While the Yankees continue to be the team most prominently linked to DJ LeMahieu, other clubs continue to linger as alternate possibilities for the free agent infielder. The includes the reigning World Series champions, as David Vassegh of AM 570 LA Sports said earlier this week during an MLB Network appearance that the Dodgers “are definitely in talks with LeMahieu.”
According to various reports, LeMahieu and the Yankees are separated by one year and over $25MM in contract talks — enough of a gap that it certainly presents opportunity for other big-spending teams to get involved. The Blue Jays have been considered to be the Yankees’ chief rivals to sign LeMahieu, with the Mets and Astros also involved at various points this offseason, but the Dodgers could suddenly loom as potential favorites if they made a full-on push to land the All-Star.
Since Los Angeles already has over $197MM on the books in projected 2021 payroll, signing LeMahieu would surely put the Dodgers over the $210MM luxury tax threshold. The club could look to make some trades elsewhere to free up money and avoid a tax payment, or the Dodgers could simply take a fairly minimal one-year hit (a 20% charge on every dollar spent between $210MM-$230MM) in order to further reinforce the lineup for another title run with the addition of LeMahieu’s bat. With Clayton Kershaw, Kenley Jansen, Corey Seager, Chris Taylor, and Joe Kelly all potentially set for free agency in the 2021-22 offseason, L.A. will suddenly have lot of payroll space available if it wishes to duck back under the tax threshold next winter.
The Dodgers are obviously very familiar with LeMahieu from his days as the Rockies’ regular second baseman, though he has taken his game to an MVP-caliber over two seasons with the Yankees. LeMahieu’s ability to also play third base and first base make him a good fit for a Los Angeles team that prizes multi-positional players, and it could make him a perfect (and more versatile) replacement for another free agent in Justin Turner.
It has been a pretty quiet offseason overall for the Dodgers, but the club isn’t thought to be under any of the financial restraints that are seemingly holding back a lot of teams this winter. With this kind of payroll flexibility available, the Dodgers could be content to wait out the market, both because they’re already loaded with talent and because players like LeMahieu in search of big paydays have a relatively short list of teams that can meet their asking price.
It’s worth noting that LeMahieu rejected the Yankees’ qualifying offer, and Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman usually stays away from free agents that come attached to draft pick compensation. However, AJ Pollock represents one such external QO signing during Friedman’s tenure in Los Angeles, as the Dodgers surrendered what ended up being the 34th overall pick in the 2019 draft when they signed Pollock to a four-year deal in January 2019.