2020’s COVID-19 impacted season has taken a toll on the budget of nearly the entire league. The Yankees included? The Evil Empire has been notorious for being the big spender of the league. Look no further than 2017, when they traded for Giancarlo’s massive $325 million contract, and in December of 2019 when they brought home Brian Cashman’s “white whale”, Gerrit Cole, to the tune of 9-years, $324 million. But it seems they are being rather frugal this winter. Reports have stated that the Yankees and D.J. LeMahieu stand about $25 million apart in contract negotiations. That doesn’t feel like all that much given the aforementioned contracts the Yankees are dealing with, but in the season where fans weren’t able to attend games, and thus were unable to give the Yankees money, they seem to be trying to finesse their budget in order to make things work in 2021. In the event that D.J. LeMahieu does not re-sign with the Yankees, who do they pivot their focus towards? Let’s look at some of their options moving forward.
This would be a very “Evil Empire” move… and it’s not totally out of the question. If the Yankees were to lose DJ to free agency, they could move Gleyber Torres back to second base, where he played much of his first season in pinstripes, and acquire Mr. Smiles to be their everyday shortstop of the future. The task of re-signing Lindor once he becomes eligible for free agency is less daunting when you figure there’s a chance fans can return to games at some point during the 2021 season. Parting with certain players may be the reason this doesn’t pan out, though. Cleveland is in the market for a corner outfielder, and the Yankees have one that is familiar with the organization, Clint Frazier. But after the promising season Red Thunder just had in 2020, do they want to move him? That would wind up being one of the more pressing questions if the Yankees become a more serious suitor in the Lindor sweepstakes.
From one recognizable smile to another. Gregorius was a fan favorite in his 5 seasons in the Bronx, where he hit .269 and averaged just shy of 20 home runs and 72 RBI a season. His tenure ended on a particularly sour note, as he didn’t perform all that well in 2019, hitting .238 with 16 home runs in 82 games after recovering from offseason Tommy John surgery in 2018. However, the Dutch shortstop saw an encouraging bounce back in 2020 with Philadelphia, hitting .284 with 10 home runs and appearing in all 60 games for the Phils. He could be a welcome return for the Bronx Bombers as they seek consistency both at the plate and in the field at shortstop, should they lose LeMahieu.
There haven’t been any rumors surrounding Wong, but that doesn’t mean the Yankees wouldn’t be interested in the Hawaii native if things go south with D.J. Wong is a career .261 hitter in his eight years with the red birds. Not only does he provide a respectable level of consistency at the plate, but he is also widely regarded as one of the best defensive second basemen in the league. Pair that with his lefty bat, and he could have a good time in Pinstripes. He’s not a power threat, averaging about six home runs per season, but he’d likely run into a few extra thanks to the Short Porch™️. Entering his age-30 season in 2021, Wong doesn’t figure to regress so much so that he’d be a bad option to consider.
All in all, the Yankees and their fans would love to keep D.J. LeMahieu in Pinstripes for the remainder of his career. He has been rock steady for them, both at the plate and all around the diamond. However, we’ve seen it happen before where the Yankees won’t budge on a free agent and that player winds up leaving to a team that is willing to pay him. But this isn’t Robinson Cano, and the 2021 Yankees are in a much better place with D.J. on their roster than without. If he does leave, these are certainly three options Brian Cashman should strongly consider as replacements.