LAS VEGAS -- For years, this epic free-agent class has permitted a fantasy scenario in which Bryce Harper and Manny Machado wear pinstripes. General manager Brian Cashman doused that speculation on Monday, indicating that New York has made its selection between the superstar sluggers.
The Yankees are continuing to speak with Machado's representative, Dan Lozano, believing that the 26-year-old infielder could be an ideal fit with shortstop Didi Gregorius expected to miss some of the 2019 season, but Cashman said on Monday that the club has bowed out of the Harper sweepstakes.
"We don't have an [infinite] amount of dollars to be playing with in any marketplace," Cashman said. "We're looking for a starter now; it was two, now it's down to one. We're looking for, how do we address the loss of Didi Gregorius? And we're looking for our bullpen. At no time all winter have I said that I'm looking for an outfielder. The Harper stuff, I'm surprised you're still asking."
Reclining in a hotel suite that overlooked the site of the NFL Raiders' future football stadium, Cashman rejected the suggestion that one of Las Vegas' favorite sons could help construct the Yankees' next championship.
He rattled off the names of six outfielders currently on the roster (Jacoby Ellsbury, Clint Frazier, Brett Gardner, Aaron Hicks, Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton), then indicated that the team has no interest in auditioning the 26-year-old Harper at first base.
"We covered this earlier in the wintertime," Cashman said. "People asked about the [Harper at] first-base stuff. I'm sure it's potentially a possibility, but it's not something that we would play on at that level, to pay that money to play somebody like that at first base."
Machado answers an area of need for the Yankees, with Gregorius expected to be sidelined until at least June and potentially through August after surgery on his right elbow. Cashman said he spoke to Lozano prior to the Winter Meetings, and would not say if the two planned to meet while in Las Vegas.
"I've had several conversations with Dan Lozano about Manny Machado," Cashman said. "We are definitely focused in the marketplace on those areas of need. He obviously is available and solves that area of need. I'm not going to deny we've had a conversation or two."
Though Machado has been said to be seeking a contract that could exceed $300 million, Cashman said that the massive price tag would not necessarily preclude the Yankees from acting, one offseason after taking on Stanton's mega-contract from the Marlins.
Though managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner has said he would need an explanation for Machado's comments during the postseason, particularly when he said that he was not a "Johnny Hustle" type of player, the team's continued interest at this stage suggests that it is willing to offer Machado a free pass.
"I think Manny has really handled himself well this offseason, admitting that he shouldn't have said it," said former Yankee and current ESPN analyst Mark Teixeira. "It might have been some semantics, and understanding that in the heat of the moment, he probably said some things he shouldn't have. I think the Yankees can get past that. It sounds like they've gotten past that. If you sign Manny Machado, you might be the best team in baseball."
After re-signing left-hander Carsten Sabathia and Gardner, then trading for Mariners left-hander James Paxton, the pace of the Yanks' offseason has cooled. Though they viewed Patrick Corbin as the top starter on the free-agent market, they refused to make an offer, unwilling to match the six years the lefty scored from the Nationals.
"Just because [Corbin] happened to be the best in this particular free-agent marketplace doesn't mean we were comfortable going to that level of commitment," Cashman said.
New York has remained in contact with left-hander J.A. Happ, though it is reluctant to extend a three-year offer to the 36-year-old. Another compelling choice could be left-hander Yusei Kikuchi, a 27-year-old who has been posted by the Seibu Lions and has until Jan. 2 to sign with a Major League club.
"[Kikuchi] is somebody that's worth talking about; somebody that's worthy of having conversations about potentially landing," Cashman said. "Somebody that would make our or other rotations better here in Major League Baseball."
While Cashman seeks to add a pitcher, he is also attempting to deal one. The Yankees are continuing to field offers for right-hander Sonny Gray, and Cashman said 11 teams have expressed interest to date.
"Some have involved bigger deals, some have involved easy prospect-driven deals," he said. "Some are Major League need-for-need type things. We'll see where it takes us, but he's still here because we haven't found that sweet spot yet."
Honored: Damon Oppenheimer, the Yankees' vice president of domestic amateur scouting, was honored on Monday as one of Major League Baseball's 2018 Scouts of the Year. Also honored were Sal Agostinelli (Phillies), Danny Montgomery (Rockies) and Brad Sloan (Red Sox).