Re-signing DJ LeMahieu was the Yankees’ top offseason priority, but did Brian Cashman pay too much to keep the talented infielder?
It took the Yankees a long time, but they’ve finally brought back their most important free agent of the offseason. DJ LeMahieu’s new deal will keep him in pinstripes for six more seasons. The question remains: did New York pay too much to keep their All-Star infielder?
According to reports, LeMahieu will sign a six-year, $90 million deal to stay in the Bronx. In a more conventional offseason, LeMahieu easily would have landed a deal exceeding $100 million in total value. There’s no debate that COVID-19 is depressing the market for MLB free agents. LeMahieu, like many of his peers, is losing money on this contract due to the global pandemic.
It’s still worth considering whether or not the Yankees gave LeMahieu a bigger contract than they needed to given the current market. Teams like the Blue Jays and Mets might have been lurking in the shadows to steal him away from the Bronx, but there are no credible reports of any other concrete offers. It’s also possible other teams always believed LeMahieu’s return to the Yankees was inevitable.
D.J. LeMahieu was worth the most to the Yankees
In the end, this deal represents a solid compromise between the player and the franchise. LeMahieu entered free agency with a clear mission to land the largest possible contract. He was more concerned with the total value of the deal than its average annual value. Locking in for $90 million gives LeMahieu and his family the security they were looking for.
Keeping LeMahieu for $90 million can only be considered a bargain for the Yankees. Many fans and experts believed that might be the price tag for a four-year deal for the Gold Glover. Instead, New York kept the deal at $90 million and secured two more seasons of service.
That isn’t necessarily a grand slam for Cashman and his front office. It’s very possible the last two seasons of LeMahieu’s deal might represent meaningful overpays. Infielders don’t often hold their full value as they enter their upper-30s. It’s hard to imagine LeMahieu continuing to thrive as a middle infielder at this stage of his career.
That means the Yankees will most likely be paying him $15 million to serve as a first baseman/utility player. That transition won’t kill the team as long as LeMahieu remains an elite contact hitter. If he starts to swing and miss at the plate, this could quickly turn into dead money for Cashman to deal with.
In the end, it’s still a solid win for the Yankees’ front office. Keeping the average annual value down to $15 million gives the team the flexibility to land a starting pitcher and still remain under the $210 million luxury tax threshold. It’s a win for LeMahieu as well. He gets to stay with a franchise that really values his entire skillset and should be a perennial World Series contender. This deal represents a classic win-win for both parties involved.