DJ LeMahieu sought out stability and value, the Yankees gave him both with a 6 year-$90 Million deal

DJ LeMahieu has been clear on three things: He’s looking to win, he’s looking to be valued, and he’s looking for stability.

By signing a six-year, $90 million deal to return to the New York Yankees, LeMahieu checks all those boxes in a way that is tailor-made to fit the middle infielder and the club’s priorities.

LeMahieu is 32 years old and knew this would be his one big contract for his career. There were many people out there who assumed the talking point on a deal would be 5 years, $100 million. And to his credit, if he had landed that deal with that AAV, I don’t think anyone would have blocked twice at it. LeMahieu, with his play on the field, has earned his right to be paid like the elite players.

Maybe the Yankees had reserves about paying that much money in a down financial year. Maybe LeMahieu just wanted to test the waters to find his true worth. And maybe that is why a deal that everyone had marked complete in early November, took until January 15th to be completed.

In December, manager Aaron Boone said that “hopefully, at the end of all this, DJ is a Yankee for a long time.” Boone was echoing many people in the Yankees organization while speaking for himself.

This was always the likeliest outcome, and the one both parties wanted. LeMahieu gets a $90 million contract value — an almost unfathomable thought before he signed with the Yankees in early 2019 — and the Yankees get to spread out the payroll commitment and keep the hit to their yearly luxury tax payroll at $15 million, quite less than what one would have expected.

By the time the Yankees’ season ended last October, LeMahieu had established himself as one of Brian Cashman’s biggest heists. He’d been their team MVP on a two-year, $24 million contract that he’d landed after an injury-marred and subpar final season with the Colorado Rockies. He became the face of surplus value; not only was he carrying the team on the field, but he was also doing it as the eighth-highest paid player on the Yankees.

He had gone from a guy Yankees fans saw as evidence of the front office’s frugality (or, to Yankee fans, “cheapness”) in a winter when they could have been pursuing Manny Machado to a guy who seemed deserving of a $20 million per year agreement.

A six year deal for a 32 year old middle infielder seems risky. Generally those long contracts to a player in their 30’s never end pretty. But LeMahieu isn’t the usual candidate for said deal.

The previous blueprint to a player having a deal deep into their late 30’s was a big strong power hitter who swings and misses often. That isn’t LeMahieu.

LeMahieu’s skill set — strong bat-to-ball ability — is one that tends to age better than a power-first approach. Worried about him losing agility to play the middle infield? He is versatile enough to slide on over to slide over to first base for the back end of the deal.

There will be a time when the Yankees may have to change his workload or his defensive position, but for now, they retain their best player while they’re in a wide-open window of contention.

In contract negotiations, monetary compensation is always the foundation for where a player chooses to sign for the next stint of his career. Different players have different motivations when considering how they assess their compensation: Some players, looking at it as a competition or seeing it as a way to set precedent on behalf of other players, look for the highest average annual value. Others look for the highest total value.

For LaMahieu, he looks to be valued. He has spent his career looking to be valued by a team and to have stability to just focus on the game; in baseball.

The longer-length, lower-AAV structure of the Yankees’ new deal with LeMahieu is reflective of the stability he’s been looking for in the past. Some players are excited by the idea of free agency and calling the shots on the open market; LeMahieu lobbied for a contract extension in Colorado, and again in the second year of his contract in New York.

There is a lot of non-monetary value to be found in knowing where you’re going to play on a longer timeline and being free of the stresses of walk years and free agency.

LeMahieu can now stop thinking about what’s next. He re-signed with a team that has a de facto mandate to try to contend for a championship by virtue of being the New York Yankees. He gets his stability and chance to contend. The Yankees get their MVP from the past two seasons back for six more years.

Apparently, there are times in baseball when both teams can win.

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