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Yankees Lock-In LeMahieu, But Are They Real Contenders?

News broke earlier this morning that the New York Yankees and prized free agent 2B DJ LeMahieu were closing in on a deal. A couple hours later, the massive 6 yr. / $90 million deal was in the process of being finalized. Re-signing LeMahieu was big for New York. He has been and will be a great leadoff hitter for the Yankees. At the end of the day, it’s another big contract for one of the most valuable sports franchises. However, with all the big contracts on the Yankees payroll, it hasn’t equaled much success. Sure, they make the playoffs every year, but they haven’t made the World Series since 2009 (defeated Phillies in six). The looming question is are the Yankees real contenders?

Yankees Payroll Situation

Make it eight players for New York to have a base salary of $10 million or higher after the LeMahieu signing. That number can still go up if the Yankees add a high-priced pitcher such as Trevor Bauer or re-sign Masahiro Tanaka. And no doubt, they will have to add to their pitching staff. Behind Gerrit Cole and Luis Severino, New York desperately needs to address the rotation. With rumors swirling that Tanaka could go back to Japan, the Yankees have to look to the market or in-house to fill the remaining spots. Even the bullpen and bench depth could use upgrades. It’s worth noting that the Yankees will be paying Jacoby Ellsbury $5 million and Brett Gardner $2.5 million due to buyouts. New York already has around $160 million on their current payroll, and this doesn’t include arbitration deals (expected later today) and additional free agent signings.

Other AL Contenders

Even with all the big names on the team, New York should not be favorites in the AL. The reigning AL Champion Tampa Bay Rays, Chicago White Sox, Minnesota Twins, and Oakland Athletics are all contenders in the AL. And that list doesn’t include teams who could still make moves into contention including the Boston Red Sox, Toronto Blue Jays, Houston Astros, and Los Angeles Angels. New York can get whoever they want, but sometimes, throwing money at free agents isn’t always going to work.

The White Sox are not messing around in 2021

The Difference Between the Yankees and the Rays

The reason that the Rays defeated the Yankees in the Divisional Series wasn’t because of their payroll, it was because of their ability to develop their farm system. Additionally, by making smart trades (Chris Archer trade), and only spending big money on players who deliver (Charlie Morton). We saw that during the Rays magical postseason run. Once again, they’ll be strong contenders, and with a No. 1 farm system. Meanwhile, the Yankees are ranked 22nd. Albeit the Yankees big-time spending, they aren’t locks to make the World Series. Their roster is only getting older, while the Rays have a good supply of young, talented players.

Tyler Glasnow is one of many young stars for the Rays

Final Takeaways from the LeMahieu Deal

It could be considered a necessary move for New York to retain their star second baseman. Right now, it’s a good move, but down the road, it might not be. Same goes for the rest of the large contracts for New York. The Yankees have always been a popular team, considered a lock to make the postseason every year. However, there have always been holes on their roster and it shows during the playoffs. I don’t doubt that New York will make the playoffs. I doubt that they are legit contenders for the World Series.

Stanton, Judge, Cole, Chapman, LeMahieu, Britton, Hicks, Torres, Voit, Sanchez, and Severino are vital to the success of this team. Last season, some battled injuries and down seasons. If they can’t play their best, New York won’t go far. With a large payroll, the Yankees have the power most MLB teams don’t, but how far will that carry them?