John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |
TAMPA - The Manny Machado news broke on Tuesday just as the Yankees were taking the field for their first full-squad workout of spring training, and it turns out they weren't lying in the weeds on the Johnny Hustle guy any more than they are going to make a last-minute bid to sign Bryce Harper.
It also wasn't so much a surprise at this point as a statement of belief in the team they've built, as well as further proof of how times have changed for this storied franchise.
Indeed, the Yankees may have won 100 games last season but they were no match for the Red Sox in the post-season, leaving them to watch helplessly as their famed rivals won still another World Series - their fourth since breaking the Curse of the Bambino in 2004.
Yet Hal Steinbrenner still chose not to flex his financial muscle to tilt the scales in his favor.
And that's fine if the Yankees start winning championships again. They're primed to do so with a young, dynamic team that looks to be more well-rounded than in the last couple of seasons.
Still, it has been 10 years since the Yankees last raised a title flag, an eternity for them, and if they don't add another soon they'll deserve to take some hits for passing on the two 26-year-old superstars.
Machado got his $300 million over 10 years with the small-market Padres, and all indications are that Bryce Harper will get a bit more, with the Phillies now feeling the pressure to make sure they spend their "stupid money" to get a deal done.
Either player would have added great value for the Yankees: Harper as the lefty power bat they could really use among all of their righthanded hitters, and Machado as a slugging, Gold-Glove caliber third baseman for the long run, as well as the fill-in shortstop until Didi Gregorius returns from Tommy John surgery.
Instead they spread money around to load up on the bullpen, upgrade their starting rotation, and add depth to the infield, presuming that Troy Tulowitzki can stay healthy and play well enough to make the Blue Jays look like idiots for eating the remaining $38 million on his contract.
Forgetting for a minute that the Yankees could have done all that and still signed either Machado or Harper without putting a dent in their bottom line, there's a case to be made that they're better off spending this way, fortifying the flanks, if you will, rather than making a big-splash signing.
As Aaron Boone said here on Tuesday:
"I think we have a great club. I think we're deep. All the moves we made addressed some concerns we had, some of the issues we had with our club.
"Sitting here last year I felt like we had a great opportunity, and for the most part that played out. And as I sit here today I feel like we're a stronger team based on the moves we made this winter."
With or without Machado or Harper, the expectations were always going to be through the roof for the Yankees in 2019, as they've reached the win-now stage after two feel-good seasons of adding young players and getting a taste of the post-season.
Much like last year, Boone and his players are smart enough to talk about embracing such expectations.
"The expectation is always to win the World Series," Aaron Judge said Tuesday at his first press conference of spring training. "That's why we're here. The pressure comes with that. That's why guys want to come here and play. There's nothing like it.
"We came up short the past two years but I feel like we're in a really good position again to make another run at it. Not just this year but for many years. We've got some good young players. We're going to be set for quite a few years to do quite a few good things in New York."
It's true, they've built a young nucleus that, talent-wise, is at least the equal of the Core Four of the Derek Jeter years - which was really more of a Fab Five, including Bernie Williams.
And for a lot of fans it's more fun to win with a home-grown group, but it remains to be seen if the likes of Judge, Gary Sanchez, Luis Severino, Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar have the grit, or the clutch factor, to match what those Joe Torre teams did in the 1990s.
Andujar, in particular, will be under the microscope; if he doesn't improve his shaky defense, it will be harder to justify passing on Machado.
In truth, however, the Yankees hooked their superstar wagon to Giancarlo Stanton a year ago, believing he was a better investment, at a somewhat reduced price, than Machado or Harper.
Looks like they were right on the financial end. But if they really want to be right about all of this, they better win a championship with Stanton, Andujar, and the rest.
The sooner the better.