If only the New York Yankees had another cornerstone position player that would make their situation less hectic should Aaron Judge leave in free agency this offseason. Hmmm. If only they could’ve easily solved that over the last six seasons.
Well, they tried! General manager Brian Cashman thought Giancarlo Stanton would be that guy, but instead the former NL MVP has played 287 out of his 448 career games with New York in the designated hitter spot. Not really what you want for a guy on a $325 million contract.
But the Yankees and their endless financial resources could’ve upped the ante and added to the Stanton-Judge pairing after the 2018 offseason. Bryce Harper and Manny Machado were both there for the taking. And they’ve both helped carry their teams to the NLCS this year as the Yankees stand in the brink of elimination in the ALDS against an inferior team.
Sure, it would’ve taken some roster tinkering … but then you wouldn’t have signed Aaron Hicks to a seven-year contract extension. Hey, look, we found $70 million right there to put toward a $300 million commitment!
This would’ve also either given the Yankees the ability to move Judge to center field earlier (where he’s very capable and very good) should they have signed Harper. They could’ve clearly also dealt Miguel Andújar at the height of his value to maybe get some pitching in return, should they have signed Machado.
Instead … nothing. The Hicks extension. The JA Happ extension. The Luis Severino extension. The James Paxton trade. The DJ LeMahieu signing. That’s all that came out of the 2018 offseason. Only one of those moves worked.
Manny Machado and Bryce Harper shining in the postseason highlights Yankees regrets
Never forget this comment from Cashman, either:
The Yankees, in recent years, famously won’t go the extra mile to dole out long-term contracts because of the inevitable regression that’s attached to them. But they had two layups in Machado and Harper after the 2018 season, since both hit the open market after their age-25 seasons. Ten-year contracts for either of those guys would’ve taken them to their mid-30s! That’s a literal dream for baseball executives — paying for the absolute minimal waste years.
Machado and Harper remain two of the best in the sport, and are helping carry their teams in the playoffs at the moment. Every time either of them gets a timely hit or is the subject of a game-changing highlight, Yankees fans will be reminded of these misses that were well within reach just a few years ago.
Outside of postseason showings (neither have had much of any until this year anyway), the point still stands from when they began their tenures with their new teams:
- Harper with Phillies – .282/.394/.546 with 303 runs scored, 101 home runs, 296 RBI, 47 stolen bases and 150 OPS+ in 455 games
- Machado with Padres – .280/.352/.504 with 317 runs scored, 108 home runs, 340 RBI, 32 stolen bases and 136 OPS+ in 519 games
Most times we’d say “easier said than done,” but we truly can’t apply that here. This was as easy as it was ever going to be. And instead of having insurance for Judge’s possible departure, the Yankees could be back to the drawing board should they be dealt a worst-case scenario.