NEW YORK -- The Yankees' interest in Manny Machado is serious, and as the club continues to gather information and evaluate his potential fit in pinstripes, managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner said it is "essential" to hear an explanation for the free-agent slugger's October commentary.
When Machado's aggressiveness was questioned during the Dodgers' National League Championship Series against the Brewers, Machado memorably said that he was "not the type of player that's going to be Johnny Hustle." He also drew criticism for a pair of baserunning plays at first base, one of which resulted in a fine, and questionable slides into second base.
Speaking to reporters at the Major League Baseball Owners' Meetings on Wednesday in Atlanta, Steinbrenner said that he felt Machado's comments were "troubling." General manager Brian Cashman is believed to be performing due diligence on Machado, including the fallout of the 26-year-old's eventful postseason.
"If it's a $300 million guy or a $10 million guy, clearly those comments are troubling," Steinbrenner said. "But that's really Cash's job. If we're interested in any player, we sit down with him face to face and ask him, 'Where did this come from? What was the context around the entire interview? Was there a point you were trying to [make]? How do you justify it?'
"Because that ain't going to sell where we play baseball. That conversation will happen, no matter who it is."
The Yankees have interest in Machado, in part because shortstop Didi Gregorius is expected to be sidelined at least until June -- and perhaps until August -- as he recovers from Tommy John surgery on his right elbow.
Machado could potentially play shortstop and shift to third base, though that would dislodge Miguel Andujar, who finished second to the Angels' Shohei Ohtani when the results of the American League Rookie of the Year Award voting were announced Monday night.
"Manny Machado is a terrific baseball player," Cashman said Wednesday on WFAN. "We got a chance to see him on the front lines against us for the Orioles for way too long, since he was drafted in the first round by them. He's been banging away against us offensively and securing outs defensively.
"He's a tremendous player. We've got to assess, does he fit our world and at what cost? We are going to go through that process with him as well as every available free agent and potential trade partner to see what is the best course of action."
Though right-hander Dellin Betances issued a public plea for the Yanks to add Machado, saying on Tuesday that he believed Machado would be a good teammate and "put us over the top," both Steinbrenner and Cashman have said that the team's highest priority is adding starting pitching.
"I've got to get two starters in here, preferably elite, which those lists are smaller," Cashman said. "The better quality No. 1, 2 or 3 type starter, that's what we need. I need multiples of those."
Patrick Corbin, J.A. Happ and Dallas Keuchel are among the free-agent targets who have been linked to the Yankees, who moved swiftly to re-sign Carsten Sabathia earlier this month. The Yanks would also be interested if the Indians were to seriously shop Carlos Carrasco or Corey Kluber or the Mariners made James Paxton available.
Cashman added that the Yankees are considering bringing back relievers Zach Britton and Player Page for David Robertson, both of whom are free agents.
"I've got to tend to that bullpen, I've got to figure out our middle-infield situation with Didi's Tommy John injury, which obviously brings up the Machado name," Cashman said. "We are going to explore all trade opportunities, both trade and free agent, as well as trying to assess the price tags associated with acquisition as well as the character and culture fit. Hopefully we make a good call."