NY Yankees: Caution on DJ LeMahieu indicative of a larger problem

DJ LeMahieu #26 of the New York Yankees celebrates his fourth inning home run against the Toronto Blue Jays with teammate Luke Voit #59 at Yankee Stadium on September 17, 2020 in New York City. The Yankees defeated the Blue Jays 10-7. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
DJ LeMahieu #26 of the New York Yankees celebrates his fourth inning home run against the Toronto Blue Jays with teammate Luke Voit #59 at Yankee Stadium on September 17, 2020 in New York City. The Yankees defeated the Blue Jays 10-7. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images) /

Finances are typically never a concern with the New York Yankees, but their reluctance to meet DJ LeMahieu’s asking price shows a larger problem.

Recent reports have put the New York Yankees and their free agent second baseman DJ LeMahieu around $25 million dollars apart in negotiations. It has since come out that LeMahieu is looking for something in the realm of 5-years/$125 million.

The Yanks are clearly being cautious on re-signing LeMahieu, but is this caution indicative of a larger problem within the organization?

For one thing, the last time I checked, the Yankees were one of the richest teams in all of sports let alone baseball. We’ve seen similar approaches from this team in recent years of holding out on the big names to preserve money. However, this tentativeness stems from a slew of bad contracts handed out by this Yankees regime to guys like Alex Rodriguez, CC Sabathia, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Mark Teixeira.

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They’ve also traded for Giancarlo Stanton’s huge contract with the Marlins, way overpaid for Aaron Hicks, and now even the Gerrit Cole signing looks to be a bit of an overpay though that’s a stretch at this point.

What we’re seeing out of this Yankees regime is a pattern of questionable decisions on extensions and free agent signings that has put them in a position in the offseason of 2020 where they cannot miss much more before the whole thing collapses on them. And that does not include the really good that they’ve done in finding gems like Luke Voit, Gio Urshela, and other guys out of obscurity.

Penny-pinching and missing on potential free agents that can help the team win championships is certainly a big problem for the Yankees organization in 2020, and the fact that they have seemingly missed on a bunch of guys in the recent past is proof positive of why they are tentative to take the plunge on someone even as good as LeMahieu is.

Here’s the bigger problem nobody is talking about- you see, the Yankees have long been a team that have made their bones and won championships through spending big money. Free agency, marquee trades, and flexing their capital have been woven into the DNA of the Yankee way. From the front office, to the players and coaches on the field, to the fans themselves, this team has always been a powerhouse in commerce.

But something has happened to this team in recent years and it’s affecting how the Yankees of today do business, and that is the fact that they actually developed a bit of a farm system not too long ago and now have seemingly found themselves in a position where they cannot let go of prospects; “prospect hugging” as it’s been known to be called nowadays.

New York Yankees
New York Yankees /

New York Yankees

The Yanks haven’t had a legitimate farm system in so long that the first opportunity they have a semblance of one, they don’t want to let go of it.

That is the case and point of why their bashfulness on DJ LeMahieu, by far their best hitter, is indicative of the problem at large with this team. It has become more and more about the future and less about the now. That’s why championships are not currently in the Yankees’ repertoire.

They are not plunging on LeMahieu (which is a big mistake) and instead are banking on extending their children who they raised pretty much from birth, i.e. Aaron Judge, Gleyber Torres, and Gary Sanchez; the “Baby Bombers” as they have come to be known as.

It seems evident to me that the Yankees are planning on extending Judge and Torres to huge contracts once they come up for them, and are still holding out hope that Sanchez develops into the star they think he can be.

Personally, I believe this is what the problem is with this organization and why winning championships has had such a long drought in their town.

Judge stepped up last year when he was on the field. I saw him make adjustments that I’ve been hoping for him to make at the plate, and if not for him getting injured, he might’ve very well won the AL MVP based on his trajectory at that time.

However, is Judge REALLY what everybody thinks he can be? Is he that next big contract that will hit in the next year or so? Sure, he has star quality and face of the franchise upside, but his biggest problem is clearly availability at this point. Are the yanks going to make the same Jacoby Ellsbury mistake and pay all that money for a guy who can’t stay on the field?

How about Gleyber Torres? Torres is a few good seasons away from cementing himself as one of the premier middle infielders in baseball. Notice how I said “middle infielders” and not “shortstops.” Look, Torres can make some really tough plays and he has some really good arm strength, however, is he the future franchise shortstop the Yankees want him to be?

I say no. He dillydallies way too much and freezes up on too many casual plays, which is why he probably belongs back at second base while the Yanks should make a play soon to grab either Francisco Lindor or Trevor Story to take over at short if they want to REALLY maximize the position.

Finally, what about good ole Gary Sanchez? My man has been through a whirlwind these past couple of years. We know the deal by now, Gary is a phenom in certain aspects, but his defensive catching is too painfully subpar to override his greatest asset being his arm strength and ability to throw out runners.

Those defensive deficiencies could be ignored if the bat made up for them, which it did the first couple of seasons Sanchez was up with the Yankees. However, Gary’s struggles at the plate have put him in the dog house with Aaron Boone and his lack of defensive prowess has even enabled Gerrit Cole, their number one pitcher, to want to throw to Kyle Higashioka more than him.

Gary is in a really bad spot, so I don’t want to pile on. However, being that he’s clearly in the eleventh hour with this Yankees team, it is on the Yankees front office to make the move and make it fast in regards to him.

They want him to be good so bad that they continue to give him chance after chance and to this point, it appears to be a losing battle. That can change if Gary has a stellar 2021, but the writing is on the wall and that writing says Gary Sanchez is on his way out of New York.

These are the hurdles standing in the way of the Yankees re-signing DJ LeMahieu.

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DJ has done nothing but prove he’s the best pure hitter in the league since he’s come to the Bronx, and it would be a huge mistake for this team not to re-sign him. Without him, this team is in serious danger. Forget championships. A Yankees team and lineup minus DJ LeMahieu might not even finish top three in the AL East.