If the Yankees have recently reassessed their attitudes toward superstar free agents Manny Machado and Bryce Harper, don’t count on general manager Brian Cashman sharing that news willingly.
He’s still conditioned to choose his words carefully and, when necessary, bite his tongue.
Three days shy of the Yankees’ first full-squad workout in Tampa, Cashman refrained from answering questions about the availability of both Machado and Harper, who are reportedly seeking long-term deals in the $300 million range. But he did tell reporters that his communication with players on the open market isn’t going to stop. The phone lines will remain open as spring training rolls along.
So, just another tease?
“I’m doing my job,” Cashman said Saturday prior to workouts at George M. Steinbrenner Field. “Whether that’s those two players or other players or players that aren’t as of significant name value, the job at hand is to constantly be open-minded to ways to make that work the best it can possibly work, clearly within a framework, clearly with pressure points and clearly within the constructs of the system that we all signed off from, owners to players.
“We’ve just got to work within those confines and find the best ways to make it all fit and so we like what we’ve done to this point but we’re never a finished product until at the very least August 31.”
At the moment, the Yankees’ are operating above this season’s $206 million luxury tax threshold. According to Spotrac.com, the Yankees ($124.5 million) are second only to the Nationals ($183.3 million) in terms of money spent on free agents this offseason. Thus far, they’ve acquired five free agents, including relief pitchers Zack Britton and Adam Ottavino ($66 million combined), starting pitcher J.A. Happ ($34 million), and infielders DJ LeMahieu and Troy Tulowitzki ($24.5 million combined).
The Yankees also just signed 24-year-old starter Luis Severino to a four-year, $40 million deal that bought out his remaining arbitration years and potentially his first year of free agency ($15 million club option in 2023). Overall, the Yankees’ total winter spending comes out to $218 million, which is the highest mark in baseball.
While the odds of either Machado or Harper playing in the Bronx are slim, Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner said last week that he’d be all ears if his staff continues to present him roster ideas that involve big-ticket items.
“Look, if somebody comes – I haven’t changed – I mean if somebody comes to me with a suggestion or a proposal, I’m going to seriously consider it right up until Opening Day or after. That’s part of my leave-no-stone-unturned [policy], right?” Steinbrenner said during the owners’ meetings in Orlando. “But I’m excited about the roster. I think we’ve definitely got a better club Opening Day than we did Opening Day last year, particularly in pitching, which was my biggest area of concern.”
Although it’s unclear what teams have offered Machado and Harper, the two 26-year-olds are undoubtedly on Hall-of-Fame tracks. According to FanGraphs, dating back to 1945, both players rank in the Top-20 of WAR (wins above replacement) accumulated through age 25.
The Yankees are scheduled to play their first spring training game on Saturday, February 23 against the defending World Series champion Red Sox.
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