4 Yankees officially become free agents, including DJ LeMahieu

Garrett Stepien
·2 min read
DJ LeMahieu fist bumps Brett Gardner at home
DJ LeMahieu fist bumps Brett Gardner at home

Four Yankees officially hit MLB free agency Wednesday.

INF DJ LeMahieu and C Erik Kratz made for the two position players while a pair of pitchers, left-hander James Paxton and right-hander Masahiro Tanaka, also were declared free agents in a release by the MLB Players Association.

The Yankees quartet was among a total of 147 MLB players to do so.

Chief among the contingent of Yankees is LeMahieu, who marks a top offseason priority for GM Brian Cashman after a career-best two-year run with the franchise.

LeMahieu, whom Cashman signed in January 2019 to a two-year contract for $24 million after he debuted with his initial eight MLB seasons on the Chicago Cubs (2011) and Colorado Rockies (2012-18), did not disappoint.

In addition to serving as a utility player from second, first and third, LeMahieu's bat carried the Yankees at times.

LeMahieu was an All-Star selection, the third honor of his career, in 2019. Through 145 regular-season games, he slashed .327/.375/.518 with 26 home runs -- 11 more than his previous personal-best 15 from 2018 -- and 102 RBI, a second career-high mark that smashed the previous 66 in 2016.

In 2020, a 32-year-old LeMahieu picked up where he left off from his second season, winning the MLB batting title after slashing .364/.421/.590. Through 50 of 60 regular-season games, Lemahieu recorded 10 home runs and 27 RBI.

Along with LeMahieu before the 2019 season, Cashman acquired Paxton in a November 2018 trade that sent three prospects -- including a top one, LHP Justus Sheffield -- to the Seattle Mariners. Paxton, who turns 32 on Nov. 6, produced a mixed batch of results in two seasons from 2019-20 -- 16-7 with a 4.16 ERA and 212 strikeouts to 62 walks through the combined 171 innings over 34 starts.

Tanaka, who turns 32 on Nov. 1, spent all seven of his first MLB seasons as a Yankees starter from 2014-20. A two-time All-Star selection, he had his ups and downs.

Altogether, Tanaka went 78-46 with a 3.74 ERA in the 173 starts (174 games) of work over 1,054 1/3 innings pitching, striking out 991 while walking 208. His latest season was mixed, going 3-3 with a 3.56 ERA in 10 starts over 48 innings, but the postseason -- where he largely showed up the previous years -- was a disappointment.