The biggest, richest offseason of DJ LeMahieu’s life has started with a noteworthy honor.
LeMahieu, White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu and Cleveland third baseman Jose Ramirez are finalists for American League MVP, the Baseball Writers’ Association of America announced Monday night.
The winner will be unveiled Nov. 12. Whatever the results, LeMahieu is guaranteed to top his fourth-place finish from last year and add another line to his already impressive resume — just as he heads into free agency as one of the top position players available.
His two-year, $24 million contract with the Yankees complete, LeMahieu, 32, hits the open market again after posting the best numbers of his career, albeit in a shortened season.
He led the majors in average (.364) and the AL in OBP (.421), plus slugged .590, hit 10 homers and 10 doubles and drove in 27 runs. All that came while playing third, second and first — after he missed most of camp because of COVID-19. He also missed nearly two weeks because of a sprained left thumb.
The first stage of LeMahieu’s free agency came Sunday, when the Yankees extended him a one-year, $18.9 million qualifying offer.
He has until Nov. 11, one day before the MVP announcement, to accept or decline that offer. If he declines, the Yankees still would be able to try to sign him to a longer-term deal but would get an extra 2021 draft pick if he signs with another team.
"I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t recognize what a contribution he made to the club and how good of a player he is," Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner said on ESPN Radio last month. "I recognize both those things. I’ll leave it at that."
It is extremely likely that LeMahieu says no to $18.9 million for one year.
LeMahieu was the only Yankee to receive a qualifying offer. Masahiro Tanaka and James Paxton are free agents without the cost of a draft pick attached to their eventual contracts.
As for LeMahieu’s MVP competition, Abreu slashed .317/.370/.617 with 19 homers and an MLB-leading 60 RBIs, helping a young White Sox team to its first winning season since 2012 and first playoff berth since 2008.
Ramirez hit .292/.386/.607 with 17 homers and 46 RBIs.
Members of the BBWAA cast their ballots before the start of the playoffs.