With Spring Training approaching and not much activity happening this offseason for the Yankees, it made sense that two significant signings happened over the past week.
The Yankees brought back DJ LeMahieu on a 6-year contract worth $90 million, as well as signing starting pitcher Corey Kluber to a 1-year deal for $11 million. Both signings fill areas of need for the Yankees.
Starting with LeMahieu, he has been one of their most valuable players over the past two seasons. With players like Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton struggling to stay on the field due to injury LeMahieu has been able to stay on the field as well as produce. He has finished 3rd and 4th in the American League MVP voting in the last two years.
In a lineup that features some high strikeout hitters, LeMahieu provides a bat that rarely does.
Strikeouts are not looked down upon as much as they were in the past, but it is nice to have a type of hitter of LeMahieu’s profile in the Yankees lineup.
The Yankees also needed to bring in some sort of middle infielder. They got that with LeMahieu, who also plays solid defense at second base even though it took a bit of a dip in 2020. LeMahieu’s contract has an average annual value of $15 million, which was much lower than expected and why the Yankees gave him six years. It had been speculated that he could get up to $25 million on the market.
The Toronto Blue Jays are reported to have offered four years for $78, which would have been $19.5 million in average annual value.
The Yankees getting LeMahieu for this price allows more flexibility and a better chance of achieving what is a likely goal of staying under the $210 million luxury tax threshold.
All of DJ LeMahieu's hits over the past 2 seasons pic.twitter.com/zOITqhj0dP
— Gabe (@TanakaComeback) January 15, 2021
Yankees fans are accustomed to what LeMahieu is capable of doing on the field and they will be happy to see him back for the 2021 season. His return puts the Yankees in a prime position to have the best lineup in the American League if they can stay relatively healthy.
Moving over to the Kluber signing. It was no surprise that Kluber signed with the Yankees. He already trains with Yankees strength and conditioning head Eric Cressey and had a history with Yankees pitching coach Matt Blake during his stint in Cleveland.
There is a saying that there is no such thing as a bad one-year deal. While $11 million was more than I expected Kluber to sign for, this is still a move that has a ton of upside for the Yankees as a low-risk high-reward move. Kluber has won Cy Young awards in 2014 and 2017. His repertoire features a 4-seam fastball, changeup, cutter, curveball, and sinker. He had a very strong year in 2018 in which he featured the sinker and cutter for the most part before dealing with injuries in 2019 and 2020.
If Kluber can recapture even just around 80% of what he had in 2018 he would be a valuable asset to the Yankees in 2021.
The injuries are the reason why Kluber is signing a one year deal right now. That concern is still there. But the Yankees need some help with starting pitching and a one year deal on a guy with the upside of Kluber is not a bad strategy.
Even if he is not that Cy Young caliber pitcher of old if he can stay on the mound and give the Yankees some quality innings then the contract they gave him will be well worth it.
The Yankees still have to clear two spots on the 40 man roster for these signings to become official, so there should still be some more moves in the near future for the Yankees. It is just a question of whether those moves will be big or small.
With rumors of a trade for Reds starting pitcher Luis Castillo getting shot down over the weekend it is pretty unpredictable what will happen.
The Yankees could still use some moves to improve their roster, but they are a better team than they were a week ago.
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