SARASOTA, Fla. — Aaron Judge played recruiter on Wednesday, making a pitch for free-agent-to-be Manny Machado to join the Yankees after this season.
Judge said he told Baltimore’s star shortstop during an on-field pregame encounter to think about making Yankee Stadium his next work address.
“Adding him to our lineup that we’ve already got, it’d be something special,” Judge said. “I told him, ‘You’d look good in pinstripes.’ ”
Asked how Machado replied, Judge said: “He just kind of laughed it off. Didn’t really say much.”
Judge was chuckling when he told four reporters about his pitch to Machado. But Major League Baseball apparently didn’t find it funny.
“We have been in contact with the Yankees,” MLB said Wednesday night in a statement. “They communicated to us that Mr. Judge’s off the cuff comments were not appropriate and not authorized by the club. They will speak to him to make sure that this does not happen again.”
Lest you doubt Judge’s recruiting powers, last year’s AL Rookie of the Year said he made the same pitch to Giancarlo Stanton at the All-Star Game. Stanton waived his no-trade clause to join Judge in a power-packed Yankees lineup.
“I said the same thing to him, too,” Judge said. “There we go.”
Machado was not around to comment on Judge’s statement after the Yankees’ 7-4 loss to the Orioles at Ed Smith Stadium. The Orioles’ third-baseman-turned-shortstop went 2-for-3 and is batting .471 this spring training, likely his final one wearing a Baltimore uniform.
Machado, who doesn’t turn 26 until July, will join Bryce Harper as the in-their-prime marquee names in next offseason’s free-agent market. The Yankees, who have been linked to Harper for years, don’t need a corner outfielder. But with the Yankees set at shortstop with Didi Gregorius, Machado could move back to third if he wants to come to the Bronx starting in 2019.
“We talked a little bit,” Judge said. “Just asked him how his offseason was, how everything is going. Asked him how he liked short. Said, ‘You’d look pretty good in pinstripes, too.’ ”
The Orioles talked to teams about trading Machado during the offseason. They may revisit those conversations during the summer. If they do, the Yankees have a boatload of prospects to offer.
In the meantime, Machado’s free-agent destination will continue to be a hot topic in baseball — even among his peers.
“He’s a heck of a player,” Judge said. “He’s been doing it for quite a few years at the best level. He’s one of the best — if [not] the best — defensive third basemen. He’s probably going to be one of the best defensive shortstops. What he brings on the offensive side of it, it’s a complete package. He’s going to be a happy man when it comes to free agency once he goes.”
Machado hit .259 last season with 33 homers and 95 RBIs. He has averaged 35 home runs over the last three seasons. He’s a three-time All-Star, finished top five in the MVP voting twice and has a pair of Gold Gloves.
“Obviously, an amazing defender,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. “Tremendous power. Just one of those [on the] short list of elite players, especially young players, in the game.”
Boone said he understands why fans around baseball are already drooling over the prospect of their teams signing Machado.
“Any time you’re that level of player and maybe what’s potentially down the road, whether it’s Harper, Machado, all these guys are going to be talked about in that vein,” he said. “That’s just the nature of sport, I guess.”
Boone, who would be fined by Major League Baseball for tampering if he campaigned for Machado, said he’s not even sure Judge really did.
“I don’t think he said that,” Boone said. “I’ll leave that alone.”
But when told Judge said the same thing to Stanton, Boone added: “Stanton looks very good in pinstripes.”