Cashman makes it clear where Yankees stand on Bryce Harper
LAS VEGAS — Just because Brian Cashman has engaged Manny Machado’s representative in conversations about the free-agent infielder doesn’t mean the Yankees are fitting Machado for a uniform.
However, it does put Machado ahead of outfielder Bryce Harper when it comes to the jewels of the free-agent class because of a very simple reason: There is room for Machado in the infield and no vacancy in the outfield.
Sitting in a suite in the Delano Hotel on the second day of MLB’s flesh-dealing market, Cashman was bored by inquiries about Harper possibly becoming a Yankee.
“At no point all winter have I said I am looking for an outfielder,’’ Cashman said Monday when pressed on Harper. “The Harper stuff … I am surprised you are still asking.’’
However, when the subject shifted to Machado the general manager provided a look into that situation.
“I have talked to Machado’s representative Danny Lozano,’’ said Cashman, who explained the talks took place before Cashman arrived at the winter meetings. “I have had several conversations with Danny Lozano about Manny Machado. We are definitely focused in the marketplace in areas of need and he obviously is available and solves that area of need. So, not going to deny we have had a conversation or two.’’
Asked if a sit-down with Machado, something Hal Steinbrenner had mentioned might have to take place, was in the works, Cashman said, “I wouldn’t say.’’
The area of need is shortstop because nobody can accurately predict when Didi Gregorius will be able to return to big-league games following Tommy John surgery on his right (throwing) elbow.
Cashman speculated it could be June, July or August but the process wasn’t going to be rushed.
“None of us want to make a mistake and be aggressive. Definitely have to apply discipline in that process and make sure he is protected and finished off properly,’’ Cashman said of Gregorius, who can become a free agent after next season. “We do that with every player but obviously he is an important piece for us in 2019 and he has a career moving forward. We would like it to be with us but that is for another day. You never want to make a mistake in rehab settings, but he is an important piece and hopefully he will get it right.”
While the Yankees aren’t inclined to hand Machado a contract for $300 million or more, they have never said to be all that bothered by Machado’s postseason shenanigans when he was accused of being a dirty player and admitted hustling wasn’t his thing. Steinbrenner, Cashman and manager Aaron Boone have each had chances to say they don’t want the 26-year-old Machado and haven’t done it.
Machado hit .297 with 37 homers with 107 RBIs and posted a .905 OPS in a combined 162 games for the Orioles and Dodgers last year. However, in five World Series games against the Red Sox, Machado slumped to .182 (4-for-22) without a homer and drove in three runs.
If there was a need in the outfield Cashman would likely sound much the same about Harper as he did Machado. However there is no need because the outfield, which already includes the high-priced Giancarlo Stanton, is over par.
“Are you serious? I think you know,’’ Cashman said when asked about the 26-year-old Harper who rejected a $300 million to remain with the Nationals. “I have [Aaron] Judge, Stanton, [Jacoby] Ellsbury, [Brett] Gardner, [Clint] Frazier, [Aaron] Hicks. Ellsbury (hip surgery) will be healthy and Frazier (concussions) will be healthy.’’
Even if they weren’t healthy Cashman pointed to the outfield being full.
“Take [Ellsbury and Frazier] them out. I have Hicks in center and Stanton, who is athletic as hell, as the DH because Judge is in right and I have Gardner in left,’’ Cashman said.
As for paying what Harper turned down and moving him to first base, Cashman was bored with the subject.
“We covered this earlier in the wintertime. People asked about the first-base stuff. I am sure it’s potentially a possibility but it is not something we would play on at that level, at that type of money at first base,’’ Cashman said.
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