Manny Machado recently signed with the San Diego Padres, but with many fans upset, they need to realize that the Yankees didn’t even need him.
In a Yankees offseason jam-packed with free agent rumors and trade possibilities, perhaps the biggest storyline that seemed to have everyone intrigued for a matter of months was the team’s pursuit of free agent infielder Manny Machado.
Although Machado met with the team and reports came out that there seemed to be mutual interest in making him a Yankee after the team signed shortstop Troy Tulowitzki and utility infielder DJ LeMahieu, fans got the vibe that the team was moving on from Machado. This was finally confirmed this past Tuesday when ESPN’s Jeff Passan tweeted that Machado was in agreement on a contract with the San Diego Padres.
Now that the dust has settled and Machado has his 10-year $300 million contract signed, a number of Yankees players now feel more stability with their roles on the team, no longer having to worry that Machado would take their starting spot and force them to change positions, be relegated to a bench role or even be traded or released.
Here’s a look at some Yankees players who have more defined roles with the team now that we know we won’t be seeing Machado in pinstripes in 2019.
Anytime that anyone mentioned the possibility of the Yankees bringing in Machado, there was almost always a “well what do you do with Andujar?” rebuttal. The team’s breakout third baseman of 2018 had his defensive woes but proved that his bat had to be in the lineup no matter what. Some had suggested that due to his struggles at third base, he might be better suited to be the team’s everyday first baseman or DH.
His name was also often brought up in trade rumors, especially when reports came out that the Indians could be looking to trade stud starting pitcher Corey Kluber. However, most fans thought that trading Andujar would only be something the team would look into if they knew they would land Machado.
With Machado off the table, Andujar now almost certainly assumes the role of starting third baseman. Though the team could still try him at first base or DH if he continues to be supbar defensively at third base, he’s their only natural third baseman and figures to start the season there.
While Aaron Judge is the heart of the Yankees and potentially the team’s future captain, Gregorius is right behind him as an integral part of the team’s core. Had the team signed Machado, he likely would’ve played shortstop for the start of the season, sliding over to third base once the team’s usual shortstop Gregorius returned from rehabbing from his Tommy John surgery.
So although Machado probably wouldn’t have threatened Didi’s starting job, the team not signing him puts more pressure on Gregorius to be one of their better hitters when he returns. It also means that resigning him after 2019 when he’s a free agent (or, even better, extending him before he hits free agency) should be a top priority.
His role isn’t any more defined than it had been before, but the pressure is on him much more.
Among all the players on the Yankees’ roster, Tulowitzki was perhaps the one who breathed the biggest sigh of relief when he heard that Machado wouldn’t be coming to the Bronx. Brought in on a one year deal for the league minimum salary, Tulowitzki has played only 66 games over the last two seasons while dealing with a number of injuries.
He’s far from the All-Star shortstop that he once was on the Rockies, but the team signed him in the hopes that he can be a serviceable enough player to be the starting shortstop to open the season, essentially holding down the fort until Gregorius returns. Had the team signed Machado, he would’ve been the starting shortstop, and Tulowitzki would’ve been a bench piece or perhaps even released.
With Machado gone, Tulowitzki’s role as the starting shortstop becomes much more cemented, though if he struggles greatly in Spring Training we could see Gleyber Torres start the season as the team’s shortstop with Tulowitzki coming off the bench.
Although there was never any doubt that Stanton would be an everyday starting player and one of the team’s most important offensive pieces, the team signing Machado would have forced a number of players to change positions, perhaps leading to Stanton playing his fair share of left field.
Had the team signed Machado, he would’ve slid over to third base when Gregorius returned, making Andujar the everyday DH. This would’ve forced Stanton out of his DH role, likely making him the everyday left fielder. Though he was the everyday right fielder for the Marlins when he spent the first eight years of his career there, his hamstring concerns were enough of an issue for the team last year that they opted to keep him as the everyday DH and use him sparingly in the field, hoping that him not having to play defense would prevent any significant injury.
Although we could still see Stanton play a good amount of left field this year, Andujar remaining at third base instead of DH’ing keeps Stanton as the ideal player to be the everyday DH.