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SportsColumnistsDavid Lennon

Yankees would like to keep spending in check, but with Didi Gregorius sidelined and Manny Machado available . . .

Brian Cashman, NY Yankees General Manageranswering a question

Brian Cashman, NY Yankees General Manageranswering a question from a reporter during press conference held at Yankee Stadium on Fri. Oct. 12, 2018. Credit: Errol Anderson

During a brief lull in Friday’s Didi-Manny hysteria at Yankee Stadium, I asked Brian Cashman if the team’s ability to stay below this year’s luxury-tax threshold of $197 million meant the money spigots will be turned back on, full blast, in the Bronx for 2019.

Not only did the Yankees save themselves from paying the tax for the first time in 15 consecutive seasons, but their newfound restraint meant resetting the rate on any future spillover from a whopping 50 percent down to 20. After spending more than $340 million on tax alone during that period, no wonder Hal Steinbrenner made that a mandate for 2018.

Despite seemingly being freed from those fiscal handcuffs, however, Cashman didn’t choose to make it rain at the podium. More like a spotty drizzle.

“I don’t want to speak for Hal, but my general feeling from him and for us has been not wanting to line the pockets of others to let them utilize that excess against us,” Cashman said. “It was mission accomplished in terms of the payroll this year, and taking away advantages that teams have been getting from us because we were exceeding those thresholds.”

Well, then. We know Hal’s dad always bristled about revenue sharing, but that didn’t stop him from trying to outspend everyone in both leagues. In this competitive-balance (luxury) tax era, however, now the Yankees get tapped two-fold. Right off the top, they pay more than 30 percent of their local revenues into that sharing pool, then whatever they owe luxury-wise (in 2017, it was $15.7 million, second only to the Dodgers).

The Yankees aren’t crying poverty. But think of how you feel every April 15. Is it possible Hal could stick to his oft-repeated belief that he doesn’t need to spend $200 million to win a championship?

This winter will test him, for sure, because $180 million wasn’t enough to get past the Division Series this year. And with Friday’s stunning revelation that Didi Gregorius is going to be out for a large chunk of next season because of Tommy John surgery, writing a check for Manny Machado would be one of the easier quick fixes to ever come across Hal’s desk.

“His last name is Steinbrenner,” Cashman said, “and they’ve acted accordingly, always. So I think he’s a very open-minded person.”

Despite Cashman’s militant response about enriching his enemies, the GM also mentioned a number of reasons -- not specifically in relation to Machado -- that would seem to make the perennial MVP candidate a layup for the Yankees, chief among them losing to Boston in a four-game series.

May we point out that the Red Sox outspent their Bronx pals by roughly $60 million this season? In doing so, they went flying past the second threshold of $237 million, which will additionally penalize them by moving their top draft pick down 10 spots in 2019.

The Red Sox don’t seem to care, and you have to think it’s all been worth it so far. The 108-win season, humbling the Yankees. Is it possible to put a price tag on that?

In hindsight, how much would Steinbrenner pay to beat the Sox in a do-over?

It could happen next October. And maybe before then, the Yankees would like to be the AL East champs, with baseball’s best record. If so, Cashman is going to need some reinforcements, and Machado has got to be at the top of that list.

He’s already told friends about his desire to be a Yankee someday -- remember him liking that Instagram post of him in pinstripes? -- and Cashman talked with the Orioles about trading for him at this year’s deadline.

Getting Machado, at some point, seemed like a no-brainer, and that was before Friday’s Gregorius shocker. So what if the Yankees seem too righthanded at the plate, as Cashman expressed. With Didi out for a long while, Machado takes over at short, then can easily slide over to third when (if) Gregorius makes it back.

If you’re wondering about Miguel Andujar, spring training will be a good time to get acquainted with a first baseman’s mitt -- and also get some corner outfield reps.

The Yankees are going to need another big-ticket item or two this winter. As for the cost, they tend to pay for themselves. This season, after the trade for Giancarlo Stanton, the Yankees’ home attendance jumped by 10 percent, to 3.48 million. The YES network crowed about record TV ratings.

On the field, the Yankees fell short by 10 October wins. Maybe they can’t buy as many victories as they used to, but a Steinbrenner has always found a way to tip the scales a bit. That’s got to be the expectation for this winter, too.

New York Sports