Manny Machado has visited Yankee Stadium 45 times since beginning his major-league career in 2012.
It’s his 46th visit that will have tongues wagging for days, weeks or maybe even years depending on where the mega free agent finds his next playing home.
Machado, as planned, met with the Yankees general manager Brian Cashman and manager Aaron Boone for 90 minutes as part of his free-agent tour on Wednesday afternoon.
Machado, the 26-year-old shortstop/third baseman who may command a contract in excess of $300 million, is very familiar with Yankee Stadium from his days with the Baltimore Orioles. He has hit eight of his 175 career home runs in the Bronx.
But Machado has never seen his face up on the centerfield scoreboard quite as he did on Wednesday. In what is becoming a staple of these free-agent recruiting visits for every team, the Yankees put Machado’s smiling kisser on the scoreboard under a Yankees cap. His torso was encased in photoshopped Yankees pinstripes.
Whether Machado ends up wearing that uniform for real remains to be seen. The Yankees did the same photo trick for Patrick Corbin when he visited the Stadium earlier this month. Hopefully the lefthander got a screenshot, because the Yankees never even made Corbin an offer before he signed with the Nationals for six years and $140 million.
Machado may more than double that dollar figure. But will it be the Yankees who write the check?
Owner Hal Steinbrenner said previously that Machado would have to explain his comments from the postseason in which he said he’s not “Johnny Hustle.”
“If it’s a $300-million guy, or a $10-million guy, clearly those comments are troubling,” Steinbrenner said after the World Series. “But that’s really Cashman’s job — if we’re interested in any player — to sit down with them face to face, and the agent, and ask them, ‘Where did this come from?’ ”
Cashman did not return a call on Wednesday seeking comment about Machado’s visit.
Machado attempted to walk back his “Johnny Hustle”comments in an interview with MLB.com on Nov. 21.
“When I was asked that question, I was definitely on the defensive, and I was wrong to answer it the way that I did, because looking back, it doesn’t come across how I meant it,” he said. “For me, I was trying to talk about how I’m not the guy who is eye wash. There’s a difference between fake hustle for show and being someone who tries hard to win. I’ve always been the guy who does whatever he can to win for his team.”
Still, Machado said, “I know how I said it and how that came across, and it’s something I take responsibility for. I look forward to talking with each GM and owner that we meet with about that, or any other questions they have.”
Machado visited Chicago on Monday to meet with the White Sox, who last week traded for his brother-in-law, first baseman Yonder Alonso. Machado, who was accompanied by his wife Monday and Wednesday, will end the publicly known portion of his tour when he visits the Phillies Thursday.
Once the visits are over, Machado and his agent, Dan Lozano, may begin to sift through whatever offers they receive. Machado will no doubt keep an eye on this offseason’s other mega free agent, outfielder Bryce Harper, who is represented by super agent Scott Boras.
It’s possible neither player will sign until after January. Cashman said last week at the winter meetings that he was not interested in Harper, although he said the very next day that the Yankees could always change their minds on anything because they are “a fully operational Death Star.”
Whether there is room for Machado in the Yankees’ galaxy will be revealed over the coming days and weeks.