KC Royals should pursue versatile free agent DJ LeMahieu with gusto

The KC Royals should seriously look at making a big splash in the free-agent market and go after DJ LeMahieu.

The KC Royals have to decide very quickly if they think they can contend for the American League Central Division title in 2021. If they think they can, then they need to be very aggressive in free agency. One player who could make an immediate impact is DJ LeMahieu.

It will not be easy to sign LeMahieu. Even if the market for free agents isn’t as robust as in some past years due to estimated heavy financial losses by owners in 2020, as reported way back in May by CBSSports.com, he will still be a hot commodity.

If the Royals did want to pursue LeMathieu, the 2016 and 2020 batting average champion, they would probably have to go head-to-head with the New York Yankees. LeMahieu offers many skills both the Yankees and the Royals need, namely how to get on base.

He sports a career On-Base Percentage of .357 but has been below that just once in the last six seasons. In 2020, he led the majors, getting on base nearly 42% of the time. By comparison, Salvador Perez (somehow) led the Royals in this category this past season with a mark of .353, the only regular over .345.

Earlier this week, Adam Weinrib of Yanks Go Yard suggested that the Yankees contact the Royals about trading for Whit Merrifield. In reference to having Merrifield and LeMahieu on the same team, Weinrib made this statement:

Having one of those two men in the lineup is pleasant. Having both? A nightmare for opposing pitchers…

That is a totally correct statement, but no one wants to see them in pinstripes. These two players should thrive together in a lineup in Kansas City, not New York.

With DJ LeMahieu and Whit Merrifield in the lineup, the KC Royals could be contenders.

Both players are versatile and can cover multiple positions. Still, if the Royals somehow outbid the Yankees and any other suitors, LeMahieu will probably be penciled in every day at second and Merrifield in the outfield somewhere.

Add LeMahieu to a lineup that includes such players as Merrifield and Salvador Perez and up and coming players like Adalberto Mondesi, Hunter Dozier, and Jorge Soler, and suddenly the batting order is much deeper and scarier.

Combine an improved batting lineup with a young pitching staff looking to break out in a big way in 2021, and it isn’t hard to see the Royals being contenders very soon. They are only two or three players away, and LeMahieu should be one of those players.

So, what would LeMahieu cost the Royals? Even if spending is down this offseason, it isn’t hard to imagine him maintaining his value, especially if the Yankees are interested in re-signing him, and why wouldn’t they be?

MLBtraderrumors.com predicted a payday of four years, $80 million! That seems quite the jump for a 32-yeard old non-power-hitting infielder, even one with elite on-base skills like LeMahieu. Figure in a probably depressed market for the players, and this figure seems unlikely.

…we’ve set a floor of $80MM over four years, though we have entertained even higher guarantees. No matter what, it’s easy to see LeMahieu, a big hitter with defensive versatility, reeling in a far larger payday than he did the last time he was looking for a contract

His expiring contract with New York was a two-year, $24 million deal. Without a doubt, any offer would have to top that. Is it possible that maybe a three-year, $42 million might get it done? If MLBTR’s prediction comes true, there is no way the Royals will be involved. LeMahieu won’t take a hometown discount as Merrifield did, or anything close to it.

If the market is indeed going to be a slow one for the players, and somehow a reasonable three-year deal could be ironed out, it would put Whit Merrifield and DJ LeMahieu on the field together for the next three years and would end all speculation that the Royals might trade Merrifield this offseason. This also shows everyone the Royals think they can contend sooner rather than later.

Having two guys toward the top of the lineup who are just going to hit and get on base would be a huge advantage for any team, and with a little aggressiveness and a lot of luck, maybe the KC Royals can pull it off!

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