TAMPA — As far as passing on Manny Machado is concerned, and presumably Bryce Harper, the Yankees won’t be truly vindicated until they hoist a World Series trophy in the somewhat near future, ideally within the next decade.
But if you’re asking us, on Feb. 19, if the Yankees were prudent to skip giving Manny Machado a 10-year, $300-million deal, as the Padres reportedly did Tuesday, then our answer is an unequivocal yes.
Brian Cashman already traded for his $325-million player last December in Giancarlo Stanton, at the reduced rate of $265 million, so he was good, thanks.
This was a different question back in November, before Cashman got to work polishing up his 100-win team by upgrading the roster at a number of positions. As soon as Chris Sale whiffed Machado to earn the Red Sox their fourth World Series title in 15 seasons, we figured the Yankees might pounce, especially after it was revealed Didi Gregorius needed Tommy John surgery.
But the Yankees, who never seemed all that interested in being a market-maker for Machado, had what amounted to a courtesy meeting with the four-time All-Star in the Bronx and then took a less-splashy approach toward improving themselves for a run at World Series title No. 28 this season. If Machado fell to them, because of some glitch in baseball’s economic system, fine. Cashman, as he did with Stanton, would have jumped at the chance to get him pennies on the dollar.
What we discovered Tuesday, however, is that wasn’t the case. Despite the months of moaning over the sport’s broken free-agent machinery, with Machado and Harper at the center of the public outcry, the money turned out to be there at the end. The excruciatingly slow-play negotiating ploy by Machado’s agent, Dan Lozano, got him his historic deal after all, if not delivering him to the Bronx, where he supposedly wanted to don pinstripes.
Instead, Machado gets to wear the prestigious label of being a $300-million player, and the Yankees are comfortable knowing they likely are a better team now -- around the diamond — rather than if they had made the concessions to put him on the roster. Cashman spent upward of $145 million this winter to fortify the rotation and bullpen, along with a handful of depth moves that provide needed flexibility over a long season.
If Hal Steinbrenner went all-in on Machado, does he still feel like getting both Zack Britton ($39 million) and Adam Ottavino ($27 million) -- two closers that the Yankees will deploy in a variety of late-inning roles? Cashman also was able to pay $550,000 for a $100-million player by recruiting Troy Tulowitzki to help fill the void at shortstop left by Gregorius, then add DJ LeMahieu — a career .298 hitter and two-time Gold Glove winner—for $24 million.
Throw in J.A. Happ at $34 million, along with the trade for James Paxton, and the rotation is better, regardless of what the Yankees get out of CC Sabathia’s farewell tour. Did the Yankees’ lineup need Machado, another righthanded run-producer? Not really. If Miguel Andujar is for real, they’re powerful enough with Stanton and Aaron Judge, as everyone could see Tuesday with both drilling homers off the scoreboard during batting practice. Tulowitzki remains a wild card, but the Yankees’ A-list attack still includes Gleyber Torres, Gary Sanchez, Luke Voit and Aaron Hicks.
And for those with a short memory, remember that the Yankees won 100 games last season. It’s easy to forget because they finished second in the AL East to a once-in-a-lifetime Red Sox team that rolled through the regular season, and eventually humbled the Yankees in the Division Series. But wouldn’t you agree this ’19 team is better now?
“I think all the moves we made addressed some concerns we had, and addressed some of the issues we had with our club,” Aaron Boone said after Tuesday’s first full-squad workout. “I think for the most part, as I sit here today, I feel like we’re a stronger team, based on the moves we made this winter.”
It’s not a question of affording either Machado or Harper. These are the Yankees. But they’re still well over the luxury tax again with a payroll that’s crept back up to $225 million, after staying below last season for the first time in 15 years, and even Steinbrenner doesn’t operate without a budget. This is a business, after all. And the Yankees’ mission statement hasn’t changed.
“The team that we have is pretty darn good,” Judge said.
Would Machado have made it any better? To the Yankees, it certainly wasn’t worth $300 million to find out.