The dragged out saga that is the Manny Machado and Bryce Harper free-agency sweepstakes continue to drag into January, much to the chagrin of Major League Baseball fans, especially those of the New York Yankees.
As the richest, most renowned franchise in the game, the Yankees were immediately linked to both free-agent superstars as soon as the offseason began. Yet it is looking more and more likely that they will come up empty-handed when it comes to both 26-year-olds.
It’s a sudden display of frugality from the Steinbrenner family, who have seemed hesitant to make the big splash this offseason with eyes on staying close to the luxury tax.
While their interest on Harper waned, the possibility of adding Machado was still a very good possibility entering the New Year. They were one of three teams to have a meeting with him alongside the Philadelphia Phillies and Chicago White Sox, the latter two believed to be able to offer much more money than the Yankees.
Yet Machado and his wife’s desire to play for the Yankees — which has been well-documented between liked Instagram posts or a New York Daily News report by Wallace Matthews — has ensured that there is still a chance he could end up in pinstripes, even though his contract would hover around $220 million instead of $300 million like his representation initially wanted.
The problem is that the Yankees have accrued a glutton of infielders that has all but eliminated their chances of acquiring the former Oriole and Dodger.
Saturday saw New York officially sign veteran second baseman DJ LeMahieu to a two-year deal worth $24 million. The 2016 NL batting champion, who is not known for a power bat, has spent all eight of his MLB seasons with Colorado Rockies. So he’s no stranger to playing in hitter-friendly ballparks. With a .298 career average and .350 on-base percentage, he brings a much-needed change of pace to a Yankees lineup that is predicated on the long ball.
However, LeMahieu’s signing likely takes the Yankees completely out of the running for Machado, as they added the 30-year-old to an infield that already includes second baseman Gleyber Torres, third baseman Miguel Andujar, shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, and the recovering mainstay at shortstop, Didi Gregorius.
LeMahieu provides insurance for the middle of the Yankees’ infield while Gregorius recovers from Tommy John surgery. Should Tulowitzki, who has played just 66 games over the past two seasons, fail to produce, Torres could be moved to shortstop and LeMahieu becomes the starting second baseman.
Another possibility could be putting LeMahieu at third base and moving the defensively-challenged Andujar to first base, especially if Luke Voit and Greg Bird struggle.
It also puts the Yankees over the luxury tax as LeMahieu’s deal puts the team’s estimated payroll at just over $212 million, which is $6 million over the luxury-tax threshold.
So with Machado likely out of the picture, here is how the Yankees’ Opening Day lineup could look like:
Yankees predicted 2019 starting lineup
1. Brett Gardner- LF
2. Aaron Judge- RF
3. Giancarlo Stanton- DH
4. Gary Sanchez- C
5. Aaron Hicks- CF
6. Miguel Andujar- 3B
7. Gleyber Torres- SS
8. Luke Voit- 1B
9. DJ LeMahieu- 2B