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PSA Plays MLB The Show: How impending free agents have performed for the Yankees

A trio of big names are playing on expiring contracts. Has their performance warranted a new deal?

It was a rough week for the Yankees in our MLB The Show simulation, as the Bombers dropped two of three to the Orioles and watched the Red Sox win 10-straight games to take over first place in the division. Yikes.

The focus for our fictional Bombers needs to be on the rest of the 2019 season and avoiding the Wild Card Game for the fourth time since 2015, but let’s take a moment to look ahead to the coming winter, when a few key Yankees will head into free agency. Have those Yankees been proving their value, and perhaps warranting a longer stay in the Bronx? Let’s take a look.

DJ LeMahieu is currently playing through his contract year, and he’s been showing that his MVP-caliber 2019 season wasn’t a fluke. As the calendar heads towards July, LeMahieu is batting an even .300 with a .509 slugging percentage, the third-highest mark on the team, behind only Aaron Judge and Gio Urshela (!).

LeMahieu has already belted 16 home runs this season, pacing himself to eclipse his 2019 home-run total. His 3.9 WAR is the best on the team, and has been his usual self in the contact department, keeping his strikeout percentage down at 11.7 percent, the lowest mark on the team.

On the pitching side, James Paxton and Masahiro Tanaka are both heading towards their free-agent seasons, and both have stayed healthy so far in 2020. Tanaka was roughed up in his last start against the Cubs, but overall, he’s had a really solid in his age-31 season. The right-hander has tossed 104.1 innings so far, and is pitching to a 3.97 ERA, well below his 2019 mark of 4.45. Tanaka’s 1.27 WHIP is the lowest on the team aside from Gerrit Cole, and has already tossed two complete games.

Where the simulation is particularly accurate is his susceptibility to the long ball, as his 18 home runs allowed is the most by a Yankee starter. Still, his season has been productive and certainly warrants another contract from the Yanks if he continues on this path.

Paxton has hit a bit of a cold stretch, but it doesn’t erase the overall solid season he’s had so far. First, he’s thrown 103.2 innings, already approaching his 2019 total of 150.2 innings, and his 3.82 ERA has been inflated by a few recent starts where he was knocked around a bit, but that mark was much closer to 3.00 just a couple short weeks ago. Paxton’s 102 hits allowed are the lowest among Yankee starters, and he’s allowed just nine home runs, tied with Jordan Montgomery for the lowest mark in the rotation. His 3.0 WAR is best among starters aside from Cole, as is his 11.37 K/9.

It seems that all three of these players have warranted at least a discussion for another contract from the front office. We’ll have to check back in at the end of the year to see how their full seasons stack up.