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LeMahieu to Mets could have domino effect

@HarriganMLB
November 23, 2020

Robinson Canó’s 162-game suspension without pay for violating MLB’s Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment program cleared $20.25 million from the Mets’ 2021 payroll and left the team with a hole at second base, leading to increased speculation that the club could make a run at free agent DJ LeMahieu. LeMahieu,

Robinson Canó’s 162-game suspension without pay for violating MLB’s Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment program cleared $20.25 million from the Mets’ 2021 payroll and left the team with a hole at second base, leading to increased speculation that the club could make a run at free agent DJ LeMahieu.

LeMahieu, of course, spent the last two seasons with the Yankees, earning MVP votes in both years. Re-signing him is believed to be the Bronx Bombers’ top priority this offseason.

Luring LeMahieu away from the Yankees would be a significant win for the Mets both on and off the field, as new owner Steve Cohen tries to assert the Amazins as the No. 1 team in the city after years of playing second fiddle to their crosstown rivals.

The team hasn’t tipped its hand as to whether the 32-year-old is actually on its list of targets, but it’s fun to imagine how a LeMahieu deal with the Mets could impact the rest of the market. Here's a look at what could happen if the second baseman signs with the Mets.

Lindor to the Bronx becomes more likely

How would the Yankees react to losing LeMahieu to the Mets? With a trade for one of MLB’s top shortstops, perhaps?

Multiple industry sources told MLB.com’s Jon Paul Morosi earlier this month that the Indians are likely to trade Francisco Lindor before Opening Day, and the Mets, Yankees, Phillies, Blue Jays and Cardinals are viewed as the strongest candidates to land the 27-year-old shortstop.

The Yankees are unlikely to zero in on Lindor while LeMahieu is still available, but if the second baseman is off the board, a blockbuster trade that brings Lindor to the Bronx becomes more likely -- especially if the Mets’ acquisition of LeMahieu takes them out of the mix.

Gleyber Torres' defense at shortstop is a legitimate concern for the Yanks; he has recorded -11 Outs Above Average as a shortstop in his three-year career. Lindor, meanwhile, produced +28 OAA in that span. Swinging a trade for Lindor would allow the Yankees to move Torres back to second base. The 23-year-old hasn’t been great at the keystone, either, but he’s better there than at short.

Lindor is eligible for free agency next offseason and could be seeking a deal in the neighborhood of $300 million. The Yankees are among the small number of teams that have the budget to make such an offer, and Lindor might be amenable to signing a new contract a year early with so many talented shortstops (Trevor Story, Corey Seager, Carlos Correa, Javier Báez) also hitting the market after 2021.

First DJ, then Bauer?

The Mets have been connected to just about every big name on the market this offseason, and signing LeMahieu wouldn’t necessarily preclude another move.

With a much-needed right-handed bat in the fold, the Mets could be more inclined to pursue right-hander Trevor Bauer rather than making a play for catcher J.T. Realmuto or center fielder George Springer.

The Mets brought back Marcus Stroman via the $18.9 million qualifying offer, but their rotation is still unsettled behind ace Jacob deGrom, Stroman and David Peterson, because Noah Syndergaard is recovering from Tommy John surgery. Seth Lugo could start, but he has proven to be better in the bullpen.

New York also needs to consider the future, with Stroman and Syndergaard eligible for free agency after 2021. Signing Bauer to a multiyear deal would help in 2020 and give the Mets' rotation insurance for ’21 and beyond.

Blue Jays turn focus to center field

Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins said back in October that the team was open to adding a “super high impact” player this offseason.

Toronto has been linked to LeMahieu in multiple reports and is also said to be eyeing Springer and Jackie Bradley Jr. for center field.

With LeMahieu no longer an option, the Jays could narrow their focus. And with the Mets potentially out on Springer, as we laid out above, Toronto could be positioned to swoop in and sign the three-time All-Star.

It might be Dodgers or bust for Arenado’s trade chances

With a $35 million salary on the books for 2021 and the ability to opt out of the remaining five years and $164 million on his deal after the campaign, Nolan Arenado is expected to be shopped this offseason.

While any trade would likely be contingent on Arenado giving up his opt-out power or at least moving it back, the list of clubs that both need a third baseman and are interested in taking on that type of financial commitment isn’t long.

If the Mets are removed from the equation after their hypothetical acquisition of LeMahieu, it could leave the Dodgers as the only serious suitor for the Rockies' third baseman.

Nationals ramp up pursuit of impact bat

Sources told Morosi that the Nationals are considering a number of infield options, including LeMahieu and Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant, who’s a trade candidate with free agency looming next offseason.

Washington also has been mentioned as a potential suitor for Realmuto after trying to trade for him two years ago. If LeMahieu goes to their NL East rivals, the Nats could hone in on one of their other targets.

Thomas Harrigan is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @HarriganMLB.