The top tier of the free agent market has been extraordinarily slow this year. Sure, the whole market, of course, has been extraordinarily slow, but it’s not as if the tip-top guys have been targeted with apace. Heck, even the rumor mill on the top guys has kinda been the same set of one or two teams with interest in each guy, and mostly silence.
That’s why the latest on D.J. LeMahieu from Tim Brown at Yahoo struck me today: it has lots of teams mentioned as suitors, not just the same Blue Jays and Yankees over and over.
And one of those suitors? The “we’re not spending” St. Louis Cardinals:
LeMahieu, according to a source close to his family, has become dismayed by the slow-play tactics of the Yankees, along with other clubs. Teams that have engaged with the LeMahieu camp say LeMahieu expects more than Josh Donaldson’s four-year, $92 million deal with the Minnesota Twins and at least on par with J.D. Martinez’s five years and $110 million with the Boston Red Sox. The Yankees, LeMahieu’s preferred club after two successful seasons in the Bronx, have not met those terms.
The 32-year-old LeMahieu has, therefore, asked his representatives to re-engage with teams that have previously shown the most interest, the source said, among them the Los Angeles Dodgers, Toronto Blue Jays and New York Mets, and to reconnect with teams that reached out early in the free agent period, including the Atlanta Braves, St. Louis Cardinals, Boston Red Sox and others.
LeMahieu expects to meet virtually with several teams this week, according to the source, that are seeking to fill holes at second or third base.
To be sure, it remains the case that a reunion with the Yankees is the most likely outcome, but it’s clear that LeMahieu is open to other teams, even if only to push the Yankees toward a resolution.
As far as the Cardinals go, specifically, here’s what I wonder: did they reach out early in free agency, as Brown notes, so that they could be one of those teams to say, “Hey, if your market isn’t great, and if our financial projections look better in January, we want to talk to you then.” Team President John Mozeliak did say that January would be the new December, so maybe it’s possible that they do now have the budget in place to make a run at LeMahieu, who might otherwise make a ton of sense for a Cardinals team that could look like a shoe-in to win the crummy NL Central with a key addition or three. Having jettisoned Kolten Wong, the Cardinals also have a wide open spot at second base, which currently projects to be filled by Tommy Edman, who was fairly meh in 2020 after his great rookie campaign. There’s also the declining presence of Matt Carpenter at third base, where the Cardinals could otherwise play Edman if need be.
This is something to watch. I tend to think the Cardinals aren’t going to be handing out a $100 million contract this offseason, but if LeMahieu isn’t seeing an offer from the Yankees anywhere close to what he was expecting, and if the Cardinals wisely think to themselves that they can create a really nice window for themselves in the NL Central by just, you know, trying to win for the next few years, then I wouldn’t rule this out.
That said, surely the Blue Jays or the Mets would just set up and spend, right? Or have I just bought too much into that whole storyline? Am I just paranoid that LeMahieu, even at 32, will join the Cardinals and win five straight batting titles?