Hot Stove Notes: Gardner, Harper, Machado, Robertson

Our first round of Hot Stove Hot Takes are here.

With the World Series (painfully) behind us, free agency and Hot Stove are both officially underway. As of 9 a.m. yesterday, all players eligible for free agency are officially on the market. Players can only negotiate with their old team until Friday at 5 p.m. before the real madness starts. Teams must also decide whether they will extend the one-year, $17.9 million qualifying offer to those eligible free agents by that same deadline. Those that get offered the qualifying offer will get 10 days (until November 12) to decide whether they will accept or decline. Teams that sign a player who declined the qualifying offer receive compensation in the form of draft picks and/or international bonus pool money from that player’s new team.

It’s been one day, and there’s already some headlines swirling around Yankees Universe:

  • The Yankees have until Wednesday at 5 p.m. to determine the fate of Brett Gardner and his club option for the 2019 season. The team will either pay $12.5 million to pick him up for 2019, or decline the option and pay him a $2 million buyout. “I’d love to come back here, man,” Gardner said after the season-ending loss to Boston in the ALDS. “I’ve been here for a long time. My agent [Joe Bick] and I have a great relationship with Cash and the rest of the front office. I’m sure when the time is right, we’ll sit down and talk about that.” The 35-year-old saw his offensive production drop to a .236/.322/.368 (90 wRC+) line but also proved he can still play elite outfield defense. If I had to guess, I think the Yankees decline the option but look to retain Gardner as the team’s fourth outfielder.
  • The Bryce Harper headlines are here, folks. Andy Martino of SNY reported the Yankees are “not expected to pursue free agent Bryce Harper” because “The early feeling is that Harper simply doesn’t fit”. On the surface, that seems to torpedo the offseason plan of backing up a dump-truck for Harper and Manny Machado (more on him to come). But, remember what I wrote above. The Yankees would be clearly tampering if they expressed interest in Harper during the exclusive negotiation period. Also, it would kill the Yankees’ negotiating leverage to come out for Harper this early. This reminds me of how Cashman handled Johnny Damon‘s free agency in 2005: where he claimed Bubba Crosby would start in center field… until he didn’t.
  • Now, to the Manny Machado news. Also from SNY’s Martino, the Yankees are apparently “lukewarm” on the idea of a Machado pursuit. The optics and results of Machado’s postseason apparently “cost him some enthusiasm in the offices at Yankee Stadium,” per the report. I can see how that would be true, especially since Machado clearly cleated multiple first basemen on purpose and was called a “dirty player” by multiple players and analysts throughout the playoffs. As with Harper, this is some early-offseason posturing for a team that’s not even allowed to negotiate with the player in question. With Didi Gregorius slated to miss most of next season, I think the Yankees are going to have significant interest in Machado. But, this is a business based on negotiation and Cashman has to play his cards properly.
  • David Robertson, who officially became a free agent yesterday, wrote a short guest post for MLB Trade Rumors about his decision to represent himself without an agent during his second foray into free agency. Namely, he decided he knew his desires for a contract best and also indicated the decision did not stem from a disagreement with his agent. The whole statement is definitely worth a read.

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