It’s not every year that a two-time batting champion hits the open market as a free agent. But that’s what we have this year with infielder DJ LeMahieu available in free agency after hitting .364 for the New York Yankees in 2020.
The Yankees were all kinds of lucky to get LeMahieu on a two-year, $24 million deal two years ago. However, the versatile slugger is set to cash in on two great seasons in the Bronx with a far more lucrative contract this winter. In fact, his representatives are reportedly seeking a five-year, $100 million.
Even at that price, there’s bound to be a lot of teams that would love to have LeMahieu’s services, so let’s check out each team’s chances of adding the reigning American League batting champion to their lineup in 2021.
New York Yankees: 40%
Early in the offseason, the Yankees are heavy favorites to re-sign LeMahieu, primarily because they need him the most. He’s been such an important part of the Yankees over the past two seasons that they can hardly afford to lose him. Granted, they have plenty of power hitters in their lineup and could shift their infield around if they needed. But LeMahieu is the all-around great hitter that helps to complement all of their power sources. Plus, he stays healthy and is the walking definition of consistent.
The problem is the Yankees have yet to meet LeMahieu’s asking price in terms of years and money. Even the Bronx Bombers are hoping to reduce payroll in 2021, which is why they’re trying to be prudent with LeMahieu and not go above market price. However, the Yankees know that they need LeMahieu and he appears to be their top priority, which is why there is at least a 40% chance he ends up back in the Bronx.
Toronto Blue Jays: 20%
If LeMahieu doesn’t return to the Bronx, Toronto might be the most logical destination. One way or another, the Blue Jays look poised to make a splash this winter. While they aren’t typically big spenders, the Blue Jays have reportedly been linked to all of the top free agents available, including Lemahieu, Trevor Bauer, Georgia Springer, and J.T. Realmuto.
LeMahieu would give Toronto a veteran bat in the middle of their lineup to complement their younger hitters. He could also be a great table-setter at the top of the lineup with Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Teoscar Hernandez, and Randal Grichuk behind him. With his defensive versatility, either LeMahieu or Cavan Biggio could shift to third base with the other staying at second base, so the Blue Jays can easily make room if Toronto is able to out-bid the Yankees.
Los Angeles Dodgers: 15%
LeMahieu is a great example of a player that the Dodgers don’t need after winning the World Series. But that doesn’t mean they won’t go after him. Los Angeles has one of the deepest and most versatile lineups in baseball, so LeMahieu fits that motif. Plus, the Dodgers technically have openings at third base and second base. While they have internal options for both spots, LeMahieu could easily take one of those spots, which becomes a lot easier because he can play multiple positions.
Even after winning the 2020 World Series, the Dodgers won’t be content until they win multiple championships. There also appears to be no limit to the money they’re willing to spend to make that happen. Can you imagine the American League batting champ hitting in front of Mookie Betts and Cody Bellinger? It’s a recipe for a dynasty and it’s not that far-fetched considering that the Dodgers don’t have a ton of pressing needs outside of figuring out the hot corner and the keystone. Again, if the Yankees don’t end up meeting LeMahieu’s demands, there’s nothing stopping the Dodgers from doing so.
New York Mets: 10%
The Mets are another team that seems poised to sign a big-money free agent this winter, which means LeMahieu is on their radar. With New York signing James McCann to address their need behind the plate rather than waiting for J.T. Realmuto, they likely have enough money in the budget for another major signing. A player who hits for a high average and can hit in the clutch is what the Mets were missing in 2020, so he fills an obvious need.
For what it’s worth, Trevor Bauer and George Springer are more likely targets for the Mets. However, with Robinson Cano being suspended for all of 2021, there is an open spot at second base, and with LeMahieu’s defensive flexibility, he could move to another position in 2022 if Cano comes back. Along with their willingness to spend money, that’s the biggest reason why the Mets can’t be ruled out of the LeMahieu sweepstakes.
Washington Nationals: 10%
The Nationals are an intriguing dark horse as far as LeMahieu is concerned. Washington needs to give Juan Soto and Trea Turner a little help in the lineup. The Nats also have openings at both second base and third base depending on how they want to shift players around, most notably Carter Kieboom and Starlin Castro. But there’s no doubt that LeMahieu would fit into the puzzle they’re creating for 2021 and beyond.
With the Nationals, money will inevitably become an issue. They aren’t likely to outbid the Yankees or the Dodgers if those teams show serious interest and come close to meeting LeMahieu’s current salary demands. The Nats could also explore the trade market in their search for a third baseman, so LeMahieu may not be their primary focus right now. Nevertheless, there is genuine interest, which means Washington can’t be ruled out.
The Field: 5%
It’s still too early in the offseason to completely rule out a team coming out of nowhere with a serious offer for LeMahieu. After all, there’s no reason why a team wouldn’t want a reigning batting champ. The Rockies, for example, would love to have LeMahieu back if they could afford him. The Angels, Tigers, Brewers, Athletics, Cardinals, and a couple of other teams are all potential fits. That being said, it’d be more than a little surprising to see LeMahieu sign with someone other than the Yankees, Blue Jays, Dodgers, Mets, or Nationals.
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