Re-signing D.J. LeMahieu is the Yankees’ top offseason priority, but Brian Cashman is already making contingency plans in case he leaves the Bronx.
Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman understands the importance of re-signing D.J. LeMahieu. He also understands the potential folly of putting all of his free agency eggs in a single basket.
That’s why the team’s front office is already engaging in a little negotiating gamesmanship with LeMahieu and his representatives. On Thursday night, news leaked of the team’s potential interest in signing outfielder Michael Brantley. In the same tweet, Buster Olney expressed his opinion that it would be “hard to imagine” the team signing both LeMahieu and Brantley ahead of the 2021 regular season.
This represents a fairly transparent attempt by the Yankees’ front office to speed up LeMahieu’s decision-making process. The idea of Cashman really choosing to ink Brantley over the team’s most important player doesn’t carry much weight. It’s simply a shot across the bow to let LeMahieu know that the Yankees aren’t going to sit around and wait for his decision forever.
There is still plenty of time for the Yankees and D.J. LeMahieu to find common ground
That does not mean the team is anywhere close to its breaking point. There is still plenty of time for the Yankees and LeMahieu to come to terms on a lucrative long-term deal that will keep him in New York throughout the prime of his career. In fact, that’s still the most likely outcome for this MLB free agency saga.
The point the Yankees are really trying to make is that they won’t be left holding the bag if LeMahieu chooses to drag the process out. Cashman correctly understands that his roster has the bones of a potential World Series champion. He must add the right combination of talent via free agency to transform Aaron Boone’s team from contenders to legitimate title favorites.
LeMahieu’s interest in dragging the process out is most likely a negotiating ploy designed to garner larger offers from his potential suitors. The Yankees are willing to pay a premium for his services, but there’s an important difference between paying a premium and handing a free agent a blank check. There are limits to what Cashman will spend to bring LeMahieu back.
Yankees fans should expect to see more reports of rumored interest between their favorite franchise and other big-name free agents in the coming weeks. Cashman likes to use that sort of subterfuge to put subtle pressure on LeMahieu and his other prime free-agent targets. Agents like to use the Yankees to drive up the bidding on their clients. In this instance, it signifies an interesting game of chicken between the team and LeMahieu.