TAMPA, Fla. — The Yankees’ almost complete lack of interest in aggressively pursuing superstar free-agent infielder Manny Machado during the offseason essentially came down to three elements:
A belief that Troy Tulowitzki, who missed the entire 2018 season, would be healthy enough to fill the void left by Didi Gregorius while he recovers from Tommy John surgery.
Faith in the continued improvement of Miguel Andujar, second in the American League Rookie of the Year voting.
And, first and foremost, an organizational desire to spread its money around to address a variety of needs, all while keeping an eye on future payrolls, which will only increase. Young players such as Aaron Judge, Gleyber Torres and Andujar – to name just three – will be in line for far larger paydays down the road.
“Without question, everything affects other things,” Brian Cashman said late Friday morning at Steinbrenner Field.
The general manager spoke at about the same time that Machado, who signed a 10-year, $300 million contract with the Padres, was beginning his introductory news conference in Peoria, Arizona.
“Clearly, we eventually made a decision to try and be as diversified as we can,” Cashman said.
The Yankees hosted Machado for a day in December, but it’s important to note that he requested the visit to the Bronx. There was no real pursuit by the Yankees thereafter.
The Yankees, who will have a payroll in the neighborhood of $225 million — placing them above the luxury-tax threshold of $206 million — indeed diversified.
They brought back lefty reliever Zack Britton on a three-year, $39 million deal and signed righty reliever Adam Ottavino to a three-year, $27 million contract. They added Gold Glove second baseman DJ LeMahieu on a two-year, $24 million deal and retained free-agent lefthander J.A. Happ for two years and $34 million.
“We have a very significant financial commitment to the team that’s already on the field,” Cashman said. “And then it was how to address the needs of that team in the present and create flexibility moving forward in the future and also having an interest in some of our under-control players and anticipating future dollar amounts that they [may get] on a year-in, year-out basis through arbitration, or create the atmosphere for potential multiyear deals to secure them going forward.”
The most recent example of that was the signing of ace Luis Severino to a four-year, $40 million deal that buys out the 25-year-old righthander’s remaining arbitration-eligible seasons and first year of free agency.
“Every dollar affects somebody else’s dollar,” Cashman said. “So we walked the path of diversification. We feel we’ve improved our club, we feel we’ve provided flexibility.”
The Yankees saw Tulowitzki, 34, once in a public workout in late December and once in a private one and signed the five-time All-Star for the league minimum of $550,000. Tulowitzki didn’t play last season after double-heel surgery to remove bone spurs and has played in only 66 games the last two years.
“We’re banking on the problem being fixed,” Cashman said of the heel issue and other injuries that have plagued Tulowitzki in recent seasons. “Now we feel we have a relatively healthy player.”
Despite some speculation to the contrary, Cashman never saw a need for help at third. That spot belongs to Andujar, who struggled defensively but whose bat nearly won him Rookie of the Year honors.
“Lest we not forget, we have a very high-end, under-control third baseman who finished second in the Rookie of the Year [voting] that was a big reason we won 100 games last year,” Cashman said. “So it gave us the ability to have a lot of different choices and not be forced [into anything].”