We're nearing mid-January and there is still plenty of MLB hot stove activity that needs to happen between now and spring training next month. Only 13 of our top 60 free agents have signed, including just one of the top 14. Top free agent second baseman DJ LeMahieu is one player whose free agency decision continues to loom large this winter.
"I think he's the best hitter in baseball," Voit told Bruce Beck of News 4 New York on Tuesday. "I'm literally sitting next to a printer right now and it makes me think of DJ because he's a freaking machine. We need him."
Voit's not exaggerating. The machine moniker indeed fits LeMahieu during his last two seasons with the Yankees. The 32-year-old slashed .336/.386/.536 (145 OPS+) with 36 home runs, 43 doubles, four triples, eight stolen bases and 129 RBI in 195 games. LeMahieu also had back-to-back top-five AL MVP finishes, landing in fourth place in 2019 and third in 2020.
LeMahieu took home the American League batting title, finishing the 60-game season hitting .364, a career-best as well as the best in baseball. With it, he became the first player in the modern era to win a batting title in each league. He'd previously won the National League batting title with the Colorado Rockies in 2016, hitting .348.
LeMahieu's been the most consistent player in the Yankees lineup since the club signed him to a two-year, $24 million deal in January 2019 after his seven seasons with the Rockies. As we outlined when we ranked LeMahieu as the fourth-best free agent available this winter, he may offer more value to the Yankees than any other team:
Despite playing seven seasons with the Rockies, LeMahieu nearly doubled his career home-run total (from 49 to 85) over his two with the Yankees. That's notable for a number of reasons, including his groundball tendencies and what might be described as his beneficial relationship with Yankee Stadium's dimensions. LeMahieu had the third-lowest launch angle in 2020 among hitters with 200-plus trips to the plate, ahead of only Raimel Tapia and Isiah Kiner-Falefa, who hit a combined four home runs. What's more is that, according to Statcast's calculations, LeMahieu has hit about a dozen more home runs than he was expected to based on his batted ball's trajectories. In other words, to sign LeMahieu is to gamble that his power profile might be perfectly tailored for Yankee Stadium in a way that will not translate to other parks. What should translate are his bat-to-ball and defensive skills and his ability to shoot the ball to right-center field. Those aspects aren't as sexy, and aren't as likely to be rewarded with a large sum. This, then, feels like a situation where LeMahieu should be valued more favorably by New York than anyone else; the question is whether the Yankees will bid against themselves.
Last month, a report indicated LeMahieu is seeking five years and $125 million. Soon thereafter it was reported the Blue Jays and the Dodgers have interest in him. It's been a stalemate between the Yankees and LeMahieu ever since. LeMahieu is represented by the Wasserman Media Group.
The Yankees No. 1 priority this offseason is re-signing LeMahieu, but as our own Mike Axisa explains, waiting on LeMahieu's decision may have already cost the Yankees this offseason as several players who fit what the club's needs have come off the board in recent weeks.