He might not be "Johnny Hustle," but free Manny Machado is an exceptional, just-hitting-his-prime baseball player that the Yankees have minimally conducted due diligence discussions around.
Here are the pros and cons of the Yanks signing Machado, what he might cost, and what the team should ultimately do…
What makes Machado a better fit than others?
Let's be clear that Machado would have fit the Yankees' roster before shortstop Didi Gregorius was forced to undergo Tommy John surgery. The fact that the Yankees will be without Gregorius only amplifies the opportunities to get Machado on board.
Machado, who played in 162 combined games with the Orioles and Dodgers in 2018, had an excellent walk year. The 26-year-old had career highs in batting average (.297), on-base percentage (.367), slugging percentage (.534), OPS (.901), home runs (37, tied), RBI (107) and wRC+ (141). Machado has now notched WAR values (FanGraphs) above 6.0 in three of the last four seasons.
Those numbers fit into any roster, even one that had a Rookie of the Year finalist in Miguel Andujar at Machado's best fielding position (third base) and considering the Yankees' interest in keeping Gregorius around after this coming season (his walk year).
What makes Machado a lesser fit than others?
The elephant in the room is Machado's mouth and perceived attitude.
Machado has demonstrated and commented on his lack of interest in hustling out each ground ball on multiple occasions, but doing so under the national spotlight of the postseason while trying to impress his suitors is next-level, head-scratching stuff. The question that has sprouted from Machado's seeming indifference is what happens when he's secured one of the largest guaranteed contracts in baseball history if he's willing to lay back beforehand?
The Yankees are more in need of starting pitching and relief help than a third baseman or a shortstop for that matter. They can shift Gleyber Torres to shortstop until Gregorius is back and sign or trade for a quality filler piece for second base, leaving Andujar to play third base. The difference in the money saved by not signing Machado would be quite significant, meaning the Yankees could go all out for the pitching help they need.
What is the expected contract value for Machado?
Speaking of the contract, the industry has a very large spread of potential value for Machado's deal, with estimates ranging from 10 years, $300 million to 13 years, $390 million.
Due to Machado's lack of hustle and poor sportsmanship antics at various points during his career (including an episode in the postseason) there are some around the game that believe his value took a beating at the wrong time. Alternatively, there are plenty of baseball insiders that believe Machado's abilities and further growth potential warrant a $300 million-plus contract.
The Yankees would prefer to stay under the luxury tax threshold for 2019, but signing Machado and acquiring the pitching they desire would most likely put them well over the $206 million mark. Keep in mind, the Bombers have also indicated they are not viewing the threshold as a deterrent to spending this year if the money spent creates a championship caliber club.
Simply put, Machado's addition would make the Yankees better.
The Yanks have signed or traded for plenty of players that played with a prima donna attitude, some of whom settled in quite nicely and went on to succeed in New York. So, the emphasis of his actions in the past may not be as much of a concern as it's been made out to be.
Many former teammates have given props to Machado's attitude and clubhouse demeanor. Former Baltimore manager Buck Showalter went so far as to say that a player of Machado's type may need some talking to at times, but the production he supplies makes it easier to deal with.
The money and especially the length of the term expected to secure Machado cannot be minimized. The Yankees have been burned by long-term deals as they come to an end (some well beforehand). However, the fact that a 10-year deal with Machado would end as he turns 36 years old is much different from those that concluded when the player was near 40 years old.
While the Yankees should be considering Machado as the generational addition many have tabbed him, the organization does not need to rush to the front of the line to sign him.
New York is in a solid position where it concerns Machado as there is not a whole lot of competition because of the payroll blow it would bring. This allows the Yankees to bide time as they concentrate on pitching -- their larger need. Machado and his agent will have to circle back to the Yanks, and the club understands this.
Therefore, my suggestion is to handle the rotation, add to the back end of the bullpen and then determine the Machado decision. As for the contract offer, I would do my best to keep the deal to an eight-year pact with a higher average annual value if needed ($33-35 million range). The game is moving toward youth dominance and by the time eight years passes, it would be easy to believe that this stance will only strengthen and the Yankees would be fine with Machado leaving after he turns 34.
Whatever the value and term the bidding reaches, if the Yankees believe it goes beyond their means (correction, their budget) the good news is there are viable options that allow them to remain a championship caliber ball club.
This isn't a Machado or bust scenario, and rightly, it appears the Yankees are well aware.