With LeMahieu Returning to New York, What’s Next for the Jays at 3B?
After news broke last weekend that DJ LeMahieu would be reopening free agency negotiations with other teams, the New York Yankees and the reigning batting champion reportedly came to terms late last week.
Second baseman DJ LeMahieu and the New York Yankees are finalizing a six-year, $90M contract, sources familiar with the agreement tell ESPN.
LeMahieu’s return to New York always felt inevitable. It took a while. But he wanted to be there and Yankees get top free agent target.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) January 15, 2021
This deal is a bit less than the $110 million contract he was seeking according to Yahoo’s Tim Brown. Did LeMahieu take a so-called “hometown discount” to stay with his preferred club?
After losing out to the New York Mets on acquiring Francisco Lindor, the Toronto Blue Jays have once again failed to capitalize on an opportunity this winter. LeMahieu was the best free agent third baseman available. Where can they go from here? Since I last wrote about this open roster spot, some other options have become the subject of speculation for the Jays. Let’s take a look.
When Semien made his MLB debut at third base for the Chicago White Sox in 2013, but moved to shortstop after joining the Oakland Athletics in 2015. In 2019, he posted 7.6 fWAR and finished third in American League MVP voting, appearing in all 162 regular season games for Oakland. Like many stars, his offense suffered in the shortened 2020 season. His OPS was a mere .679 (91 OPS+). His fielding also regressed to -5 Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) in 2020 after being credited with 12 and 14 DRS in 2019 and 2018, respectively.
Semien has been a mainstay of an Oakland team that improved to win the AL West Division in 2020 after losing two consecutive Wild Card games. If the Jays acquired him, they could move him back to 3rd base or shuffle the alignment of their young core stars, with Cavan Biggio taking over the hot corner.
Bryant is not a free agent, but after the global pandemic derailed their Wrigleyville real estate amibitions, the Ricketts family has decided to put the Cubs’ most expensive players on the trading block. Yu Darvish was dealt to the San Diego Padres for a handful of teenaged lottery tickets after one of the best seasons of his career.
The Blue Jays were reported to have reached out to the Cubs about acquiring Bryant, but the talks did not progress, perhaps because his 2021 salary had yet to be finalized during the arbitration process. The Cubs have since settled with Bryant at a figure of $19.5 million.
Per source, Kris Bryant avoids arb with 1/year, $19.5M deal. Zach Davies with 1-year, $8.63M.
— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) January 15, 2021
Now that cold hard numbers are available, teams like the Jays should be back in touch with the Cubs about the 2016 MVP. The Darvish deal shows that the Cubs are in “fire sale” mode and that the return for players with a significant injury history will be quite low. Bryant has not sustained any major injuries requiring surgery, but the Northsiders’ poor handling of various injuries have resulted in less consistent production from the three-time All-Star. In 2020, KB slashed just .206/.293/.351, posting a career-worst 73 OPS+ after suffering wrist and finger injuries on a diving catch attempt. Given this history and the Cubs’ recent behavior on the market, a club interested in Bryant may not need to offer multiple top prospects.
Despite these issues, Bryant is still the best third baseman expected to be available for 2021. A trade would also give the Jays an MVP with championship experience untainted by a cheating scandal, unlike another player they’ve been linked to throughout the offseason. Now that the Cubs have reached an agreement with Bryant on his 2021 salary, the Jays should resume their inquiries immediately. After a trade, the Jays could also extend him to a long-term deal, securing a leader for future playoff runs.
Featured Image: Toronto, Canada – June 28, 2016: Sign of Toronto Blue Jays by Lester Balajadia / Shutterstock.com.