Why the Yankees need to extend DJ LeMahieu ASAP
The Yankees need to consider locking up DJ LeMahieu before he hits the free agent market following the 2020 season.
Last season, LeMahieu was the Yankees’ most valuable player. Upon signing a two-year, $24 million contract with the Yankees, he slashed .327/.375/.518, hitting a career-high 26 home runs and driving in a career-best 102 runs. His slugging percentage was also the best he’s ever posted, while his .893 OPS was the second-best of his career.
In the postseason, he went 13-for-40 (.325) and hit three home runs, including a leadoff shot in the elimination Game 5 of the ALCS and the unimaginable game-tying home run in the top of the ninth inning in Game 6 that was quickly spoiled.
Yankee fans went from worrying about his .229 road average in 2018 to unleashing gripes about how he wasn’t an American League MVP finalist.
The three-time Gold Glove award winner solidified himself as still one of the game’s best hitters. He is the best, or second-best, behind Marcus Semien, infielder that will be on the market this offseason.
It was easy for the Yankees to let Didi Gregorius walk. Despite Gregorius being a fan favorite after replacing Derek Jeter, Gleyber Torres and LeMahieu are both better. While LeMahieu spent most of the second half playing first base, it’s safely, and rightfully so, Luke Voit’s position.
But with Torres manning short now, and LeMahieu set at second, both of their backups are Tyler Wade. A slick, speedy defender, that is all he has ever been so far. Wade may only be on the Yankees roster throughout the year because of the league expanding rosters to 26 men.
According to MLB.com, the Yankees’ highest-rated middle infielder in their farm system is Oswald Peraza. But he’s 19 years old, and has not played above High-A ball. So it’ll be a long while until Peraza, the club’s fourth-rated prospect, makes the big leagues.
Sure, the Yankees’ two most recent extensions, Aaron Hicks and Luis Severino, have not looked great.
Hicks played just 64 games last season, including the postseason, after signing a seven-year, $70 million extension, and will be out until at least the summer after undergoing Tommy John surgery in the offseason.
Severino racked up just 20.1 innings, including the postseason, after signing a four-year, $40 million extension. He will be out all of this year and likely some of next year after also going under the knife with Tommy John.
But the Yankees, and the market, had other options to subsidize their injuries. That is not the case here.
It would not be very Yankee-like to let their most valuable player touch the market. Now that there is no baseball being played, it’s the perfect time work on a deal that can get done as soon as the transaction freeze is lifted.