Machado's free-agency tour hits the Bronx

Star infielder would provide big lift for Yankees while Gregorius out

December 19th, 2018

NEW YORK -- Is Manny Machado bound for the Bronx? Wednesday might have been an important step if that were to happen.
The superstar free agent met with the Yankees for roughly 90 minutes at Yankee Stadium in the second stop on this week's tour with teams vying for his services. General manager Brian Cashman and manager Aaron Boone were among the meeting's attendees, according to the New York Post. The Post reported that veteran starting pitcher was seen going into the stadium, but it is unknown whether he also attended the meeting.

Machado, who met with the White Sox in Chicago earlier in the week, is also scheduled to be in Philadelphia on Thursday to meet with the Phillies. Machado spent Wednesday evening dining with a Yankees contingent along with his wife and agent in Manhattan, reported MLB Network insider Jon Heyman. According to Heyman, the Yankees, White Sox and Phillies are the only three clubs in the mix for Machado, and there is no "mystery team." Previous reports have suggested there might be at least one other team lurking in its pursuit of the shortstop, but it remains to be seen who that team might be.

For Machado, Wednesday's meeting with the Yankees presented an opportunity to answer the team's questions about his October comments regarding his hustle -- or lack thereof -- on the field. And according to multiple reports, he may have done so satisfactorily.

During an interview with Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports and The Athletic, Machado uttered the memorable line, "I'm not the type of player that's going to be 'Johnny Hustle,'" though last month he told in an exclusive interview that he wished his point had been made more clearly in that moment.
"When I was asked that question, I was definitely on the defensive and I was wrong to answer it the way that I did, because looking back it doesn't come across how I meant it," Machado said shortly before Thanksgiving. "For me, I was trying to talk about how I'm not the guy who is eyewash. There's a difference between fake hustle for show and being someone who tries hard to win. I've always been the guy who does whatever he can to win for his team.
"But I know how I said it and how that came across, and it's something I take responsibility for. I look forward to talking with each GM and owner that we meet with about that or any other questions they have."

That subject was certain to come up during Wednesday's meeting with the Yankees, which was expected to include Cashman, Boone and other members of the coaching staff and front office. Former Yankee Carlos Beltran, who is joining the front office as a special adviser to Cashman, was also expected to attend. Beltran's agent is Dan Lozano of MVP Sports Group, which also represents Machado.
It's unclear whether Hal Steinbrenner -- who said this offseason that he found Machado's comments "troubling" -- would be part of the meetings, as he and his family are dealing with the passing of his mother, Joan, late last week. According to reports, Mrs. Steinbrenner's funeral is set to take place Friday.
"If it's a $300 million guy or a $10 million guy, clearly those comments are troubling," Steinbrenner said recently. "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."

Cashman recently told the YES Network that while Machado's remarks would be discussed, he believed the constant talk regarding the issue has been a bit excessive.
"I certainly think the narrative has been banged enough this winter since the postseason," Cashman said. "I don't want it to become a runaway train. Regardless of wherever Manny Machado winds up, he's a great player. He's been an elite player for a long time. He is a special, talented player.
"When you're playing in this game for as long as he has so far, especially on the larger stage and dealing with media, I think you're permitted to have some mistakes here and there. It's no different than making a key error in a game. ... I'm sure that wasn't his best moment, but it doesn't mean it's the moment that should define him, either."
Machado is expected to command one of the biggest contracts in Major League history, though it remains to be seen whether the Yankees want to add another $300 million player to their roster after finally getting the payroll beneath the luxury-tax threshold in 2018.
From a baseball standpoint, Machado appears to be a great fit for the Yankees, who will be without star shortstop Didi Gregorius until sometime this summer. Cashman recently pegged the timetable for Gregorius' return from Tommy John surgery as "June, July, August," leaving open the possibility he could miss more than four months of the 2019 campaign.
Whenever Gregorius returns, Machado could move to the hot corner in place of the defensively deficient , who could move to first base, get some at-bats as a designated hitter or even be traded at some point. Also, Gregorius is headed for free agency next offseason, leaving his return to New York uncertain.
The Yankees are very familiar with Machado's on-field talent, having seen him on the other side of the field with the Orioles from 2012 through last summer, when he was traded to the Dodgers in mid-July. For all the hoopla that has surrounded him at times during his career, there's little doubt that Machado is one of the most talented players in the game, having averaged 36 home runs, 96 RBIs and an .856 OPS over the past four seasons.