The doctor came back into the room where Didi Gregorius, with his elbow ailing and his future in question, was awaiting word on the MRI results."Give it to me straight, Doc," Gregorius said, fearing the worst -- Tommy John surgery, which would delay his availability for the 2019 season.The doctor
The doctor came back into the room where Didi Gregorius, with his elbow ailing and his future in question, was awaiting word on the MRI results.
"Give it to me straight, Doc," Gregorius said, fearing the worst -- Tommy John surgery, which would delay his availability for the 2019 season.
The doctor took a deep breath, gathered his thoughts. Moments like these are difficult, and he was cognizant of Gregorius' feelings.
Finally, he looked his patient in the eye.
"Well," the doctor said, "it sure looks like the Yankees will be signing Manny Machado!"
OK, in case it wasn't abundantly clear, that's a totally made-up story. But it's not all that different from the way in which last week's surprising Gregorius news was reported. The dot-connecting between Gregorius' injury and Machado's pending free-agent availability was instant and obvious, and the Machado-to-the-Bronx chatter isn't likely to die down anytime soon.
But having consulted the Collective Bargaining Agreement, I can confidently tell you there is no Major League Baseball bylaw that stipulates that the Yankees must sign Machado. As a matter of fact, there actually are some decent arguments against signing Machado, such as:
• The bidding is likely to begin at 10 years. The Yankees know too well how a superstar contract can easily -- and sometimes quickly -- morph into an albatross contract, and they might be leery of going down that road after Year 1 of the Giancarlo Stanton experience (which itself followed the Alex Rodriguez experience) was far less fruitful than envisioned.
• Remember: If the Yankees go over the luxury-tax threshold, they'll have to pay 20 cents on every dollar spent above $206 million in 2019. If the Yanks are still going to try to stay below or near the threshold, the starting pitching market needs to be their No. 1 priority -- even ahead of the "generational infielder" market.
• We've heard time and again that Machado wants to be a Yankee, but how would he handle the severe scrutiny of playing for this club? He's had instances, including during Game 2 of this NLCS, in which he's been criticized for a lack of hustle. That's the kind of thing that would blow up even bigger in the Bronx.
• Would Machado be comfortable ceding shortstop to Gregorius when Didi returns? Or is his heart dead-set on sticking to that particular position?
Having said all of the above, should the Yankees sign Machado if they're comfortable with the contractual terms?
Well, duh. Of course they should.
But let's explore some non-Machado means of shoring up the Yankees' infield, because, as we've seen time and again in baseball, sometimes the sexiest option in the here and now isn't always the most attractive one in the long term.
1. Trade for Nolan Arenado
To be clear, I don't seriously expect the Rockies to trade Arenado on the heels of consecutive postseason appearances, even though there are serious concerns the club won't have the means to re-sign the Scott Boras client when he hits free agency after 2019. They are far more likely to take him into the season and see what develops.
But if the Yankees came calling with a package fronted by American League Rookie of the Year candidate Miguel Andujar, that's something the Rox -- even with the enormous associated defensive downgrade -- would at least have to consider.
2. Trade for Paul Goldschmidt
This is more realistic. After falling short of October, the D-backs are open to offers on their signature stars, and Goldschmidt is a year away from free agency. There are not a lot of obvious landing spots, because most contenders are fairly well aligned at first base, but Greg Bird's struggles this year and the obvious questions about whether Luke Voit will turn back into a pumpkin in 2019 make the Yankees a potential landing spot for a guy who could/should be top three in the National League MVP voting for the fourth time this year.
Obviously, this move would still require a stopgap solution at short and would solve nothing on the defensive front with Andujar, who is a clear candidate to move to first base after a rookie year in which advanced metrics such as defensive runs saved and UZR had him as one of the worst hot-corner defenders on record. But the Yankees saw a young second baseman named Robinson Cano improve defensively after a terrible rookie showing, so riding it out with Andujar is not without precedent.
3. Sign a second baseman
Clearly, the in-house shortstop stopgap solution is Gleyber Torres. And if the Yankees move Torres to short in place of an injured Gregorius, well, it would appear somebody's got to play second base.
Daniel Murphy might be the most interesting name here. While his right-knee woes, which included microfracture surgery last offseason, make him a big injury risk, the thought of what his left-handed pull power could do with the short porch at Yankee Stadium is awfully enticing. Of course, a defensive infield featuring Murphy at second, Torres at short (where he's not as sharp as he is at second) and Andujar at third is suboptimal, on paper. But at least it's not costing you the $35 million a year it might take to land Machado. And Murphy can move to first when Gregorius comes back.
If Murphy's a no-go, then Jed Lowrie is a switch-hitting veteran coming off two terrific years in Oakland (his OPS+ in both 2017 and '18 was 20 percent better than the league average). Other second-base bats include James Dozier, John Forsythe, DJ LeMahieu and Ian Kinsler, all of whom are right-handed hitters.
4. Sign a glove-oriented shortstop or an infield rover
This would be the cheapest, simplest and, yes, least sexy external solution to the Gregorius concern.
The shortstop market will offer several options, including Jose Iglesias, Freddy Galvis (whose 325 consecutive games played streak makes him baseball's current "Iron Man," for whatever that's worth) and late-season Yankees pickup Adeiny Hechavarria.
Utility types available will include Eduardo Escobar, Marwin Gonzalez, Daniel Descalso, Asdrubal Cabrera and old friend Neil Walker (who might better approximate his 2017 numbers with an actual Spring Training). Though their value rests more in their versatility, Escobar, Gonzalez and Cabrera -- all of whom are switch-hitters -- could be directly applied to short in Gregorius' stead, then go back to roaming when he returns. Gonzalez is just turning 30, which, combined with the way he's stepped up for the Astros on the postseason stage the last two years, makes him possibly the most attractive -- and, yes, most expensive -- option here.
5. Keep it in-house
And this the least sexy option of all. It would revolve around the Yankees expending all their energy -- and dollars -- elsewhere on the roster (primarily the rotation) while shifting Torres to short and giving the likes of Ronald Torreyes and/or Tyler Wade the at-bats at second.
Hey, you know what feels a heck of a lot more likely than this option?
The Yankees signing Machado.
Anthony Castrovince has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2004. Read his columns, listen to his podcast and follow him on Twitter at @Castrovince.