The New York Yankees on Friday finally got their man, finalizing a 6 year / $90M contract with All-Star 2B DJ LeMahieu. The deal was $12M more than what the Toronto Blue were offering, which was 4yr/$78M. While it seemed the Yankees and DJ were playing hardball and about to let their star player go, they eventually got the deal they wanted and more. This deal was everything they could have asked for and more, and I’ll tell you why.
1. Low annual salary for top player in league
DJ LeMahieu was signed in 2019 on a team friendly 2year/$24M deal to be the utility man. Injuries and poor play thrust DJ into the lineup, and his brilliant play never saw him taken out. He was one of the 4 best hitters in the league and slashed his way to a MVP level season. DJ looked to get paid his worth and the Yankees wanted to keep him. In the end, DJ got his raise, $90M worth but spread out of 6 seasons. That nets out to an annual salary of $15M, only $3M more than he was making. That is a bargain for one reigning batting champing and a player with a 1.011 OPS.
2. Leaves room to sign more pitching
Spreading that $90M over 6 seasons is a gamble on the Yankees part. You are paying a player would turn 32 for 6 years. A good chance he can get a poor return on investment in 3 years. But by doing this, the Yankees were able to keep their annual payroll below the $210M mark.
According to Spotrac, the Yankees' payroll which now accounts for $15M for LeMahieu is around $188 million. That leaves $22M left to play with. The Yankees later that Friday signed P Corey Kluber to a 1yr/$11M contract. That now leave the Yankees with $11M to play with to add one more arm (or a left bat in the outfield). Masahiro Tanaka and Jake Odorizzi are still available as free agents, but Tanaka is coming off make $22M in 2020 and could be looking for more than $11M. The Yankees also checked on the availability of Cincinnati P Luis Castillo. Either way, they can get that one more arm to hold them until Luis Severino is ready to return sometime in the summer.
3. Keeps one of the best hitters in Yankee Pinstripes for 6 years
Let’s be honest, while the Yankees are again taking a risk in signing an older player to a long-term deal, they are keeping one f the best hitters in the game. Typically, by the end of these contract, you always regret it. Originally, the Yankees were looking to sign a 3–4-year deal and DJ was looking for 5 years. DJ not only gets the long term deal he coveted; he got his money also. DJ can retire in pinstripes and has the security while doing it. He has taken advantage of Yankee Stadium as a hitter and now you have him here for 6 years.
4. Leaves money on table to sign in home talent
The Yankees have a lot of salary tied up to Giancarlo Stanton (13 year / $325M) and Gerrit Cole (9 years/$324M). But their other stars are still on rookie deals and eventually need to be paid. Aaron Judge, when healthy, is one of the game’s best players. He will command a Mike Trout (12 years/$426M), Bryce Harper (13 years/$330M), or Manny Machado (10 year /$300M) level contract at the least. Judge just avoided arbitration with a 1yr $10.175M deal, so next year he will be looking to get paid. Gleyber Torres and Gary Sanchez are both arbitration eligible and will be looking to get paid. Sanchez might not get paid in NY, but he is still one of the better catchers in the game. Torres is an All-Star infielder and hasn’t even entered his prime yet. Luke Voit, Gio Urshela, and Clint Frazier are also entering arbitration season in the next three years. With the Yankees paying less money to DJ annually, they are able to start paying and keeping their young talent. The Yankees most likely can’t keep all of those players (Sanchez and Frazier are likely the first to go), but Judge and Torres are cornerstones and must be paid accordingly. If LeMahieu would have gotten $25M annually, there would be no way to keep everyone and stay under that $210M payroll mandate.
Listen, signed LeMahieu and Kluber are not solving the Yankees issues on one Friday. After Cole, there are questions with the starting rotation. You have Jordan Montgomery (1 year removed from Tommy John Surgery), Domingo German (fresh off a 1-year suspension) and a lot of young puppies (Devi Garcia, Clarke Schmidt, and Mike King). The Yankees are still missing a left bat for their lefty hitter’s ballpark. Michael Brantley is an option, but not for $11M. Maybe bringing back Bret Gardner is an option also. But regardless, Brian Cashman has more work to do but now their #1 priority is settled.