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.
is set to miss at least the first half of the 2019 season because of Tommy John surgery on his right arm. It sucks. It seems likely the Yankees will find a player who can man either shortstop or second base and then transition into a bench role once Gregorius becomes healthy. They’ve been connected to two such players so far: one a free agent, and the other seemingly available via trade.
- For, like, the millionth time, the Yankees have checked in on former Pittsburgh Pirates utility man Josh Harrison, reports Jon Heyman. They’ve been connected to Harrison during every conceivable offseason and Trade Deadline. Harrison got bought out of his $10.5 million club option for $1 million and became a free agent. He had a brutal offensive season in 2018, batting .250/.293/.363 (78 wRC+) with a career-high 18.2% strikeout rate. His calling card has always been defensive versatility, but he didn’t make a single start at a position other than second base in 2018. But, he’s just one year removed from a 104 wRC+ season and, at 31, likely still has the athleticism required to play second, third and the corner outfield spots. His only recent injury history is a fractured metacarpal bone in his left hand that caused him to miss time from September 3, 2017 until May 20, 2018. I could see the Yankees signing him to a contract like the one Neil Walker signed.
- After checking in last offseason, the Yankees are back in contact with the Texas Rangers about infielder Jurickson Profar. Joel Sherman reported the Yankees attempted to swap Sonny Gray for Profar, but the Rangers wanted more because Profar has an extra year of team control compared to Gray. Profar was a can’t-miss prospect who… missed. He has turned into a valuable role player, however, hitting .254/.335/.458 (104 wRC+) while making at least 10 appearances at each infield position. He’s also turned in a few innings of left field, and was a +4.0 BsR baserunner. The Yankees will likely create a package around Gray if they attempt to pry Profar loose from Texas. Profar is under arbitration for two more seasons (projected at $3.4 million this offseason) before becoming a free agent in 2021, and those are the type of players that are expensive in trade negotiations.
Jon Heyman of Fancred has reported that the Yankees will, at the very least, “look into” signing free agent infielder Manny Machado this offseason. This report paints the Yankees as more favorable towards a run at the mercurial star, after it was previously reported that the team was “lukewarm” on a pursuit of the 26-year-old.
Machado hit .315/.387/.575 with 24 homers and 65 RBIs in 96 games for Baltimore before being traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers and finishing the year hitting .273/.338/.487 with 13 more home runs and 42 additional RBI. That led to an overall .297/.367/.538 batting line and 37 home runs, which matches a career-high.
But, a .672 OPS in the 2018 postseason and controversies about how he handles himself have led to questions about an all-out pursuit of Machado. That is likely what led the Yankees to be just “lukewarm” on one of the most hyped free agents of all-time. I’d also imagine that term was leaked in order to safeguard the Yankees’ leverage in any potential negotiations.
The Yankees attempted to pry Machado away from the Orioles at the 2018 Trade Deadline, and have been connected to the superstar on a few different occasions. Didi Gregorius is set to miss most of the 2018 season with Tommy John surgery, and there have been consistent questions about Miguel Andújar‘s defensive abilities at third base. Those two spots are obvious fits for Machado with his elite offensive and defensive abilities.
MLB Trade Rumors, which does an annual prediction series on the fates of their Top 50 Free Agents, believes Machado will sign a record-breaking 13-year, $390 million deal with the Philadelphia Phillies. That’s the second-biggest contract prediction in their article, as they also predict Bryce Harper will land an unprecedented 14-year, $420 million deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The Rangers tried to sneak out-of-options infielder Hanser Alberto through outright waivers, but failed as the Yankees pounced with a waiver claim on the 26-year-old. Alberto is hitting .381/.435/.548 in his first 11 games for the Gigantes del Cibao of the Dominican Winter League.
In parts of three seasons with the Rangers, Alberto hit .192/.210/.231 (9 wRC+) with defensive appearances at all four infield positions. It’s an ugly stat-line, but he did manage to hit .330/.346/.452 (106 wRC+) with seven homers and 58 RBIs for Triple-A Round Rock Express in 2018.
This move adds infield depth to the Yankees on the heels of Didi Gregorius‘s recent Tommy John surgery. Alberto is regarded as a strong defender, relatively young and cheap. I have a feeling the Yankees will try to sneak Alberto through outright waivers between now and the beginning of Spring Training. The team could use some veteran infield depth in the upper levels of the minor leagues.
At Triple-A, the Yankees are at risk of losing Rey Navarro and Gio Urshela to minor league free agency. Miguel Andújar and Gleyber Torres appear to be anchored in the major leagues, and Ronald Torreyes and Tyler Wade appear to have the inside track for bench roles in the big leagues. If Alberto does make it through the winter in the Yankees organization, he’ll compete for the utility infield bench spot and for a starting role with the Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders.
Alberto has been added to the Yankees 40-man roster, which now sits at 37 players.
