Yankees might not be ready to close the door on Manny Machado, even after signing Troy Tulowitzki
Machado could play third base with Tulowitzki at shortstop
On Friday afternoon the New York Yankees Troy Tulowitzki. The Blue Jays released Tulowitzki last month and they still owe him $38 million the next two years. Because of that, the Yankees were able to sign him to a league-minimum contract.
Incumbent shortstop Didi Gregorius will miss the start of next season while rehabbing from Tommy John surgery, and over the last few weeks there's been rampant speculation about Manny Machado heading to New York. Machado could play shortstop until Gregorius returns, then shift over to third base, with the defensively-deficient Miguel Andujar moving to a less-demanding position.
Yankees GM Brian Cashman was asked about his infield during Tulowitzki's introductory press conference and he made it pretty clear that the veteran is penciled in as the team's starting shortstop while Gregorius is sidelined. What does that mean for Machado? Cashman wouldn't really say.
Keep in mind this is the same general manager who once said Bubba Crosby would be his center fielder. A few weeks later, he introduced Johnny Damon at a press conference. If the Tulowitzki signing meant the Yankees are closing the door on Machado, Cashman wouldn't say. If the Tulowitzki signing didn't close the door on Machado, Cashman wouldn't say. That just how general managers work.
The guess here is that no, Tulowitzki doesn't take the Yankees out of the running for Machado, because that would be incredibly silly. Tulowitzki is a 34-year-old reclamation project who hasn't played a big-league game in 18 months now. Machado is a 26-year-old superstar, and when you have a chance to acquire a player like that, you do it. Sign him and figure out the infield later. Machado is a far better player than the current version of Tulowitzki. There's no argument to be made otherwise.
The Yankees do sound pretty committed to Tulowitzki at shortstop, however, so much so that Cashman admitted he kept Machado's camp in the loop about the Tulowitzki signing:
While Tulowitzki making it through spring training in one piece is far from certain, there is a scenario in which the Yankees keep Tulowitzki and add Machado. Earlier this week the New York Post's Joel Sherman and The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal both reported that, in that scenario, the Yankees would keep Tulowitzki at shortstop and move Machado back to third base.
Here's Sherman with the details:
The Yankees reached an agreement with Tulowitzki with the plan, if healthy, to play him at shortstop even if they end up signing Manny Machado (who would play third). Tulowitzki played in just 66 games in 2017 for the Blue Jays and not at all last season after undergoing surgery on both heels.
In this scenario, Tulowitzki would play shortstop and Machado third base, with Gleyber Torres remaining at second base. Luke Voit is the presumed incumbent at first base after his big second half last year, though that is not set in stone. Signing Machado after already signing Tulowitzki means one of two things would happen with Andujar:
- He moves to another position.
- He becomes a trade chip.
Both are viable options. Andujar rated as one of the worst defensive third basemen in baseball last season and, even without a Machado signing, he could find himself at first base or in left field before long. The Yankees could also use Giancarlo Stanton in left field and use Andujar as a full-time DH. One way or the other, the kid's bat needs to be in the lineup.
Trading Andujar probably would've made more sense earlier in the offseason, before the Yankees filled out their rotation with James Paxton, CC Sabathia, and J.A. Happ. Packaging Andujar for, say, Corey Kluber or Trevor Bauer rather than re-signing Happ would've worked quite nicely for New York, in theory. (Who knows whether the Indians agree to that.)
For now, the Tulowitzki move is a depth pickup more than anything. Given his recent history, counting on him to play shortstop on an everyday basis is risky, and he certainly shouldn't stand in the way of a Machado signing. I'm not sure I'd call it likely, but there is a scenario in which Tulowitzki and Machado are manning the left side of the infield in the Bronx on Opening Day.
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