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Yankees Off-Season Preview: Re-Signing Lemahieu Top Priority

The Yankees have a big off-season ahead, starting with re-signing infielder DJ Lemahieu. What other names could wind up in pinstripes for the 2021 season?
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The 2020 MLB season has come and gone, and so has yet another Yankees World Series opportunity. A sign-stealing scandal, an all-time great Red Sox team, and an absurd amount of injuries the last four seasons barred the Yankees from bringing the Bronx its first World Series title since 2009.

With the shortened 2020 season in the rearview, it’s time to look ahead to 2021. First come the winter meetings. Besides signing DJ Lemahieu and Gerrit Cole over the past two off-seasons, the Yankees haven’t made any relatively big splashes in the free agency pool since that 2009 season. That probably won’t change this year either.

Hal Steinbrenner insists General Manager Brian Cashman try and keep the team payroll under the luxury tax, and the Yankees already have plenty of talent on the roster. However, as the last two years have shown, it doesn’t matter who you have when the injury bug is in town.

The Yankees have been barred with injuries the last two seasons to the point where their “Death Lineup” only played a handful of games together. Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton have each missed large amounts of time, Luis Severino hasn’t been fully healthy since 2018, and the rest of the team have each shared stints on the IL.

With that being said, the Yankees have work to do this off-season. Zach Britton and Giancarlo Stanton already opted into their deals, so they’re here to stay. But with six Yankees officially becoming free agents, the roster might look considerably different in 2021.

Here are a few players the Yankees should bring back and a few names that could wind up in pinstripes come Opening Day.

 

DJ Lemahieu
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The Yankees’ number one priority is re-signing DJ Lemahieu. Nothing else matters at this point; everything else can wait.

Lemahieu has been the overall best player on the Yankees each of the last two seasons. He put up MVP-caliber seasons both years, finishing 4th and 3rd in voting, respectively. He’s played in 88% of games while with the Yanks and led the MLB with a .364 batting average last year. Lemahieu also led the American League in on-base percentage (.421) and OPS (1.011) in 2020.

One of the most important things about Lemahieu, which is severely underrated, is that he plays all four infield positions. He’s a natural second baseman, but Lemahieu has been excellent in filling in other spots when necessary. In fact, he’s the Yankees’ best first baseman in terms of defense.

That’s a priceless value to a team. The guy rarely gets injured, plays everywhere, hits the ball all over the field, and is the best all-around hitter the Yankees have had since Derek Jeter. The two-year experiment worked, and now it’s time to reward him for it.

Lemahieu’s agent reported they’re looking for a deal around $100 million over five years. The Yankees shouldn’t even sweat this. Lemahieu’s a Yankee. Losing a guy like him would set the team back in more ways than one.

While he is 32, his play-style doesn’t age. He puts the ball in play practically every at-bat and plays phenomenal defense across the entire infield. Bring Lemahieu back to the Bronx.

 

Masahiro Tanaka
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If the Yankees lock up Lemahieu long-term like they should, there won’t be a lot of Yankee-sized money to throw around. However, Masahiro Tanaka’s a guy that needs to retire in pinstripes.

A fan favorite to many, Tanaka left his mark on the Yankee franchise during his tenure with the team. He’s spent his entire career with New York, putting up a 3.74 ERA over seven seasons. Tanaka’s known during the regular season for his inconsistency and knack for giving up home runs, but he’s a different animal in the playoffs.

The guy’s lights out. Coming into the 2020 season, Tanaka had a career 1.84 ERA in the postseason, which is top five all time.

He’s on the wrong side of 32, and there’s the lingering elbow issue he gets cleaned up every off-season. But be honest with yourself, can you see Masahiro Tanaka in any uniform other than Yankee pinstripes?

I didn’t think so.

 

Rest of Yankees FA

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As far as the rest of the team’s free agents go, things can go a few different ways.

J.A. Happ is not coming back.

Tommy Kahnle’s recovering from Tommy John surgery and will likely miss most if not all of the 2021 season. It’ll be interesting to see if the Yanks decide to bring him back.

You can bring back Brett Gardner for depth, but he can’t be the everyday left fielder anymore. It’s Clint Frazier’s time.

As for James Paxton, Yankee fans have seen glimpses of what he can be, and he can be great. Unfortunately, he can’t stay healthy. It’d be great to see the Yanks give The Big Maple one more shot, but the team already has young stud starters in Deivi Garcia, Clarke Schmidt, and Mike King.

