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Yankees Mailbag: DJ LeMahieu and pitching targets

Here’s the answers to this week’s mailbag.

New York Yankees v. Boston Red Sox Photo by Adam Glanzman/MLB Photos via Getty Images

Good morning everyone, it’s time for another round of mailbag answers. Remember to send in your questions for our weekly call by e-mail to pinstripealleyblog [at] gmail [dot] com.

Yankees456 asks: How serious will the Yankees be about signing DJL and two solid starting pitchers, or are they going to allow Cohen and the Mets to rule NY?

Last offseason, the primary objective was clearly to sign Gerrit Cole away from any other suitors. This offseason, it’s clear that the goal is re-sign DJ LeMahieu before he can be enticed by anyone else. What follows afterward remains murky, much like the rest of the 2019-20 offseason was after the Yankees inked Cole, but for now the spotlight is solely on LeMachine.

For what it’s worth, that interest is mutual. LeMahieu has called New York City his home for the past two seasons, and apparently he’s become infatuated with it. He’s expressed in no uncertain terms that he prefers a return to the Bronx, but if he can’t come to terms on a deal to remain in pinstripes then the next-best location would be across town. The possibility of LeMahieu ending up on the Mets got a significant boost with the news of Robinson Canó’s suspension and the Mets now have another $24 million to play with from new owner Steve Cohen’s pockets.

That being said, it shouldn’t come close to mattering. MLB Trade Rumors projects LeMahieu’s market to be somewhere in the range of four years and $68 million, using the Josh Donaldson deal as a basis and slightly undercutting it due to the financial state of the league currently. That’s a favorable deal for the Yankees to bring back their team-MVP, and if the bidding doesn’t raise the price up too far then the team should be able to match any offer and retain LeMahieu’s services.

The idiot that said, “Harper is coming” asks: Top five starting pitchers the Yankees should target via free agency/trade?

These were two separate questions, but since they address a similar theme I’m going to tackle both of them together.

As far as free agent pitchers are concerned, there were only a handful of interesting pitchers available — and that pool got smaller once Marcus Stroman accepted the one-year qualifying offer. Any conversation around the free agent market starts with Trevor Bauer, who is the clear-cut number one pitcher available. Not much else has to be said about Bauer: the market won’t move until he does, and the Yankees will be one of many teams checking in and possibly bidding.

After Bauer, it’s clear that the rest of the class is a step or two below, but that does mean that there could be some cheap steals. Masahiro Tanaka likely becomes the next-best pitcher to consider — which means the Yankees will have competition in trying to re-sign him — and perhaps the familiarity between the two leads to an agreement. After Tanaka the class arguably drops down another tier, depending on your opinion of Jake Odorizzi.

Still, both he and Jose Quintana are intriguing options that dealt with disastrous 2020 seasons but have promising resumés prior to that. In that same camp is another Yankee free agent, James Paxton, who could be considered on a one-year deal if his market doesn’t end up emerging. All things considered, there’s not a lot of potential for moves to improve the club so much as ones that will keep things afloat for another year.

Trade candidates are trickier to project, since technically it’s true that Walker Buehler or Jack Flaherty would be ideal trade targets, but we know that neither of those guys are getting moved anytime soon. Playing with the idea of who is available is total guesswork, so I don’t think I could put together five that I would be confident in, but there are some realistic options to consider.

One popular arm that has been discussed among the staff here is Alex Reyes, a promising Cardinals pitcher who has yet to deliver on the top prospect status that has hovered around him. Reyes has just 72.2 innings pitched in four years at the major league level, and most of that has come in relief. Still, Reyes was brought up through the minors as a starter and there are some that think a change of scenery could bring out the potential in his arm. The Yankees likely would target a proven pitcher over a project like Reyes, but if there was one to scoop up it would be him.

If the priority is getting the best pitcher for next year that they can, Lance Lynn is the man to lock in on. The Yankees had him briefly back in 2018, and he showed the potential of what he’s become since then, but Lynn has come into his own out in Texas. There’s definitely some concerns about longevity with pursuing Lynn, as he’s already 34-years-old and is only under contract for one more year, but if the team wants to field the best roster they can in 2021 acquiring Lynn would go a long way towards accomplishing that.

If the priority is getting a controllable, young pitcher however, then the search goes in a completely different direction. One name I have had my eye on is Luis Castillo — a pitcher who has already “made it” on the Reds, but has the potential to be a number two/number one lite type of player. The Reds will be an interesting team to watch all offseason: they went all-in on a short window by getting Bauer to compliment Castillo and Sonny Gray, and despite only getting one shot at the postseason with that core they’re already looking at either a re-tooling or an outright rebuild. Trading Castillo would be a definite move towards the latter, but it may be possible this offseason.