The Yankees are reportedly showing increased interest in Orioles infielder Manny Machado as the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline nears, according to The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal.
While New York has showed interest in Machado since last winter, the two sides are not yet close to a deal, according to Rosenthal. However, the Yankees have also been interested in reliever Zach Britton, according to Fancred Sports' Jon Heyman, and could do a package deal with him and Machado.
The 26-year-old Machado, who has a .313/.382/.560 batting line with 21 home runs and 60 RBIs, is likely to be among the biggest free agents in baseball this offseason.
That is, should Machado hit the free-agent market. The Dodgers and Brewers, according to Rosenthal, are also pursuing Machado heavily, and if another team acquires Machado by the trade deadline, it is possible that team locks him up to a long-term contract.
Asked about trade rumors following Monday's doubleheader, Machado told The Athletic's Marc Carig: "I don't answer trade rumors, man."
While the Yankees' bullpen, entering Monday, ranks third in ERA, Britton would add further depth to it. Though he has a 5.06 ERA in 11 appearances this season, Britton had a 2.89 ERA in 38 games last season and a 0.54 ERA in 69 appearances in 2016.
Should the Yankees acquire Machado, via trade or free agency, it would pose a problem in the infield that their outfield currently faces: too much depth, too few spaces in the lineup.
Third baseman Miguel Andujar is among the top rookies in the game and the Yankees have Brandon Drury as additional depth, despite the fact they optioned him back to the minors before Game 2 of Monday's doubleheader against the Orioles.
And, of course, the Yankees have Didi Gregorius at shortstop, and although he can become a free agent after next season, he has previously expressed interest in signing a contract extension.
Machado, who won two Gold Gloves as a third baseman, has played exclusively at shortstop this season. Asked if he would be willing to move to third base if he was traded to a contender, Machado responded, "I'm a shortstop. I play shortstop."
It's a similar problem the Yankees outfield faces. After they acquired Giancarlo Stanton in the offseason, that meant he, Aaron Judge, Brett Gardner and Aaron Hicks would have to rotate between the three outfield positions -- and that doesn't even factor in Clint Frazier or Jacoby Ellsbury.
Despite this rumor being confirmed to two of the game's best reporters, there is something about it that seems off to me.
The notion that the Yankees would try to fill a void in the rotation by using a premier rental batter hoping to demolish the opponent is all well and good for the regular season, but goes against the grain of postseason baseball. As presently constituted the Yankees rotation consists of one sure thing in Luis Severino and a whole lot of 'what-ifs.' It is true Machado is a clear upgrade over Andujar, but for what amounts to two months of use, the cost would be exorbitant and simply does not answer the real problem with the club.
That said, the Britton rumor, despite the lefty reliever's health concerns and diminished capabilities, makes more sense. If the Yankees believe that the rotation market is unworthy of dipping in to, then building an even deeper bullpen would be a wise strategy as the Yankees could use a reliable middle innings southpaw. Britton's stature is not as it was before the injuries, so the cost might not be as high as it would have been a couple of years ago.
We'll see soon enough if the Yankees are seriously in on Machado and/or Britton, but don't be surprised if we find out that this rumor came out of Baltimore as a way to drive up their players' market value.