It took a bit longer than expected, but the Yankees made a big splash in free agency on Friday, re-signing one of their key players from last season and then bringing in a big name from outside the organization.
The team on Friday was finalizing a six-year, $90 million contract to re-sign infielder DJ LeMahieu, a source confirmed to Newsday. Later in the evening, news broke that the Yankees were closing in on a deal with two-time American League Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber.
The deal with Kluber, which is pending a physical, is for one year and $11 million, according to Jon Heyman of the MLB Network.
Kluber, who won the Cy Young Award with Cleveland in 2014 and 2017, started seven games for Cleveland in 2019 and threw exactly one inning for Texas in 2020 before suffering a shoulder tear.
The Yankees had a bit of an inside track on Kluber’s recovery: The righthander worked out with Eric Cressey, the Yankees’ director of health and performance, during his rehab. Yankees pitching coach Matt Blake also has a long history with Kluber from their Cleveland days, and the team had a scout at Kluber's throwing session in Florida on Wednesday.
The news came on the heels of the team's agreement with LeMahieu, the major leagues’ leading hitter in 2020 and the linchpin to the Yankees’ offseason plans.
Once the deal is complete, LeMahieu will get the longest and most lucrative free-agent contract of the offseason to date. The $15 million average value will give the Yankees more wiggle room to sign other players before spring training opens next month.
LeMahieu’s Yankees teammates left no doubt about how they felt as reports of the imminent re-signing surfaced.
"Let’s roll!" Aaron Judge tweeted. "Excited to have you back in pinstripes @DJLeMahieu"
Giancarlo Stanton posted on Twitter: "Here we go!!! DJ run it back."
Gleyber Torres may have summed up the emotions of Yankees fans best when he posted on Twitter the word "mood" with a GIF of he and LeMahieu hugging.
The Yankees have been up front all offseason that re-signing LeMahieu was their top priority. Most other business — including finding much-needed starting pitching behind Gerrit Cole — took a back seat to re-signing "The Machine."
LeMahieu, 32, hit .364 with 10 home runs and a 1.011 OPS in 2020, his second season with the Yankees after signing a two-year, $24 million contract.
In 2019, LeMahieu hit .327 with 26 home runs, 102 RBIs and an .893 OPS. He quickly became a fan and locker room favorite.
Yankees fans gnashed their teeth as the club and player waited out a slowly paced free-agent market. General manager Brian Cashman said he was prepared to wait as long as it took, even if it cost the Yankees a chance at other players on the market.
A week ago, LeMahieu was said to be "dismayed" at the pace of talks and his camp reportedly vowed to engage other teams.
LeMahieu reportedly had other offers — four years and $78 million from the Blue Jays, four years and $60 million from the Dodgers. The Mets, even after Robinson Cano’s PED suspension, never got seriously involved.
Cashman did not respond to a request for comment.
The Yankees are stepping up with a longer-than-usual contract for a player of LeMahieu’s age. They are trading a lower annual salary for a contract that may extend beyond when LeMahieu is an MVP-caliber player.
LeMahieu will be the Yankees’ primary second baseman. Torres will remain at shortstop, where he struggled defensively in 2020.
Masahiro Tanaka still is a free agent, as is outfielder Brett Gardner. The Yankees have expressed interest in bringing back both veterans, but at a reduced price. Or will the Yankees not have enough money left to sign either, or both?
MLB Network's Jon Morosi was the first to report that the Yankees were close to re-signing LeMahieu.