As of this writing, Manny Machado had yet to re-follow the YES Network on Instagram, so read into that what you will. Was it meaningful that he did — for an hour or so — on New Year’s Eve? We won’t know the answer to that until Machado’s introductory news conference, be it in the Bronx, Philadelphia or Chicago, presumably in the not-too-distant future.
One potential wrinkle emerged late Tuesday night, however, when ESPN reported that the Yankees had agreed on a one-year, league-minimum deal with Troy Tulowitzki, who was released by the Blue Jays in December with $38 million still left on his contract. The oft-injured Tulowitzki, 34, didn’t play at all last season for Toronto because of bone spurs in both heels, so what he’s able to give the Yankees from a defensive standpoint is a fairly big question mark.
It also remained unclear what Tulo’s signing would mean for the Yankees’ pursuit of Machado, as they have a glaring void at shortstop while Didi Gregorius is rehabbing from Tommy John surgery. Relying on Tulo as a bridge replacement seems like a lot to ask from someone who has logged only 66 games at short the past two seasons. But it’s a low-cost move with significant potential upside at a position of need, so taking a flier on Tulo could provide some insurance or bench help.
As for Machado’s decision, that could come any day now, and the Yankees had looked like a considerable favorite going into last month’s Bronx sitdown with the four-time All-Star. Aside from the Didi injury clearing room, Machado has always idolized fellow Miami native Alex Rodriguez — currently a Yankees’ special adviser, among his million other jobs — and wearing the pinstriped No. 13 seems like a goal for the four-time All-Star. That sentimental connection is never a substitute for piles of cash, obviously. But if the money is similar, it certainly doesn’t hurt.
As for the financial component of a Machado deal, there’s no reason to believe the Yankees would be spooked by the numbers. Despite Hal Steinbrenner’s oft-stated wariness of shelling out $200 million for the team’s 28th title, the Yankees are in the midst of a nine-year championship drought. And the way this roster is currently composed, even with the trade for James Paxton and the J.A. Happ reunion, there are lingering questions.
The Yankees may be a “fully operational Death Star,” as Brian Cashman proclaimed at last month’s winter meetings, but Paxton and Happ don’t give us those planet-killing vibes. Machado does, however, and this also would be an opportune time to mention that the world-champion Red Sox paid $238 million for their 2018 crown, Boston’s fourth in 15 years.
If the Yankees didn’t want to give Patrick Corbin $140 million, fine. Feels a bit steep for a 3.91 ERA in the National League, anyway. Corbin still got his Bronx visit, and that no doubt helped pry a few extra bucks (and years) from the Nationals. Cashman loathes to be used as a bargaining chip, which is why the 90-minute Bronx chat with Machado, along with lengthy Manhattan dinner afterward, wasn’t just going through the motions.
Phillies owner John Middletown kicked off the winter by pledging to spend “stupid” money in upgrading his team, but how much would he have to outbid Steinbrenner to lure Machado to a much smaller stage off Broad Street? Steinbrenner took notice of the spike in ticket sales, as well as the ratings bonanza, that was spurred to some degree by last year’s trade for Giancarlo Stanton. And while a part of that had to do with the Yankees’ surprising October success in 2017, it also served to remind Steinbrenner that star power remains vitally important to this franchise’s identity.
Recently, the Yankees have done a great job growing a few of their own, with Aaron Judge showing the potential to develop into this generation’s Derek Jeter. But given the Yankees’ sizable hole (and defensive liabilities) on the left side of the infield, Machado is still just too simple of a solution, and we’re only talking about money here, an easily renewable commodity in the Bronx.
Machado seemingly has never been a better fit for pinstripes — even with Tulo reportedly coming on board — and if you remember back to July, he even liked an Instagram post of him wearing them. Now it’s just a matter of waiting to see if it becomes a reality.
The most lucrative contracts in baseball history, by total value:
1. Giancarlo Stanton, $325,000,000 (2015-27)
2. Alex Rodriguez, $275,000,000 (2008-17)
3. Alex Rodriguez, $252,000,000 (2001-10)
4. Miguel Cabrera, $248,000,000 (2016-23)
5. Albert Pujols, $240,000,000 (2012-21)
… Robinson Cano, $240,000,000 (2014-23)
7. Joey Votto, $225,000,000 (2014-23)
8. David Price, $217,000,000 (2016-22)
9. Clayton Kershaw, $215,000,000 (2014-20)
10. Prince Fielder, $214,000,000 (2012-20)
11. Max Scherzer, $210,000,000 (2015-21)
12. Zack Greinke, $206,500,000 (2016-21)
13. Derek Jeter, $189,000,000 (2001-10)
14. Joe Mauer, $184,000,000 (2011-18)
. . . Jason Heyward, $184,000,000 (2016-23)
16. Mark Teixeira, $180,000,000 (2009-16)
. . . Justin Verlander, $180,000,000 (2013-19)
18. Felix Hernandez, $175,000,000 (2013-19)
. . . Stephen Strasburg, $175,000,000 (2017-23)
20. Buster Posey, $167,000,000 (2013-21)
Source: Cot's Baseball Contracts
Manny being Manny
Machado by the numbers
Year HR RBI AVG WAR
2018 37 107 .297 6.2
2017 33 95 .259 2.6
2016 37 96 .294 6.3
2015 35 86 .286 6.6
2014 12 32 .278 2.3
2013 14 71 .283 5.0
2012 7 26 .262 1.2
Room to grow
Opening Day payroll rankings for the Yankees since they last won the World Series in 2009
2018 $180.1M (6)
2017 $209.7M (3)
2016 $220.7M (2)
2015 $222.5M (2)
2014 $214.9M (2)
2013 $239.3M (1)
2012 $228.5M (1)
2011 $213.6M (1)
2010 $225.7M (1)