Another big name on the free-agent market this season, many were surprised to see DJ LeMahieu actually become available given his 2020 campaign and the reported interest between him and the New York Yankees on a reunion.
A productive hitter before heading to the Yankees, LeMahieu sports a .301/.356/.423 slash line for his career with 94 home runs, 532 RBI, and a .780 OPS. His 2020 campaign was one of his best by far (even in the shortened season) where his .364 batting average led the Major Leagues and his .421 OBS and 1.011 OPS led the American League. LeMahieu also played second base, a position the club was in need of with Vladimir Guerrero Jr. moving to first base and Cavan Biggio being entrusted with third base duties.
Contract talks between the Blue Jays and the righty slugger progressed so far that the front office reportedly offered him a four-year deal worth $78 million. The all-star would go on to re-sign with the Yankees in January, accepting a six-year deal worth $90 million to return to the Bronx Bombers. The deal he accepted is for two additional years compared to the Jays’ offer but he did leave money on the table, as he would have made roughly $4.5 million more in terms of contract value if he signed North of the border for the four years.
This season, LeMahieu is slashing .268/.350/.367 with nine home runs, 54 RBI, and a .716 OPS through 129 games and 518 at-bats. While these stats are not nearly as bad as other options the Blue Jays considered this off-season, if the front office had signed LeMahieu, they would have missed out on signing Marcus Semien to his one year deal. The infielder is currently having one of his best statistical seasons to date with his .266/.334/.530 line, 35 home runs, 82 RBI, and .865 OPS and is one of the leading players in terms of position player WAR in the league at 5.7 bWAR.
While Semien may leave the team this upcoming off-season, the upside is currently with the Blue Jays’ current second baseman over LeMahieu. Even if Semien does leave via free agency, the club will most likely submit to him a qualifying offer which will entitle the Blue Jays to draft pick compensation if he signs elsewhere.
If LeMahieu can find his old form at the plate, then this miss will turn into regret for the Blue Jays as he mashes for the Yankees in a competitive AL East division. Only time will tell after this season.