We are only one month away from pitchers and catchers reporting (finally!) though the hot stove has remained ice cold for most of the winter. The biggest move of the offseason by any team remains the Yankees’ heist of National League MVP Giancarlo Stanton from the Marlins. Yet rumors persist surrounding New York’s potential acquisition of another generational talent, Manny Machado.
My esteemed PSA colleague Tyler Norton recently made a compelling case for the Bombers to grab Machado. I agree wholeheartedly with every word of Tyler’s article. I would love to see Baltimore’s run-producing machine added to an already potent Pinstripe lineup. It also makes perfect sense — in a vacuum.
But such a move wouldn’t occur in a vacuum. There are other ramifications to consider, and recent reports have given me reason to pause.
What will Machado cost?
According to Jon Heyman, the Orioles are seeking multiple top prospects for Machado, but have not yet received an offer to their liking. Former Mets GM and current MLB.com columnist Jim Duquette wrote that the Yankees should offer both Chance Adams and Jordan Montgomery. He listed Clint Frazier plus one of the two pitchers as an alternative. Duquette had previously written that New York should part with baseball’s number-two prospect Gleyber Torres in order to land Machado, but re-evaluated when it emerged that Baltimore was primarily focused on starting pitching.
I think all are bad ideas. The Yankees have struggled to develop anything better than bottom-of-the-rotation starters since Andy Pettitte came up in 1995. That’s a long time in between cups of coffee. The club now has two home-grown talents in the rotation.
Luis Severino ranked third in the league in just about every rate stat last year and finished third in the Cy Young Award balloting. Jordan Montgomery, meanwhile, came out of nowhere to win the fifth spot in the Yankees rotation in the spring. He was a steady hand all season, making 29 starts, pitching to a 3.88 ERA and 1.23 WHIP, and eating up 155 plus innings. A third is on the way in Chance Adams, with others such as Domingo German, Domingo Acevedo, and Justus Sheffield on the periphery.
New York is finally in a position to list its rotation and starting pitching depth as a considerable strength. Now isn’t the time to break up the band. Doing that could lead to the Yankees putting themselves in the same spot the Orioles are in now.
Sure, the Yankees could trade Montgomery and Adams and then delve into the free agent market to fill the void. But after what I saw from Yu Darvish in the playoffs, I would rather have Montgomery, considering the cost. You can’t predict baseball (Suzyn), but it’s possible the 25-year-old Montgomery has yet to hit his ceiling.
Plus, signing either Darvish or Jake Arrieta would surely put Plan 197 in jeopardy. I wouldn’t object if the Yankees abandon it, but I don’t want to see them salary-dumping David Robertson to sign a starter as a result of a Machado deal.
Gleyber Torres and Clint Frazier also have obvious value. Torres was cited by Brian Cashman as a contender for the third base job this spring. That was before both Chase Headley and Starlin Castro were traded. Torres is now the leading candidate to take over second base. The top prospect could be a table-setter for the Yankees for years to come.
Frazier may not have an apparent role at this moment, but things can change in a flash. If Judge, Stanton, Gardner, or Hicks suffers an injury, Red Thunder is in line to start. The same is true if Hicks regresses. And don’t forget, the 34-year-old Gardner could be a free agent after this season, though the Yankees do hold a team option for 2019.
In short, I would rather have five years of Frazier, Torres, Montgomery, and Adams than a one-year rental of Machado. Much has been made of O’s owner Peter Angelos’ reluctance to trade a superstar within the division. But do you really want to see a pair of top Yankees prospects starring for Baltimore for the next half-decade?
Who will play the hot corner?
Miguel Andujar is the leading candidate to start at third base. Andujar contributed mightily to a Bomber’s win in his major league debut at the end of June when he went 4-for-4 with a walk and four RBIs in five plate appearances. He was sent back to Triple-A after the game to continue working on his defense. When he returned in September, he didn’t see much action as New York had acquired Todd Frazier at the trade deadline to take over at the hot corner.
When Hal Steinbrenner spoke after the season about the talented players in the Yankees system who are on the precipice of making an impact in the big leagues, he mentioned the 22-year-old Andujar. Steinbrenner specifically pointed to his improved defense at third base. Cashman echoed those statements when addressing the opening at third following Headley’s departure.
Perhaps I’m being greedy, but after seeing Sanchez, Judge, and Bird explode onto the scene, I would love to see Andujar become the fourth member of that Baby Bomber quartet. Probability may be against him becoming the next Manny Machado, but we won’t know what Andujar can do unless he is given a chance to play.
Way ahead of schedule on their rebuild, the Yankees are in the driver’s seat. The storied franchise is not in “win now or bust” mode like when they were trying to squeeze one more championship out of a declining Core Four.
The front office simply doesn’t have a pressing need to give up multiple valuable pieces that can help the club win now in order to get Machado. They can let Andujar play third for a few months and re-evaluate at the trade deadline. If he bombs, get someone in July. That someone may or may not be Machado.
It is worth mentioning that Machado has reportedly informed the Orioles that he doen’t want to play third anymore. He prefers to switch back to shortstop. Whatever happens this year, the Yankees will have an opportunity to sign Machado after the season. It won’t cost them any MLB-ready talent, just a supplemental draft pick.
I would love to see Machado in pinstripes. Such a lineup would surely be a modern-day Murderer’s Row. If the Yankees can get him for a pair of low-level prospects, great. Get it done, Cash. Otherwise, they are better off taking a pass — for now.