While a large contingent of Yankees fans are convinced the franchise won’t pony up the dough needed to acquire either Manny Machado or Bryce Harper, perhaps it’s time to pump the brakes on that chatter.
Hal Steinbrenner is still operating with a ‘never say never’ mentality.
The Yankees owner told Newsday on Thursday that he’ll be all ears if his staff continues to present him roster ideas that involve big-ticket items. In this case, those big-ticket items are Machado and Harper — two 26-year-old superstars who, inexplicably, remain free agents as spring training looms.
“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.”
According to Spotrac.com, the Yankees ($124.5 million) are second only to the Washington 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).
Overall, the Yankees’ total winter spending comes out to $178 million, which ranks third-highest in baseball.
Steinbrenner also dismissed the criticism he’s recently received from fans and supporters.
“If there’s a narrative that we’re not spending money and being cheap, it’s just false,” he said. “I mean, we’re well above $200 million [in payroll] – we’re at $220 [million] right now – and we’re well above where we were last year. We did everything we wanted to do to really improve, again, the pitching, because that’s where I wanted improvement because as far as I’m concerned pitching was a big problem in the Division Series, more so than anything else.”
On Tuesday, Yankees’ manager Aaron Boone told reporters that he believes the franchise has finished adding big pieces.
“I feel like in a lot of ways, we’re a complete team right now,” Boone said. “You look at the moves we’ve made this winter, it’s hard to deny that we haven’t significantly improved our club… We feel like we have a team capable of hopefully going out and competing for a championship.
“I think our team is pretty much set… Obviously things happen that force Brian [Cashman, general manager] and his staff to pivot on certain things, but I think it’s safe to assume that we’re going to spring training with the team we expect to have… You never say never with anything, but I would also say we’re anticipating we have a great team right now and feel like we have a complete team that is ready to go compete for a championship.”
It’s not hyperbole to say Machado and Harper are 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.
Yankees pitchers and catchers are scheduled to report to spring training in Tampa, Florida on Wednesday, February 13, and the team’s first full-squad workout is scheduled for Tuesday, February 19.
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