The New York Yankees first move of 2019 might not have been the one those around the organization were hoping for.
As the baseball world waits on the Manny Machado decision, Wednesday morning saw the Yankees agree to a league-minimum deal with veteran shortstop Troy Tulowitzki to shore up the left side of their infield.
The 34-year-old and five-time All-Star was unceremoniously cut by the Toronto Blue Jays last month after an injury-riddled two seasons saw him play in just 66 games since the start of 2017. Toronto opted to pay a whopping $38 million to release him rather than keep him on the 2019 roster.
While Tulowitzki’s better days are behind him, most notably a nine-year stretch with the Colorado Rockies that saw him slash .299/.373/.517, this is still a veteran who hit 24 home runs two years ago during a healthy 2016 campaign with the Blue Jays.
Back in a hitter-friendly park within a loaded lineup that offers plenty of protection while playing for the team of his boyhood idol, Derek Jeter, there’s no reason why Tulowitzki can’t turn back the clock a bit if he can stay healthy.
In no way does the acquisition of Tulowitzki affect the Yankees’ pursuit of Machado, the 26-year-old slugger expected to make his decision in the coming days. It has been reported that New York will be the favorite to land the former Baltimore Oriole and Los Angeles Dodger if its offer is at least close to that of the Philadelphia Phillies and Chicago White Sox.
Machado was expected to garner a contract near $300 million this offseason, though that number could be less after an unimpressive postseason and that further revealed a hesitation to hustle.
Should the Yankees pick up Machado to add to an imposing lineup that already includes Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton, the left side of the infield suddenly becomes jammed.
Machado and Tulowitzki would join third baseman and AL Rookie of the Year runner-up Miguel Andujar along with the recovering Didi Gregorius, who is expected to miss at least the first half of the 2019 season.
If Tulowitzki is seen as a piece off the bench, then New York’s infield will hypothetically feature Andujar at third and Machado at short.
Could the Yankees still deal Miguel Andujar?
But if the Yankees believe Tulowitzki is on the verge of a resurgence of sorts, the trade winds surrounding Andujar that picked up during the Winter Meetings last month could bluster yet again.
The 23-year-old’s name cropped up in trade talks on a potential blockbuster deal that would have seen the Yankees come away with New York Mets fireballer Noah Syndergaard while Andujar would have been sent to the Miami Marlins. All-Star catcher JT Realmuto would have gone to the Mets, but the asking price for Brodie Van Wagenen proved too high. The Mets went on to sign free-agent backstop Wilson Ramos rather than give up young talent for Realmuto.
Putting Andujar back on the trade block could help the Yankees pick up one more true, elite pitcher for a starting rotation that has not overwhelmingly improved this offseason.
James Paxton was acquired from the Seattle Mariners before the Yankees re-signed JA Happ, but the struggles of Luis Severino late last season has some questioning if the organization has a true ace. Paxton is slated as the rotation’s No. 2 arm, but there are concerns about whether he can succeed under a different kind of workload.
An arm like Corey Kluber, who has been made available for trade by the Cleveland Indians, could be the missing piece to make the Yankees the favorite in the AL East over the Boston Red Sox. Headlining a return that would feature Andujar should be more than enough to get a quality arm like that, as well.
It just depends on whether general manager Brian Cashman would want to give up such a promising, young talent for the 32-year-old ace that has won a pair of Cy Young Awards since 2014.