best options are, but we’ll exhaust his option first, which is to try and keep him here,” Cashman said. “He loves playing in New York. He loves playing for the New York Yankees. There is a lot going in our favor, but at the end of the day it depends on the financial opportunity that we offer versus the financial opportunity that others offer. This is the great unknown. . ”

A few days later, Cashman held a conference call with reporters, including James Wagner of the New York Times“, And said,” everything that came off the board before today has come off the board because I’m willing to wait to hopefully find a way to complete a negotiation with DJ LeMahieu. ” Obviously, LeMahieu is the top priority.

Last month, a report said LeMahieu is looking for five years and $ 125 million. Shortly thereafter, it was reported les Blue Jays and the dodgers take an interest in him. It seems to me that the Yankees disclosed the price LeMahieu asked to scare other teams off, and LeMahieu’s camp responded by saying that an AL East rival and another team in the big market are interested in bringing the Yankees back. at the table. This was the last update on contract negotiations.

My hunch is that the Yankees have the biggest offer on the table and they know it, and they’re waiting for LeMahieu to say yes. Why bid against yourself? LeMahieu, meanwhile, may be looking for a better deal, or at least an offer that he can earn the Yankees and get them to raise the stake. It is not a single free agent negotiation in this regard. This is how these things work. Both sides use the media and other teams as leverage.

The point is, it’s now mid-January and spring training is only five weeks away and the Yankees still have multiple needs to fill. They have a viable major league middle player (Gleyber Torres) and their second starter is Jordan Montgomery. Luis Severino is expected to return from Tommy John’s surgery mid-season, although you never really know what you’re going to get so soon after the elbow reconstruction, and New York needs a spinning aid behind him. . Their depth graph:

  1. RHP Gerrit Cole (amazing)
  2. RHP Luis Severino (expected mid-season)
  3. LHP Jordan Montgomery (5,11 ERA en 2020)
  4. RHP Domingo German (missed 2020 while serving domestic violence suspension)
  5. RHP Deivi Garcia (top prospect who thinks he has a workload limit in 2021)
  6. RHP Clarke Schmidt (top prospect who thinks he has a workload limit in 2021)
  7. RHP Jhoulys Chacin (6.06 ERA the last two years)
  8. RHP Michael King (7.76 ERA in 2020)

You are the Yankees and you imagine yourself a candidate for the World Series. You can do better than that. No, let me rephrase: you to have do better than that. The reliever box is solid and the roster is so good that they will cover many rotational gaps over the long 162-game regular season. In a short postseason series, this rotation leaves something to be desired.

The offseason evolved so slowly in general that LeMahieu’s expectation made sense. There was no need to rush into anything. Things are starting to heat up, however, and over the past three weeks or so, the Yankees have missed a Yu Darvish wage swap, and Carlos Carrasco and Francisco Lindor a quasi-wage swap and Tomoyuki Sugano’s free agency. We might even include Lance Lynn here, although this trade took place in early December. Everything else has happened more recently.

(I don’t think Blake Snell was ever a realistic option for the Yankees, given all the rivalry between AL East and the Rays. Charlie Morton probably wasn’t an option either given his stated desire to play close. from the family home in Florida.)

It’s four quality starting pitchers, all of whom would have ranked as New York’s best behind Cole, as well as a superstar midfielder who more than adequately replaced LeMahieu. The Yankees should have been on each of those players and, to be fair, they would have inquired about Lindor. They just committed to seeing things happen with LeMahieu, so the talks were never serious. The Yankees haven’t spent much time exploring Lindor as an alternative to LeMahieu.

The Yankees are currently about $ 35 million below the luxury tax threshold of $ 210 million. If they re-sign LeMahieu – I think a reunion is by far the most likely outcome – he’ll consume at least $ 20 million, maybe even up to $ 25 million. It doesn’t leave much to do, whether it’s a meeting with Masahiro Tanaka or something else. It certainly puts them out of the race for Trevor Bauer, the # 1 launcher in the free agent market.

Waiting for LeMahieu and his $ 20million a year contract presumably took the Yankees out of the mix for Darvish all together, meaning they didn’t even consider pursuing a trade (Darvish owes $ 59million on them. next three years). The odds are the same is true with Sugano, who reportedly wanted Yusei Kikuchi’s money (four years at $ 14 million a year) and returned to Japan. The commitment to LeMahieu meant the Yankees couldn’t even consider Darvish or Sugano, financially.

The market has several attractive options behind LeMahieu and the dear Bauer. On the mound there are Tanaka and Jake Odorizzi, as well as salvage screenings from brands such as Corey Kluber and former Yankee James Paxton. Joe Musgrove stands out as a business candidate. On the pitch, the Yankees could pivot to Marcus Semien, Andrelton Simmons, Kolten Wong or former Yankee Didi Gregorius if LeMahieu found himself elsewhere. The Yankees did not miss this a lot.

The Yankees have missed several players due to their commitment to LeMahieu – Lindor is extremely likely to be the best non-LeMahieu infielder available for the Yankees at any point in the offseason, and Carrasco, Darvish and Lynn (and Snell) is listed as the best starters traded – and the longer they wait for LeMahieu, the more they risk losing to other quality players who would improve their roster and therefore their chances of winning the 2021 World Series.

At some point the Yankees are going to have to sign LeMahieu or start seriously exploring other options, and that point can’t be too far off because the hot stove is heating up and spring training is approaching. For a big market competitor, the Yankees have a lot of needs this offseason, especially in the rotation. They are not one LeMahieu away from being the favorites of the World Series. They shouldn’t let a player dominate their offseason any longer.

For now, the Yankees are content to wait for LeMahieu, even if it means missing other opportunities. Patience has served them well in the past – the Yankees only signed LeMahieu the first time on January 14, 2019, days after Zack Britton re-signing and days before signing Adam Ottavino – and the slow moving agent free means good players are always available. They cannot wait forever. The market is heating up and their needs are numerous.

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