DJ LeMahieu became one of the best hitters in the majors, won a batting title this season and has a chance to do something no Yankee has done since 2007: win an MVP.
LeMahieu is among three finalists for the award that will be announced Thursday. White Sox slugger Jose Abreu is considered the favorite, ahead of LeMahieu and the Indians’ Jose Ramirez. Alex Rodriguez last won the award with the Yankees 13 years ago.
LeMahieu, who hit the open market by rejecting the Yankees’ qualifying offer of $18.9 million, easily could have been the front-runner for the award if he didn’t miss two weeks with a sprained left thumb in mid-August.
Before he suffered the injury on Aug. 15, LeMahieu was hitting .429. He still ended the 60-game regular season with an AL-best .364 average and an OPS of 1.011, a higher number than Abreu or Martinez. And the Yankees went 30-20 with LeMahieu in the lineup, as opposed to just 3-7 without him.
It was the second straight standout season for the 32-year-old LeMahieu, who signed a two-year, $24 million deal with the Yankees in January 2019 after a lackluster final season in Colorado.
LeMahieu finished fourth in the MVP voting last year and is in line to get a three- or four-year deal, likely for around $20 million per season.
In an unsettled offseason in which teams are dealing with the financial fallout of COVID-19 that led to an abbreviated regular season with no fans in the stands, the free-agent market figures to be less robust than in recent years, but there figures to be a big market for LeMahieu due to his recent performance in The Bronx.
If LeMahieu stays with the Yankees, he could play second base and they could keep Gleyber Torres at shortstop — where he struggled defensively last season — with Luke Voit at first and Gio Urshela at third.
But the Yankees are considering an upgrade at short, which would enable Torres to shift back to second and perhaps force LeMahieu to first and a trade of Voit.