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.
The Hot Stove isn’t officially lit yet, but there’s already some crazy rumors consuming Yankees Universe. Buster Olney of ESPN tweeted the Yankees would be a perfect fit for current Arizona Diamondbacks first baseman Paul Goldschmidt, who has a pending $14.5 million team option for 2019 and will be a free agent thereafter.
The Yankees had a blackhole at first base since Mark Teixeira retired and Greg Bird missed the entirety of the 2016 season. From 2016 to 2018, the Yankees are 27th out of the 30 MLB teams with just 1.9 fWAR generated from first base. They’ve hit .234/.314/.403 (91 wRC+) in 823 games in that time, and that includes Luke Voit‘s heroic .344/.416/.730 (207 wRC+) in 122 at-bats as a first baseman in 2018. Guess how much fWAR he put up: 1.9. Voit has been basically the entirety of the Yankees first base production for three entire seasons.
Goldschmidt is just about as elite as they come at any position. His 15.3 fWAR is second to only Freddie Freeman‘s 15.8 in the same 2016-2018 span in the whole of Major League Baseball. He started off slowly in 2018, hitting just .209/.326/.393 through the end of May (with a tough .288 BABIP and 30.9% strikeout rate). But, he rebounded to finish the season at .290/.389/.533 (144 wRC+). By average, it was his worst season since 2012 but he finished with a 2% stronger overall offensive season by wRC+.
Figuring out a trade for Goldschmidt would be quite interesting, and of course, assumes the Diamondbacks will pick up his option. I would have to think they’d be crazy to decline that option and let him go for nothing. At $14.5 million, he’s a cheap player who puts up approximately $42 million worth of production per season per Fangraphs’ Dollars statistic.
GM Brian Cashman, of course, has dealt with the Diamondbacks many times before. Didi Gregorius came from Arizona for Shane Greene, and the short-lived Brandon Drury era was born from another three-team deal.
Goldschmidt is essentially a more consistent and proven version of Luke Voit, who can bring above-average defense as well. It seems the Diamondbacks could shop Goldschmidt to contenders looking for a consistent first base presence. If Cashman can somehow throw together a package of pending Rule 5 guys, I think it’s a no-brainer.
The Yankees made manager Aaron Boone and general manager Brian Cashman available today for their postmortem press conference. Here are the most important storylines:
- Didi Gregorius tore his right ulnar collateral ligament during one of the first two games of the American League Division Series in Boston, and played through the injury for the rest of the series. A recent MRI determined the tear was bad enough to force the shortstop to undergo Tommy John surgery. Cashman told reporters that Gregorius had an “asymptomatic” partial tear of the ligament that came up in his December 2014 physical that was part of his trade from Arizona to New York. “Is it bring him back in June, July, August? I think all depends on how things play out,” Cashman said. “I’d rather not put a timeframe on it. We do expect to get him back, and we do expect to return to the player that obviously we’ve been enjoying for quite some time.” Cashman also said that Gleyber Torres was the “best internal option” to start the season at shortstop, though the Yankees will undoubtedly check in on free agent Manny Machado. Gregorius also tore cartilage in his right wrist on a head-first slide, and missed time with a bruised heel suffered August 19 against Toronto. He has batted .274./.319/.447 with 81 home runs and 299 RBIs in 2,314 plate appearances since debuting for the Yankees in 2015 – all with a partially torn ligament in his right elbow.
- Sonny Gray will almost certainly begin the 2019 season in a different uniform, as Cashman said the Yankees will “enter the winter, unfortunately, open-minded to a relocation”. Gray was awful for the Yanks at home in 2018, pitching to a 6.98 ERA in 15 home games compared to 3.17 in 15 games away from the Bronx. “Someone, if they trade for him, is going to get the player that we wanted,” Cashman said. “If and when that happens, I fully expect that. But it just hasn’t worked out here.”
- CC Sabathia had another operation on his balky right knee, just like the clean-out he had after last season. “He’s had an amazing career that has a chance to continue — whether it’s gonna be for us or not,” Cashman said. Sabathia owns a 129-80 record and 3.74 ERA in 284 starts for the Yankees since he first signed with the team in 2009.
- Unprompted, Cashman said he has “no regrets” on swinging a trade for 2017 National League MVP Giancarlo Stanton. “We got one of the better players in the game from the offensive standpoint, period, we didn’t shy away from the opportunity of acquiring him,” the GM said. Stanton hit .266/.343/.509 with 38 home runs and 100 RBIs but also hit just .213/.306/.436 with five homers in September, and had a tough postseason slashing .238/.273/.381 against Oakland and Boston.
A note unrelated to today’s press conference: the Texas Rangers interviewed ex-Yankees manager Joe Girardi for their managerial opening today. He managed the Yanks to Game 7 of the ALCS in 2017 and spent 2018 working as an analyst for MLB Network.