Free-agent season is upon us! This will be a free-agent season unlike any other, which makes sense, given it follows a year unlike any other. You can’t expect things to start getting normal now.
For the next few weeks, we’ll take looks regularly at the top free agents and their top suitors … and we'll rank ‘em. There are plenty of teams who want the top-tier options, the platinum plan, the Glengarry leads. But which teams are most likely to sign them? That’s the goal of the Free Agency Power Rankings: To give you our best guess.
Today, we look at DJ LeMahieu. The Athletic’s Jayson Stark noted that not only is he the first player to win batting titles in both leagues, he’s the first free agent to ever lead his league in batting average and OPS the previous season. You’d think that would make him, right there, the top free-agent hitter on the market, particularly when you account for the fact that he’s a middle infielder. But he’s also 32, not the most deft fielder and was thought to be a utility player by the Yankees when they signed him in the first place. He’s obviously more than that, but how much more?
Which team will get him? Let's make some predictions with LeMahieu power rankings.
Obviously, the first pick here is the team with whom he proved once and for all that he was no product of Coors Field, the team full of stars yet one that relied on LeMahieu more than anyone else on the roster over the last couple of years. It's also the team with the most money and the most obvious need. The Yankees are the overwhelming favorites, and if they don’t bring him back, something has gone wrong.
The Mets would be extremely eager to be that "something that has gone wrong," though. Robinson Canó's suspension freed up some money, but it also, potentially, freed up a position. (Well, for 2021, at least.) LeMahieu would fit in that lineup perfectly, a right-handed hitter who gets on base consistently and puts the ball in play. And obviously, the Mets sure look ready to throw some weight around this offseason. If they’re unable to reel in Springer or Realmuto (or even if they do), LeMahieu would immediately become the object of their affection. You know they’d love to take a key cog from the Yankees.
This may depend on what Justin Turner ends up doing, but if he leaves, LeMahieu would be the sort of Dodgers-piling-on move we’ve come to expect from this franchise. Imagine this lineup with him in the middle of it. Imagine him hitting in between Mookie Betts and Cody Bellinger! And because he’s older, Los Angeles might be able to get away with giving him three or four years, which is the sort of deal (Mookie aside) the club usually prefers to make. LeMahieu might need to move to third base if the Dodgers decide prospect Gavin Lux is the second baseman of the future. It’s not hard to imagine him in an L.A. uniform, is it?
4. Blue Jays
The Blue Jays showed last year they’re willing to bring in productive veterans like Hyun Jin Ryu at a higher price but for fewer years, and it paid off with a playoff berth. LeMahieu, if slotted at third base, would make this infield the best in the division and one of the best in baseball. It would be an aggressive intradivision maneuver, and boy, wouldn’t it feel good for the Blue Jays to take one of the Yankees’ stars for once?
There are certainly infield spots open, and this would be an extension of the Anthony Rendon solution to all the pitching problems in Los Angeles: Get more offense! The Angels' lineup would be absolutely absurd with LeMahieu in it, and it would have to be. Because if the team continued not to address the rotation, it might have to score seven runs a game.
The Nats have some young players they’d like to see fill in where LeMahieu would play, unless they gave him a shot at first base. But he’d very much be a bridge to whenever they are ready, if they are ready, and he would help the Nationals make up some of the progress they lost last year.
Astros: Ken Rosenthal floated the Astros idea, but that qualifying offer -- which would cost them Draft picks, in addition to those they were docked as part of their penalty for illegal sign stealing -- would seem too much for them.
Cardinals: They have an opening at second base now that Kolten Wong is a free agent, and LeMahieu would solve a lot of problems, but outfield seems like the most likely target area.
Rockies: Anybody up for a reunion?