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The Yankees may regret passing on Jurickson Profar

Profar may have made a great Manny Machado alternative.

Tampa Bay Rays v Texas Rangers Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

On December 21st, the Oakland Athletics acquired infielder Jurickson Profar in a three-team trade with the Rangers and Rays. The Rangers picked up a few prospects, while the Rays basically rearranged deck chairs. The trade, however, was all about Profar.

Depending on who you ask, the Yankees had varying levels of interest in Profar before he got shipped to Oakland. Gerry Fraley, a Rangers beat writer, noted that the Bombers liked him as a fill-in for Didi Gregorius, “but weren’t willing to give up much.” Jeff Passan, on the other hand, relayed a more substantial offer:

“Among those [trade candidates] who are clearly available... Sonny Gray might head the list. The number of trade iterations around Gray this winter has been staggering. There was traction, at one point, on a three-way deal among the Yankees, Rangers and Braves that would have sent Gray to Atlanta, a prospect to Texas and infielder Jurickson Profar to New York. The Rangers wound up shipping Profar to Oakland in another three-way deal with the Tampa Bay Rays.”

This makes a lot of sense. The Yankees have long coveted the infielder, going so far as to push for a trade in November 2017. Profar represents the model target for Brian Cashman. He loves former top prospects who have fallen out of favor with their club. He banks on true talent level and upside, both of which Profar has in spades.

In 2018, three years removed from the second of two major shoulder surgeries, Profar hit .254/.335/.458 with 20 home runs. He didn’t strike out all that much (14.8%) and had a solid walk rate (9.1%). He also hit the ball harder than he has at any other point in his major league career, which bodes well for him to continue improving at the plate.

Credit: FanGraphs

As far as defense is concerned, Profar mainly plays shortstop. In 2018, however, he also saw time at third, second, and first base. Outside of first, he graded out as a below average defender. Nonetheless, he would have made a satisfactory stopgap for Gregorius, then could have played a sort of super-utility role afterwards.

Obviously none of this matters if the Yankees sign Manny Machado. He is far and away the superior player. The Bombers clearly have interest in the top free agent, but one can’t say for certain he would choose New York. A note in Joel Sherman’s most recent column paints a less than rosy forecast:

“The Yanks’ intention was — if they made an offer to Machado — to limit both the length and perhaps annual dollars for what was expected for such a great player in his prime and see if Machado would follow his heart to The Bronx rather than the money somewhere else. The addition of Tulowitzki does not preclude the Yanks from still doing that, but it gives them a little more leverage not to be concerned if Machado says he wants the largest contract possible.”

If the Yankees miss out on Machado, then Troy Tulowitzki becomes their shortstop by default. Counting on a 34-year-old making a comeback attempt may not be the best idea for a team interested in competing for a division title. That proves especially so when one remembers that a better, sure thing was available. Maybe the Yankees should have pushed a little harder when trying to land Profar.