By Joe Pantorno
If re-signing DJ LeMahieu is really the No. 1 priority of the New York Yankees this offseason, they aren’t doing much to work with the star veteran.
Reports by Brendan Kuty of NJ.com and Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic revealed that the gap in negotiations between LeMahieu and the Yankees is at over $25 million. While the two sides are still talking, LeMahieu and his representation are beginning plans to start engaging with other interested teams.
LeMahieu is one of the top free agents to hit the market this winter after experiencing a two-year resurgence with the Yankees after the Colorado Rockies gave up on him.
The 32-year-old is one of the purest natural hitters in the game, slashing .336/.386/.536 with a .922 OPS, 36 home runs, and 129 RBI in 195 games with the Yankees over the last two seasons. That included winning the American League Batting Title with a .364 average during the 2020 campaign.
Under normal circumstances, the Yankees might have been willing to meet LeMahieu’s initial demands to prevent things from getting this far, but a difficult season that featured heavy financial losses due to the pandemic has the organization operating on more of a strict budget.
They have already exercised Zack Britton’s $13 million for next season and could potentially explore bringing back Masahiro Tanaka to add depth to an uncertain starting rotation behind Gerrit Cole.
ESPN’s Jeff Passan reported last week that the Mets, Toronto Blue Jays, and Los Angeles Dodgers have expressed interest in LeMahieu, who will use these last two seasons to secure the last big-time contract of his career.
While it would be every Yankees fan’s nightmare to watch LeMahieu move across town to Queens, it appears unlikely that the Mets would outbid other suitors for the infielder’s signature. They signed catcher James McCann to a four-year deal worth north of $40 million while they’ve been linked to the likes of starting pitcher Trevor Bauer and center fielder George Springer. Both provide solutions to far more pressing needs for an organization that has roughly $50 million in cap space remaining, per Spotrac.
While the specific parameters of LeMahieu’s desired deal are unknown, Fangraphs‘ crowdsourcing has his future contract in the three-year, $42 million range, carrying an average annual value of $14 million. Based on Monday’s report though, LeMahieu is likely looking for much more if the two sides are $25 million-plus off.