Let me be the first to tell you — if DJ LeMahieu is available for a reasonable price tag, he should be re-signed. But as reports surface that he’s asking for J.D. Martinez numbers (five years, $110 million), that he’s frustrated with the Yankees, and that Brian Cashman is working on an extreme budget, I find it far from a guarantee that LeMahieu comes back to the Bronx. So what if he doesn’t?
If we lose out to LeMahieu, it’ll most likely be due to another team offering him a very generous contract, a contract that the Yankees are not willing to match. If this does happen then I don’t see this being the worst thing in the world. I wouldn’t be comfortable paying him at that rate for multiple seasons out of his prime anyway. I still believe LeMahieu will be a hell of a player the next couple of years, but there is always the possibility of him falling off and peaking much sooner than expected. Let me explain.
The Angels and Albert Pujols are a very similar situation. Although more of a power hitter, the first baseman was hands down the best overall hitter in the game and looked unstoppable with the Cardinals. In his 11 years in St. Louis, he was top five in MVP 10 out of those 11 years. With no signs of slowing down, the Angels signed him to a backloaded contract of 10 years/$240 million after his age 31 season (same age as LeMahieu). Almost instantly his production plummeted. There is a considerable difference in his production at age 27-31 compared to ages 32-36.
Age 27-31 Stats (turn mobile device to landscape)
|per 162 games||163||708||593||115||192||41||1||41||120||11||4||102||66||358||25||7||0||8||33|
Age 32-36 Stats:
|per 162 games||163||702||636||86||170||34||1||33||110||6||2||54||79||302||24||6||0||7||12|
With every season, you can see Pujols’ production decrease. In his nine years with the Angels he hasn’t even been close to an MVP caliber player, earning only ONE all star appearance. With the exception of 2012, Pujols was never worth $25 million-plus during any season in Anaheim.
Although this is just an example, signing a player through his age 32-36 always holds this risk — a risk that may not be worth taking. With Aaron Judge’s payday approaching, along with the large contracts of Gerrit Cole and Giancarlo Stanton, the Yankees cannot afford to be paying DJ LeMahieu big numbers if he becomes a shadow of himself.
With all that being said, I think the Yankees need to stay firm on whatever they feel is a comfortable contract length. And if they lose LeMahieu, then they should find a one year rental, with hopes to find their long term solution in a loaded 2021 free agent class.