With free agency officially underway, teams can start to reach out to players such as DJ LeMahieu. What should the Yankees do if they can’t come to terms with the MVP candidate?
Since signing with the Yankees prior to the 2019 campaign, it’s no secret that DJ LeMahieu has been one of the Yankees most important players on the roster. He adds a crucial layer to the Yankees that the team has been struggling with, and that’s a player that can flat out hit the ball all over the field and not rely on hitting a homer. Not to mention, he plays second base at a Gold Glove level, and can also play multiple positions around the infield. The Yankees know his importance, and DJ has explicitly said that he wants to come back. But, it’s 2020, and it’s the New York Yankees. Nothing is a guarantee anymore. So, where should the team look if DJ is to walk?
1. Trade for Francisco Lindor
Let me begin by saying that this is the most ambitious option out there for an alternative to DJ LeMahieu. In fact, the Yankees could even wait until after the 2021 season to go with this option, and they could sign Lindor instead of trading for him right now. Looking at the trade for option right now, it’s not completely out of the question. Bringing in Lindor would be a huge upgrade at shortstop defensively for the Yankees, and it would allow Gleyber Torres to slide back over to second.
The Cleveland Indians have made it very clear in the last few years that they refuse to pay their stars. They’ve most notably let Bauer, Kluber, Clevinger go from their stacked rotation, and most recently have declined the options of both Carlos Santana and Brad Hand. Granted, the Indians have shown to be able to breed solid pitching, but it’s worth mentioning that they haven’t opened up the checkbook.
A package for Lindor would most likely include a mix of guys like Clint Frazier, Deivi Garcia, Clarke Schmidt, or other top prospects and young talent in the Yankees organization. The risky part of trading for Lindor is that he would be a one-year rental. If the Yankees were to make the trade worth their young talent, they’d have to not only win it all in 2021 with Lindor, but resign him after the season. Of course, money is all of a sudden tight in the Bronx as it’s unclear if their own free agents will be coming back. Only time will tell, but Lindor is a solid option to replace DJ in the Bronx if necessary.
2. Sign Kolten Wong
Kolten Wong has spent his entire 8 year MLB career with the St. Louis Cardinals, and he’s been a solid player. He would bring diversity to the Yankees lineup with his lefty bat, and he provides elite defense at second base. In fact, he’s won back to back gold glove awards at the position. As far as his production at the plate, his bat is more than good enough to be productive for a team like the Yankees. He doesn’t possess much power, but he hits for contact and gets on base. Those last two skills are important to a Yankees lineup that is built with power.
As for as the money goes, Wong won’t exactly be cheap, but he won’t command nearly the amount of money that DJ LeMahieu will. Again, with budgets being tight in New York, they will be stingy about where they spend their money. They may look at Wong and see him as a good enough option at the price to fill in for DJ. Of course, this is only speculation, but the Yankees have made it clear that we won’t be seeing a spending spree from them.
3. Sign La Stella or Semien?
Taking a glance at the rest of the second base free agent market outside of DJ and Wong, the only other option to be somewhat excited about is Tommy La Stella. Like Wong, he would offer a high contact, lefty bat that would slide into the Yankees lineup with ease. He had a strong 2019 with the Angels and followed it up with another solid campaign that ended up with a trade to Oakland. La Stella also offers a low strikeout bat which is another thing that the Yankees could certainly lose, especially if they lose DJ.
In 2019, Marcus Semien finished third in the AL MVP voting behind Mike Trout and Alex Bregman. With that in mind, he should be a more talked about free agent for this upcoming offseason. However, he had a bad 2020 season. Granted, he was not the only talented player to have a down year, but there is more cause for concern with Semien. Prior to 2019, he didn’t have a season worth talking about. He had major stat increases in big categories in 2019, so the baseball world expected him to be able to put up close to the same numbers in 2020. This is not to say that Semien is a one year wonder and will revert back to being average. The Yankees, as well as other teams, could use his down year as a reason to offer him a cheaper deal than what he would have commanded if he were a free agent after 2019. Semien might not like that, but the fact of the matter is that teams need to see more of what he did in 2019 before they can commit to a big deal with him.
Lock. Him. Up.
As I’m sure many Yankee fans can agree on, DJ LeMahieu needs to be back in the Bronx. Locking him up should be the first thing on the Yankees to-do list for this offseason. He has earned every right to a big deal with a team, and the Yankees better be the ones that give it to him. If they somehow let him fall through their fingers, then there are some quality options for them to pursue. But to fill in for DJ LeMahieu, after all he has done for this team in his short time here, will be a very difficult thing to do.