"Laying in the weeds" just doesn't cut it when describing the Yankees and any pursuit of the offseason's top free agent prizes.
Instead, this Yankees team -- the Evil Empire -- is positioned in a galaxy far, far away, potentially readying the Death Star to blast into hyper-speed where it concerns the top free agents this winter.
To date, the Yankees have only admitted to speaking with free agent infielder Manny Machado's agent Dan Lozano on a couple of occasions. Meanwhile, interactions between Yankees GM Brian Cashman and Bryce Harper's agent, Scott Boras, have been a trading of metaphorical references about where the Yankees stand with the free agent outfielder.
Now that the Yankees have secured two starting pitchers between November and December, will they orbit, waiting for the right time to attack the free agent market for one of the stars? Certain instances in Yankees' history indicate they could take that approach.
In the winter before the 2004 season, the Yankees' roster seemed more or less set, but just as spring training was about to begin -- Feb. 16 to be exact -- New York swung a huge trade for Boras' best client, Alex Rodriguez. The trade evolved after the player's union disallowed a trade to the Red Sox. The timing worked out for the Yankees as the club had just learned that starting third baseman Aaron Boone injured himself playing basketball. The Yankees didn't necessarily need to fill the hole with the highest paid player in the game, but landing A-Rod was a huge, almost unimaginable improvement.
In a similar unexpected turn of events, the Yankees signed yet another of Boras' clients, Mark Teixeira, as a free agent on Jan. 6, 2009. The Yankees and Cashman had continuously downplayed the idea of signing Teixeira because he was "not a fit." The Yankees either had a change of heart, or knew all along and ponied up $180 million for eight years of Teixeira. By the way, he fit just fine.
Both historical instances somewhat resemble what New York is looking at this offseason.
In regard to Machado, the Yankees are looking to improve at a position that Miguel Andujar, the Rookie of the Year runner-up, currently occupies. Losing Didi Gregorius to Tommy John surgery adds a layer of intrigue with Machado believing he's a shortstop, regardless of defensive metrics suggesting he's a much better third baseman.
See, the Yankees don't need Machado. They can slide Gleyber Torres to shortstop, keep Andujar at third base and sign a much less expensive option for second base. This flexibility provides the Yankees with a realistic reason to bide time.
The Yankees understand Machado provides an overall improvement, but might still wrestle with the image issues that the 26-year-old has brought upon himself. Machado has not done himself many favors in the negotiations aspect, as it is widely known that his preference is to don pinstripes. In part, this also allows the Yankees to sit back and wait.
As for Harper, the argument that Cashman uttered many times over since the offseason began has been that the outfield is already overcrowded. Cashman has also suggested he is unwilling to spend the Yankees money to bring in Harper to play first base, a role he's never held.
Cashman is not wrong. Aaron Hicks, Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton make up a tremendous outfield. However, Brett Gardner, Jacoby Ellsbury and Clint Frazier are not -- or at least should not be -- factors. The Yankees could simply shift Stanton to the full time designated hitter role and there's the spot for Harper. Instead, the Yankees use the excuse (one that makes some sense) that there is a need to distribute at-bats at DH between a swath of players.
When Cashman tells a gaggle of reporters he can change course if necessary, it's here that he has the chance to do so. The Yankees might prefer Machado, but if he tires from waiting and the Phillies or another club ante up the cash he desires, he might take it. At that point, Cashman could heel-turn toward Boras and Harper. Cashman might maintain he still holds the upper hand because losing out on Harper can be written off as a luxury the Yankees don't require.
Yankees fans will disagree with losing out on both players and that is understandable. Yet, the Yankees are in a position to wait things out. Machado and Harper need the Yankees involved and the club knows it. It is a fine position to be in and with a fully operational Death Star, the Yankees can pivot if and when they want.