Should the Yankees explore an early extension with DJ LeMahieu?

Let’s just get this out of the way first. I’m thinking it. You’re thinking it. Now, the world has gotten the chance to see it on full display this past weekend.  DJ LeMahieu has been, without question, the single biggest free agent signing by any team this season.  His numbers through his first 76 games in pinstripes?  A .345/.392/.534 slash line, 12 home runs, 61 RBIs (his career high for an entire season is 66!), and an absurd .486 (35-for-72) batting average with runners in scoring position.  He has accounted for a 4.0 WAR and was just recently voted the starting second baseman for the 2019 MLB All Star Game.  He has been more than any Yankee fan could have ever imagined when he was inked to a two-year, $24 million deal this past Winter.

Photo Credit: AP

Perhaps it’s a little too early to speculate, but since the YES Network’s Jack Curry floated the idea ahead of Sunday morning’s game, let’s explore. Should the Yankees start thinking about a contract extension with DJ LeMahieu?

DJ is just one-half season into his two year pact with the Yankees, but he’s been an absolute force at the top of this lineup, and his ability to play all around the infield provides massive value as well.  With Miguel Andujar set to return next year following surgery to repair a torn labrum in his shoulder, and Didi Gregorius set to hit free agency this Winter, the Yankees have some question marks across the infield diamond if we look ahead to 2020 and beyond. 

Yes, Gio Urshela has been a revelation this year, but without any options available and Andujar set to return next season, I just don’t see how he plays a long-term role with the team.  The Yankees would love to bring back Didi Gregorius, but he has only played in 17 games in his return from offseason Tommy John Surgery.  He will likely hold out until the offseason before making any future plans.

Even if Gregorius returns in 2020 and beyond, keeping Gleyber Torres at second base for the foreseeable future, having LeMahieu around long term makes too much sense not to at least entertain the idea.  Andujar will, unfortunately, be an unknown in his return.  We’ve seen firsthand how a torn labrum has derailed the career of Greg Bird, formerly regarded as the best bat in the Yankees’ system.  I love Andujar and hope he can recapture his near-AL-Rookie-of-the-Year form from 2018, but I just don’t know.  The team might see value in him as a trade chip to acquire top shelf pitching – either at this season’s trade deadline, or next offseason – and should he not be back with New York, LeMahieu should almost certainly be a part of the team’s long-term vision.

What type of contract might DJ ask for in an extension?  Well, he’s still only 30 years old (his 31st birthday is later this month) and clearly appears to be at, or near, his peak.  My guess is that he would like two additional years, which would take him through his age-34 season, at a higher AAV than he’s currently making.  Perhaps an extension, either later in the year or in the offseason, of two-years, and $30-35 million, with a third-year option might be enough to get it done?  If so, the Yankees will have locked up their most important bat this season for the remainder of this championship window they have built on the back of their young core.

Of course, this is all speculative.  So many things can happen that could blow up this idea entirely.  LeMahieu’s production could tail off dramatically, either this season or next.   He might see the 2020-21 offseason as his last chance for a major payday and just ride out his current contract and test the market again.  The Yankees might even trade him (although I highly doubt this).  The point is, it’s way too early, as well as a vain attempt, to try to predict the future.

What we know today, however, is how important DJ LeMahieu is to this Yankees squad.  He’s even in the conversation for the league’s Most Valuable Player award, although it’s hard to compete with a guy like Mike Trout when he is on his game.  Keeping a player like this around long-term is never a bad idea, and if DJ is open to extension talks, Brian Cashman should leap at the opportunity.

Article by: Andrew Natalizio


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