October 14, 2020 | 2:15am
Hal Steinbrenner said Tuesday he recognizes DJ LeMahieu’s importance to the Yankees. Whether Steinbrenner and the popular infielder can recognize common ground in negotiations, the team’s managing general partner didn’t show his hand.
“I think I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t recognize what a contribution he made to the club and how good of a player he is,” Steinbrenner said on “The Michael Kay Show” on ESPN Radio in New York. “I recognize both those things. I’ll leave it at that.”
LeMahieu, signed by the Yankees to a two-year, $24 million contract in January 2019, turned out to be one of the best signings of Brian Cashman’s 23-year reign (so far) as general manager. LeMahieu distinguished himself with his offensive consistency, defensive versatility and low-key personality, and he put up the best two seasons of his 10-year career. Consequently, he put himself in line for a significant raise even though he’ll be entering his age-33 season in 2021.
The Yankees very likely will look to cut their payroll, which was a major league-high $258 million, shaved down to $109 million in actual payments due to the pandemic-shortened campaign. The lack of a single paying fan entering Yankee Stadium in 2020 and the uncertainty for next year’s revenues will play a huge role.
Asked about next year’s budget, Steinbrenner didn’t commit one way or the other.
“We’ll see,” he said. “It depends what kind of money is going to be required to be spent based on what we look at and decide needs change. But look, there’s no doubt we sustained significant losses this year, more so than any other team in baseball. … We’re going to have to see what we really feel we need and what that’s going to cost, and we’ll go from there, the way we do every year.”
As for his confidence that paying fans will be allowed in the Stadium next year, Steinbrenner told Kay and his co-hosts Don La Greca and Peter Rosenberg, “I have no idea and neither do you guys.
“We’ll just have to see what happens with this virus, with vaccines. … Nobody would love it more than me. It was a surreal experience to be playing regular-season games with no fans. I didn’t like it any more than any of you did. “So hopefully we get back to some normalcy in 2021, because I’ve about had it with 2020.”
Steinbrenner showered praise on Gerrit Cole, whom he lured to The Bronx last winter with a $324 million commitment (that has dropped to $301.3 million): “As advertised.”
In addition to his performance and conduct, Steinbrenner praised Cole for being “highly intelligent, which we knew going in. Incredibly hard worker and he instills other people to work harder than they might even otherwise do. He’s hard-core. We got exactly what we wanted in Gerrit.”
After citing the Yankees’ two-season flurry of injuries, Steinbrenner vowed: “The kind of changes we made [last offseason] not just with personnel, but with procedure, I think you’re going to see a big difference next year. We had the rash of injuries in the middle of this short season, but then we got healthy and we stayed healthy. I think you’re going to start to see that continue.”