Manny Machado has some explaining to do if he ever wants to end up in a Yankee uniform.
Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner made it clear Wednesday that the star free agent would absolutely need to address his anti-"Johnny Hustle" comment before the team would ever consider signing him to a megadeal.
Asked at the owners' meetings in Atlanta if that would be important, Steinbrenner responded: "Not important -- essential." (Newsday's David Lennon)
Steinbrenner added that he has been texting Alex Rodriguez, a Yankees advisor and mentor to Machado, about the 26-year-old, and expects to talk more with A-Rod as the weeks progress, according to USA Today Sports. A-Rod has known Machado since the latter was a teenager growing up in Miami.
Machado, a Scott Boras client, is expected to be seeking a deal worth north of 10 years and $300 million. But he didn't win the Yankees' favor during his postseason with the Dodgers, when he combined dirty play with a glaring lack of hustle and an admission to boot.
"I'm not going to change,'' Machado said during the playoffs. "I'm not the type of player that's going to be 'Johnny Hustle,' and run down the line and slide to first base … and you know, whatever can happen. That's just not my personality. That's not my cup of tea. That's not who I am.''
Your response, Mr. Steinbrenner?
"If it's a $300 million guy or a $10 million guy, clearly those comments are troubling," he said Wednesday, per USA Today. "That's really [GM Brian Cashman's] job, if we're interested in any player, to sit down with them face-to-face and ask them, 'Where did this come from? What was the context around the entire interview? Was there a point? How do you justify it? "Because that ain't going to sell where we play baseball.''
SNY's Andy Martino has reported that the Yankees are "lukewarm" on Machado but have more interest in him than they do in Bryce Harper. According to Martino, the clearest path for the Yankees to add Machado is through Philadelphia: if Harper signs with the Phillies, the Yankees would be in a better spot to lock up Machado at a more reasonable price.
Cashman said throughout the recent general manager's meetings that the Yankees' priority is pitching, which appeared to put Machado's future with the team in doubt.
Machado played shortstop last season with the Orioles and Dodgers and could fill in there in the Bronx, but it could be temporary until Didi Gregorius returns from Tommy John surgery. Machado has been vocal about his preference in playing shortstop over third base, but his interest in joining the Yankees could potentially sway him to the hot corner.
The $300 million price tag would also likely put the Yankees over the $206 million luxury tax threshold -- something Cashman has said he would prefer to avoid for the second straight season.
Steinbrenner, however, told Newsday Wednesday that staying under the threshold isn't as big of a priority this year.
"We're going to keep adding pieces until we're sure we are where we need to be," he said.
Machado may end up not being part of that equation, but there may yet be a shred of hope for Dellin Betances and others who want to see another star in pinstripes.