When it comes to the question of whether the Yankees should go all-in this winter and take the Manny Machado plunge, the best answer is a paraphrase of sorts of GM Brian Cashman:
"I'm surprised you're still asking."
Sure, that was Cashman's dodge quote about not being in on Bryce Harper early in the Winter Meetings, but it applies here, too. As good as they are, these Yanks still need a talent jolt and they should sign Machado, one of the winter's free-agent plums. Heck, it might be worth it just to up the Yanks' chances of not playing in the do-or-die American League Wild Card game again.
The Yankees have a powerful club, awash in young studs, including one of the biggest stars in baseball, Aaron Judge. Yet they still were overwhelmed in the AL East by the Red Sox, who eventually beat the Yanks in an AL division series and roared to their fourth title since 2004.
They've retained J.A. Happ and added James Paxton to their rotation. Paxton's got the kind of stuff to be an October ace, so nice upgrade there. But the Yanks need a real replacement for the injured Didi Gregorius. None better than Machado, who they are scheduled to meet with on Wednesday.
Sure, he'll be expensive. He'll probably shoot to beat Giancarlo Stanton's $325 million pact. But Machado is a 26-year-old, in-his-prime star at a position of need. He had a .905 OPS last season and slammed 37 home runs in 162 games.
Who knows when Gregorius will be full-go to return to short? Late this season means the Yanks have a months-long issue smack dab in the middle of a season filled with high hopes.
Plus, there are plenty in baseball who believe Machado would willingly move to third base to be in pinstripes once Gregorius is healthy. That would make the defensively-challenged Miguel Andujar a future option at another position (first base?), or leave him as a slugging trade chip for a pitcher.
Before you cling to Andujar too much, remember the Yankees didn't even use him in the game in which they were eliminated from the playoffs.
Machado and bullpen additions are a must if the Yankees want to topple Boston. The Yanks will have to pay their young stars big money at some point, and perhaps they all can't stay. Why not take a crack at the Red Sox now by adding while the likes of Judge and Luis Severino are cheap?
And, as baseball teaches us every season, a team's window for winning can shut early, no matter what the roster looks like, so teams should do everything to win right now.
Admittedly, it's not an easy decision, considering the Yankees are already toting Stanton's contract, will have to pay their own guys, and are likely eyeing the post-2019 class of free-agent starters. The Yanks hanker for a big-name ace and Madison Bumgarner, Gerrit Cole, Chris Sale and Justin Verlander are projected to hit the market.
That's a lot of dollar signs, plus potential luxury tax hits. But let's be real about that - the Associated Press reported the Red Sox and the Nationals were the only teams to owe luxury tax this year. Boston paid just under $12 million and the Nats just under $2.4 million.
Hardly a king's ransom for MLB teams, especially considering Boston won the World Series, so that kind of penalty might be worth a few Machado blasts. Plus, did the Yankees really work to get under the luxury tax threshold last year to then not sign one of the big boys this winter?
And if they want one of those free-agent aces next year, they can probably find a way to pay one, especially if they're coming off a Fall Classic run. Brett Gardner and CC Sabathia will be coming off the books, and Aaron Hicks and Gregorius will be free agents.
Notice we've done little hand-wringing over Machado's dopey decisions on the field, such as his penchant for kicking first basemen or his declaration that he'll never be "Johnny Hustle."
So he's not a model citizen. What 25-man roster is exclusively made up of them? Besides, it's easy to bet on the idea the Yankee clubhouse will self-correct that nonsense out of Machado's game, especially if he produces like he's shown he can.
Publicly, the Yankees have played their reaction to Machado's dim antics perfectly. Hal Steinbrenner said Machado would have to explain himself, noting, "That ain't gonna sell where we play baseball." Gem of a quote and it should satisfy all the Yankee fans who demand outrage at Machado not hewing to the old saw of playing the game the right way.
As if every single Yankee has, every single time.
Later in the winter, Cashman acknowledged Machado's remarkable talent and added an escape hatch: "I'm sure it wasn't his best moment, but it doesn't mean it's the moment you define him, either."
That perhaps softened the Yanks' public stance on Machado's ethics, maybe paving the way for serious negotiating.
Of course, as one competing executive said recently, "Cash has a way of acting like he's in when he's not." Still, that exec added, "On the surface, it looks like they're in."
Maybe we'll see movement as soon as Wednesday. Whatever happens, the Yanks have an opportunity to add major talent to their roster. Doing it might push them past their New England nemesis, whatever the price tag.