As expected, the Yankees made infielder DJ LeMahieu the $18.9 million qualifying offer on Sunday. They didn’t do that with free-agent starters Masahiro Tanaka, J.A. Happ and James Paxton.
Happ and Paxton had no chance of receiving the offer, but there was a possibility Tanaka may have gotten one.
Considering he is line for a multiyear deal worth more than one year for $18.9 million, LeMahieu is certain to reject the offer. Players have until Nov. 11 to do so. Players who reject the offer are free agents. The team that signs a qualified free agent, other than his most recent club, must surrender draft-pick compensation.
LeMahieu, who recently finished a two-year deal for $24 million, is in line for a significant raise after leading the majors in hitting with a .364 average. His ability to play third base, second and first and his reputation as an outstanding clubhouse presence are attractive. The Yankees want him back but might not be willing to extend to four years for the 32-year-old, who finished fourth in the AL MVP race in 2019 and will likely garner MVP votes this year.
As for Tanaka, who turned 32 on Sunday, he only knows the Yankees since arriving from Japan in 2014. Like LeMahieu, Tanaka has a strong résumé and is highly thought of throughout the organization. In 174 games (173 starts) Tanaka has a 78-46 record and a 3.74 ERA.
The Yankees need rotation help beyond Gerrit Cole, and Tanaka is a fit for them. But in this COVID-19-affected, free-agent atmosphere where teams took a financial bath, it is difficult to see how it will shake out.
Outside the Yankees’ organization, one development to keep an eye on is the Phillies not making Didi Gregorius a qualifying offer. Last week, the former Yankee shortstop said he didn’t believe the Yankees wanted him back. But if the Yankees believe Gleyber Torres is a better fit at second than short, they are going to need a shortstop.
The Angels, who are expected to lose elite defender Andrelton Simmons (who also didn’t get a qualifying offer) to free agency, have been linked to Gregorius, who turns 31 in February. Oakland’s free-agent shortstop Marcus Semien didn’t get a qualifying offer.