Here’s why DJ LeMahieu could be a better Mets fit than George Springer
With Francisco Lindor and Carlos Carrasco now on board, the Mets have splurged elsewhere — specifically as it pertains to Lindor, who could potentially ink a deal in excess of $300 million between now and Opening Day.
Among the players heading to the Cleveland Indians in the deal that brought Lindor and Carrasco to Queens were Amed Rosario and Andres Gimenez, who might have made up the left side of New York’s infield this season had Lindor not been acquired.
With Rosario and Gimenez out, the Mets now have a hole at third base, where their current options appear to be J.D. Davis and Luis Guillorme.
And a perfect third base (or second base) option is still on the market, staring the Mets right in the face. His name is DJ LeMahieu, and the Mets are reportedly among the teams most interested in his services. If the Mets were to sign LeMahieu, they could use him at third base or play Jeff McNeil there and put LeMahieu at second base.
Speaking on Friday during an appearance on WFAN, Mets president Sandy Alderson said that Davis (whose defensive shortcomings at third base are well known) was the Mets’ third baseman for now — not exactly a ringing endorsement.
The Mets could certainly turn to the trade market to address third base, or they could roll with Davis or Guillorme. There are also other needs for New York, including in center field, where they absolutely need to find an everyday player whose presence would allow Brandon Nimmo to shift to left field.
Springer would fill that hole in center field (at least in the short-term), but the cost would be massive. Wouldn’t it make more sense to go with a less expensive option in center (Jackie Bradley Jr. is one option) and spend the rest of the budget elsewhere — potentially on LeMahieu?
It’s very hard to ignore the reasons why LeMahieu would be a great fit for the Mets, and why the new makeup of the team with Lindor on board arguably makes LeMahieu a better fit than Springer.
The Mets, with roughly $30 million left in salary cap space before they hit the $210 million luxury tax threshold, could still sign Springer — especially if they’re able to clear money via trade.
But while the Mets can afford Springer, his price tag (as it pertains to both this season and beyond) could be prohibitive.
Per SNY’s Andy Martino, Springer’s camp is seeking a deal worth around $175 million. While he might end up with less, it will be a bit surprising if the final number for Springer isn’t at least $150 million or so over five years.
And with the Toronto Blue Jays very interested in Springer and eager to spend, the $175 million ask isn’t totally crazy.
If the Mets were to add Springer on a five-year deal worth in excess of $150 million, it could hamstring them when it comes to adding more pieces this offseason. And adding a megadeal like that to the one that Lindor is likely to sign could also hurt the Mets going forward, especially when you consider that they’ll need to give a similar contract to Michael Conforto if they want to keep him from hitting free agency after the season.
As far as LeMahieu’s price, he’s reportedly seeking at least $110 million over five years. That’s not cheap, but it’s a lot less than what Springer is looking for. And with the Yankees reportedly willing to only guarantee four years to LeMahieu at the moment, perhaps a bit over $100 million over five years from the Mets would pique his interest.
When it comes to LeMahieu vs. Springer as it pertains to the Mets, positional fit also comes into play.
The Mets badly need a center fielder who can excel at the position defensively, but it’s fair to wonder how long Springer can last there before needing to move to a corner.
There is no such concern with LeMahieu, who should be able to stick at either third base or second base for the duration of the contract he signs, even if it’s for five years.
At this point, it remains hard to see the Yankees letting LeMahieu go. He is their top target and perhaps the only player they’re willing to spend big on this offseason.
The Mets also have other needs to address, and it could make more sense for them to spread most of their remaining money around instead of giving $100 million or more to LeMahieu.
While the money aspect here could be tricky, new owner Steve Cohen has said he’s open to crossing the luxury tax threshold, but perhaps not this year. The Mets wouldn’t have to do it this year to afford LeMahieu, though, and raising their payroll above $210 million in 2022 could theoretically help them extend Conforto. They’ll also get a bloated contract off their books when the Robinson Cano deal expires following the 2023 season.
As they try to take over the city from the Yankees (the team from Queens has owned it numerous times, by the way, despite the narrative), the Mets landing LeMahieu would also be a huge blow to their crosstown rivals. That’s not one of the top reasons to do it, but it would be a little bonus nonetheless.