Jae Hong/Associated Press
Still, there’s the possible domino effect to consider. After signing him, they’d be free to trade American League Rookie of the Year runner-up Miguel Andujar for an ace such as Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Madison Bumgarner, Zack Greinke, James Paxton, Robbie Ray or Danny Duffy.
For starters—no, not that kind…yet—it’s only getting easier to imagine Machado in pinstripes.
According to The Athletic’s Jayson Stark (via colleague Ken Rosenthal), the Bombers are doing “particularly extensive work” on the superstar third baseman/shortstop’s background. As well they should, given how many eyebrows Machado raised with his controversial words and actions during the Los Angeles Dodgers‘ World Series run in October.
But while Machado the Person must be confirmed as being worth a $300 million contract, Machado the Player needs no such treatment.
He’s a 26-year-old who’s coming off career highs in OPS (.905) and home runs (37, matching his 2016 total). According to Baseball Reference, he’s one of only 32 hitters to top 30 wins above replacement through his age-25 season. Notably, fellow superstar free agent Bryce Harper isn’t one of them.
The Yankees were reportedly interested in acquiring Machado from the Baltimore Orioles in July. They didn’t even need him at the time, as they had Andujar and Didi Gregorius holding down third base and shortstop, respectively.
Now that Gregorius’ status for 2019 is up in the air because of Tommy John surgery, the Yankees’ need for Machado has risen by default. Factor in their vendetta against the world champion Boston Red Sox, and the need is even more pressing.
Lastly, the money works.
Per Roster Resource, the Yankees are currently projected for a $156.4 million payroll in 2019. That’s well below where they left off in 2018 (about $181 million). And after finally resetting its penalties, the club need not fear the $206 million luxury-tax threshold.
If Machado and the Yankees do end up together, they could leave the core of their offense as is. That would mean Machado at short alongside Andujar at third, with Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Hicks, Gleyber Torres, Brett Gardner, Luke Voit and (if healthy) Gary Sanchez elsewhere. That sounds even better than the 2018 Yankees lineup, which hit an MLB-record 267 home runs.
Or, the Yankees could move to break up that embarrassment of riches for the sake of fulfilling their prime directive for the winter.
Bill Kostroun/Associated Press
CC Sabathia has re-signed, but open rotation spots remain behind him, Luis Severino and Masahiro Tanaka. General manager Brian Cashman means to fill them any way he can.
“I think we’ll just gravitate to anything that will make sense,” Cashman told reporters. “It could be a combination; something could make sense via trade in the same category as free agency. I’m interested in adding more than one pitcher. I need to, I think, add multiple. If I can do so, we’ll see.”
According to Jon Heyman of Fancred, Cashman is casting a wide net:
Jon Heyman @JonHeyman
Yankees have interest in Kluber, Carrasco and Paxton in addition to free agent targets Corbin, Happ and CC. NYY meeting with at least Indians today.
Patrick Corbin and J.A. Happ are realistic free-agent options right now, but probably less so if the Yankees splurge on Machado. Even they may hesitate to follow a $300 million signing with signings of $100 million (Corbin) or $50 million (Happ).
Thus, the trade market and the role Andujar could play on it.
In theory, he has a rare profile as a trade chip in that he’s at once an established star and a young building block. He just put up an .855 OPS and 27 homers as a 23-year-old rookie, which would have been good enough for the AL Rookie of the Year had it not been for Los Angeles Angels two-way wunderkind Shohei Ohtani. What’s more, Andujar isn’t due for free agency until after 2023.
And yet, his long-term stardom is less than certain.
There’s volatility in his offensive profile because of his approach, which is more aggressive and less disciplined than is typically recommended. On top of that, ultimate zone rating and defensive runs saved rated him as the worst defensive third baseman of 2018.
The scary comp here is Maikel Franco. His 2015 season is oddly reminiscent of Andujar’s 2018 season, and Franco also had red flags hanging over his approach and defense. His inability to take them down has derailed his once-promising career.
This raises the possibility that Andujar’s trade value is as high as it’s going to get right now. If the Yankees do indeed make him expendable by signing Machado, they’d be wise to dangle him in trade talks.
Ted S. Warren/Associated Press
A deal with the Seattle Mariners for Paxton tops the list of sensible possibilities. The Yankees would hope to unlock the left-hander’s Cy Young Award potential in his final two seasons before free agency. The Mariners could plug in Andujar at third, first or DH and look to gradually rebuild their offense around him.
A deal with the Cleveland Indians for either Kluber or Carrasco is far less likely but perhaps not impossible. If the Yankees packaged Andujar with Sonny Gray and Clint Frazier, the Indians could rightfully sell it to their fans as a move for both now and later.
Trades for Greinke, Bumgarner or Duffy are tougher to figure. Greinke ($104.5 million) and Duffy ($46 million) because each is owed more money than he’s worth. Bumgarner because he’s set to be a free agent after 2019.
Ray, however, is a dark horse. He’s a strikeout machine who’s whiffed 11.8 batters per nine innings since 2016. But due to his durability shortcomings, a trade centered around Andujar could probably bring more than Ray back from the Arizona Diamondbacks. Fellow 2017 All-Star Jake Lamb, perhaps.
For now, all this is strictly speculative. But if signing Machado is indeed the next Yankees blockbuster, Andujar will be their key to another.