The New York Yankees finally broke through the free-agent freeze on Friday by re-signing infielder D.J. LeMahieu to a six-year, $90 million deal. According to MLB.com’s Jon Heyman, the two-time batting champion wanted to return to New York, but wanted the security of a long-term deal and got a four-year offer with a higher average annual value from the Toronto Blue Jays.
In signing a six-year deal for an AAV of $15 million, Yankees GM Brian Cashman has deftly been able to keep LeMahieu in New York and spread the salary over a longer term to help keep the club under the $210 million MLB luxury tax and give Cashman more wiggle room to add players.
The signing likely means LeMahieu will play mostly at second base, with MLB homerun champion Luke Voit at first and Gleyber Torres remaining at shortstop, but there has been some speculation that the Yankees concern about their infield defense would have them move Torres back to second, LeMahieu to first and trade Voit for pitching help.
New York now may have enough room to add a free agent starter like former Cy Young winner Corey Kluber or possibly bring back Masahiro Tanaka.
Toronto rather quietly announced a five-year extension for Team President Mark Shapiro this week, which may be understandable since the Blue Jays have failed to make any news in the free-agent market thus far.
The combination of the announcement this week from MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred that he expects spring training to start on time and the LeMahieu signing may jump-start the signings around the league, but the uncertainty of where the Blue Jays may play this season may have a chilling effect on free agents like JT Realmuto or George Springer being willing to sign north of the border.
The Toronto Raptors were forced to play their games in Tampa Bay and the NHL Maple Leafs are playing this season with no fans. The Blue Jays played all their home games at their AAA affiliate in Buffalo last season and with the uncertain status of the US-Canadian border, that may force them to do that again for at least part of next season.
The Boston Red Sox have been systematically dismantling the roster that won the World Series in 2018 and the latest to be rumored heading out of Beantown is outfielder Andrew Benintendi. The former #1 MLB prospect had two excellent seasons in Boston alongside Mookie Betts and Jackie Bradley Jr., but slumped in 2019 and had a disastrous injury-shortened campaign in 2020.
The thought is that the 26-year-old still has value, is under control for two more years before qualifying for free agency, and that Boston Senior VP Chaim Bloom needs to fill holes in other areas and has newcomer Alex Verdugo (acquired in the Betts deal) to take Benintendi’s place.
Kansas City, Houston, St.Louis, and Pittsburgh are rumored to be interested.
AL Players signing one-year deals to avoid arbitration:
Lucas Giolito ($4.15 million)
Reynaldo López ($2.1 million)
Lance McCullers Jr. ($6.5 million)
Aledmys Diaz ($3 million)
Mike Mayers ($1.2 million)
Aaron Judge ($10.175 million)
Matt Chapman ($6.49 million)
J.P. Crawford ($2.05 million)
Tyler Glasnow ($4 million)
Isiah Kiner-Falefa ($2 million)
Joey Gallo ($6.2 million)
Ross Stripling ($3 million)
Teoscar Hernandez ($4.325 million)