General manager Brian Cashman admitted on Tuesday that the Yankees’ offseason plans are basically in a deep freeze until they find out if they can re-sign major league batting champion DJ LeMahieu.
"Certainly, it’s driving the bus a little bit," Cashman said in a virtual Winter Meetings Zoom news conference. "We’re certainly not dipping our toes in various waters until we get a feel for how that declares itself."
Cashman said he understands the risk of putting all his eggs in the LeMahieu basket, but feels the 32-year-old second baseman is "a special player" who is worth leaving the Yankee Stadium lights on for a little longer.
"We want to retain the player," Cashman said. "We want the player to feel good about being retained. And if it takes a little longer time to do so, that’s what we’ll try to do. It comes with risk – the risk of playing that waiting game."
Talks between Cashman and LeMahieu’s agents have stalled on a reported $25 million gap in what could be a four- or five-year deal to replace the two-year, $24 million contract LeMahieu signed before the 2019 season.
Cashman won’t confirm or deny those reports, but said he is staying in touch with agent Joel Wolfe as LeMahieu sees what other teams may have interest.
"The atmosphere is good in the fact that he wants to stay and we’d like to keep him," Cashman said. "But that doesn’t guarantee anything because in free agency anything can happen. We’ll see what happens over the course of time, but our intent is to try to find a way to make it happen."
If it doesn’t – if, say, LeMahieu eventually signs with the Mets or Dodgers or Blue Jays or some other team – Cashman knows it will leave a big hole in the Yankees’ lineup. But he also thinks the Yankees are good enough to be able to move on from that loss.
"Essentially, we have a lot of high-end pieces in place," Cashman said. "In terms of the position player side, we have one obvious vacancy in DJ LeMahieu and that’s what our stated pursuit is . . . As I navigate the free agency and the trade market, the long story short is we already enter this process with a very strong group . . . It’s a good club already."
Cashman said LeMahieu will play second base if he returns, which means Gleyber Torres will stay at shortstop, where he was below average defensively in 2020.
One move Cashman ruled out making was trading major league home run leader Luke Voit to open up first base for LeMahieu.
"I am not pursuing any plan of trying to trade Luke Voit to sign LeMahieu to play first," Cashman said. "That not part of my plan. My plan is, if we sign him, is to play him at second base."
So is it going to happen? Cashman hopes so. But he just doesn’t know yet.
"We’ve been public with our strong interest in retaining DJ LeMahieu," Cashman said. "He’s been a great Yankee. He’s done everything above and beyond, both on the field and in that clubhouse and, obviously, in bonding with our fan base at the same time. They certainly love their Yankee players, but our fans certainly love Yankee players that produce and produce in a very humble way. That obviously describes ‘The Machine.’
"Hopefully at some point we’ll find some common ground. I’d say negotiating is never easy, but I would say it’s much more difficult during times like the pandemic. But we have great working relationship with DJ LeMahieu as well as his agency and Joel Wolfe. It doesn’t guarantee anything. But we’re working on it. I promise you that we’re working on it. But he’s this winter’s priority, but obviously the overall priority is to make sure we somehow find a way to field a team that can push through and ultimately represent the American League in the World Series and find a way to win it."