So the Yankees don’t need to make this move. That’s probably why Paxton won’t be back.

 

Long shots

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As for the rest of the MLB free agents, plenty of names would be a good fit. However, with Lemahieu being the top priority, don’t be surprised to see big names like Trevor Bauer, Liam Hendriks, Kirby Yates, Brad Hand, and Yadier Molina sign deals elsewhere.

Even a trade for Cleveland shortstop Francisco Lindor is more of a dream than a reality. Lindor would be a huge move for the Yanks and is very much imaginable, but it’s unlikely considering the pieces Cashman would have to give up.

There’s always the chance Cashman works some magic as he has in the past, but let’s look at this as if those names won’t be in pinstripes in 2021. Who could be then?

 

Corey Kluber

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This has the potential to be a huge signing for New York. Kluber won the AL Cy Young in 2017 with Cleveland, and there’s still life in his arm at 34 years old. Kluber has posted a 3.16 ERA over ten years, and the Yankees would give him the perfect opportunity to revive his career, similar to Justin Verlander with Houston in 2017.

Kluber won’t have to be the ace with Gerrit Cole filling that spot; he’d just have to focus on staying healthy and finding that Cy Young form again. With Luis Severino still recovering from Tommy John surgery, Kluber would be a nice addition to the rotation, making it even deeper when Severino comes back.

The signing wouldn’t be expensive either. A one-year deal around $10-15 million should do it.

 

Didi Gregorius

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Does Sir Didi make a return to the Bronx?

Didi Gregorius signed a one-year deal in the 2020 off-season with Joe Girardi’s Phillies after spending the last five seasons with the Yankees. Another fan favorite to many, Gregorius would return home and plug the huge hole he left at short that Gleyber Torres can’t seem to fill.

Gregorius didn’t miss a beat when he went to Philly, hitting .284 with ten homeruns and playing all 60 games. He’d rejoin a familiar locker room and provide an instant spark to the team. It’d be like he never left.

This could be an under the radar move the Yankees make if they definitely don’t want to pursue Lindor. Let’s bring the Didi post-win emoji tweets back to New York.

 

Kyle Schwarber

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Schwarber and the Yankees have been linked for years, with rumors of New York trading for him surfacing at every trade deadline. Now a free agent, does Cashman finally pull the trigger and sign the former Cub? It wouldn’t be the worst move.

Many will say the Yankees don’t need him, and they’re right. But if the last two years showed fans anything, it’s that you can’t have enough players. Injuries are bound to happen.

Though there’s no clear path to playing time in the outfield, Schwarber would be a nice lefty bat in the Yanks lineup from time to time. The 27-year-old slugger mashed 38 home runs in 2019 and 11 in the shortened 2020 season.

Can you imagine Schwarber hitting an absolute moon-shot over the short porch at Yankee Stadium?

 

Archie Bradley

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Hendriks, Hand, or Yates would be a dynamic signing that would solidify the already-good Yankees bullpen as the league’s best. But who else could they sign if those names are gone?

Archie Bradley spent his entire six-year career with Arizona before he was traded to Cincinnati in 2020. Bradley has a 3.91 career ERA, with his ERA falling below 3.0 in two of the last four years.

Aroldis Chapman and Zach Britton are the Yankees’ top two relievers, with Chad Green and Adam Ottavino not too far below. Bradley, 28, would fit right in with that group.

Bradley may have already hinted his interest in New York. Talkin’ Yanks Twitter account spotted Bradley posting a picture on his Instagram story wearing a CC Sabathia Yankees jersey, tagging the former Yankee.

The beard would have to go, but Bradley looks good in pinstripes already.

 

Bottom Line

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The Yankees need to resign Lemahieu. That’s the most important thing to this team right now other than everyone else staying healthy. They’re still a favorite to win the World Series if that’s the only move they make. It won’t be, because they’re the Yankees, but the Bronx Bombers need DJ back before they can think about anything else.

Author

  • Lifelong sports fan fulfilling a childhood dream. I'll talk sports all day. Passion and hot takes are my thing... there's always a story. Yankees. NY Giants. Knicks. Texas Longhorns.  Yes... being a Knicks fan is rough, but my time will come (hopefully). Senior at Quinnipiac University in Connecticut.