DJ LeMahieu figured to be in the crosshairs of both the Mets and Yankees as a prized free-agent. With Cano gone, the bidding intensifies.
DJ LeMahieu, the reigning American League Batting Champion and top-three finisher in the MVP voting, with little or no argument, is the hottest position player among this year’s class of free-agents.
The Yankees had the foresight to sign LeMahieu to a team-friendly $24 million deal in 2019. Amidst the conundrum of injuries hitting the Yankees since then, Aaron Boone has found some solace in LeMahieu’s versatility, playing him alternately at first, second, and third base.
It’s been assumed the Yankees will make an all-out effort to re-sign LeMahieu, name the price, no questions asked.
LeMahieu himself sent a volley over the bow when he rejected the Yankee’s qualifying $18.9 million offer, a handsome sum that represented a $7 million raise over last season.
Everything changed yesterday, however, when MLB handed down a one-year suspension to Mets second-baseman Robinson Cano for his second violation of the league’s drug policies.
Mets: New Found Money – Hello DJ
The Mets, who can’t seem to do anything wrong these days, woke up today with an extra $24 million in their treasury, the salary that was designated and forfeited by Cano.
For Steve Cohen, the Mets’ new owner, days like today are a dime a dozen when your cumulative wealth is estimated to be more than $4 billion – but Cano’s poor judgment has opened up a hole in the Met’s infield that DJ LeMahieu can fill.
In one fell swoop, the Mets can take the $24 million saved and offer it to LeMahieu on a one-year deal that doubles his 2020 salary.
With all teams, including the Yankees crying poverty due to heavy losses during the pandemic-influenced 2020 season, the free-agent ain’t what it’s supposed to be this offseason, increasing the odds LeMahieu would accept and try the market next year.
Meanwhile, the Yankees, who are never operating on a shoestring, are nonetheless tied to Hal Steinbrenner’s decree to GM Brian Cashman to keep the payroll under this year’s luxury tax threshold of $210 million.
Yankees Caught Off Balance
Virtual hysteria accompanied the New York radio airwaves following the Cano announcement. Typical is this video:
This is bad news for Cashman and Yankees fans because Spotrac predicts the team’s 2021 payroll to already be within $800,000 of the threshold limit, leaving the team with little or no wiggle room to sign LeMahieu for any amount of money.
Truth be told, the Mets are sitting pretty, and they have their crosstown rivals center target if indeed they wish to engage in a bidding war for LeMahieu, and that’s before the stash of cash Steve Cohen can throw into the pot.
While losing LeMahieu will throw the entire Yankee’s infield into turmoil, the Mets have alternatives on their roster today to fill the void Cano leaves.
The most common remedy without LeMajieu is to move Jeff McNeil, who should have superseded Cano in the first place, to second base and using J.D. Davis at third base. Not the best solution, but certainly one that is workable.
DJ LeMahieu: What Is HE Looking For?
Easily lost in the maze is DJ LeMahieu. He’s spent two years with the Yankees, both of which have resulted in playoff appearances, but not much else.
As he looks at the Yankees’ landscape, what lies ahead for this staid and historically constricted team as they try to move forward from Giancarlo Stanton‘s outrageous contract, potentially confining extensions to players like Aaron Judge, Gleyber Torres, and God forbid, Gary Sanchez?
This, as opposed to the fresh and re-awakened Mets stronghold of fans, eagerly awaiting the rebirth of a new day in Metland under the spirited direction of Steve Cohen.
What would be your choice?
LeMahieu: A Pawn In A Much Bigger Game
Time will tell if DJ LeMahieu is the straw that proverbially breaks the camels back in the non-war that supposedly exists between the Mets and Yankees.
Both teams speak so nicely of each other; you know, in a moment, only lies accompany the words.
There is a rivalry, and if either team had the opportunity to pounce on and show up the other, that would result in a heartbeat.
The Mets can do that in a New York minute by extending DJ LeMahieu an “offer he can’t refuse,” and one that is well within the limits of the team’s anticipated player payroll.
Then, it’s the Yankees turn to make a counteroffer, and on and on she goes.
Yankees LeMahieu: Lock Him Up Now – Or Else
DJ LeMahieu, as far as we know, has no great desire to leave the New York Yankees.
The shock of Robinson Cano’s suspension is still sending shockwaves throughout the organization and the Mets fan base.
If the Yankees want LeMahieu, the time to pounce is while the lion is not in their den.
Today, now – before the Mets organize themselves to get beyond the inevitable press conferences awaiting Sandy Alderson, players, and other team officials having to “comment” on Cano’s stain on the franchise.
The Yankees need DJ LeMahieu more than the Mets, at least on paper. But for the first time in a long time, the Mets are wielding the financial strings.
Stay tuned; this one could be a barn burner.