It seems Manny Machado would have some explaining to do if he were to become a Yankee. The team’s managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner told Ken Davidoff of the New York Post that the infielder’s comments about his style of play were “troubling” and would require an explanation.
“If it’s a $300 million guy or a $10 million guy, clearly those comments are troubling,” Steinbrenner told a small group of reporters. “But that’s really [general manager Brian Cashman’s] job. If we’re interested in any player, sit down with him face to face and ask him, ‘Where did this come from? What was the context around the entire interview? Was there a point you were trying to [make]? How do you justify it?’ Because that ain’t gonna sell where we play baseball. That conversation will happen no matter who it is.”
The comments in question, of course, come from the Oct. 16 interview Machado gave to Ken Rosenthal where the 26-year-old said his style of play did not include hustling 100% on every play.
“Obviously I’m not going to change, I’m not the type of player that’s going to be ‘Johnny Hustle,’ and run down the line and slide to first base and … you know, whatever can happen. That’s just not my personality, that’s not my cup of tea, that’s not who I am,” Machado said. “Should I have given it a little more effort? One hundred percent. (It’s) my fault like always, I mean that’s just my mentality when I’m in the game. (There are) things that you learn, things that you gotta change. I’ve tried changing it for eight years and I still can’t figure it out but, one of these days I will.”
Machado’s comments combined with a .670 OPS in the playoffs left the star shortstop at a disadvantage heading into free agency for the first time in his career. Players with his talent and youth don’t hit the market often, and he should still cash in with a big contract. But, there will always be questions about his effort and reputation as a “dirty player,” to use the words of Brewers outfielder Christian Yelich.
The Yankees have an obvious hole at shortstop now with Didi Gregorius slated to miss the first half of 2019 at the very least. They could stand to upgrade defensively at third base with Miguel Andújar‘s -15.5 defensive WAR coming in at seventh-worst in all of baseball for 2018. The Yankees have been doing their due diligence on Machado, but have to be weighing whether the signing is worth the inevitable media circus that will come with it.
The very “Yankees” thing to do would be to fill Gregorius’s spot with the best (and most expensive) option. I see them making a serious run at Machado, being careful to avoid a bidding war and albatross contract like Jacoby Ellsbury‘s. C’mon, guys who average 128 wRC+ over their last three seasons don’t just grow on trees.