Aaron Judge pitches Orioles' Manny Machado on joining the Yankees

New York Daily News

Manny Machado won't be a free agent until next offseason, but Aaron Judge is already making his pitch to the All-Star shortstop on why he should join the Yankees.

"Adding him to our lineup that we've already got would be something special. I told him he'd look good in pinstripes," Judge said.

Judge said he made his pitch to Machado before Wednesday's spring training game.

"He just kind of laughed it off and didn't really say much," Judge said.

"We talked a little bit, and I just asked him how his offseason was, how everything was going," Judge added. "I asked him how he liked short and said you'd look pretty good in pinstripes, too."

Adding Machado to Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Greg Bird, Gary Sanchez and Didi Gregorius seems like something a baseball fan could only do in a video game. But it would be costly, given that Machado could command $30 million or more per year in a long-term megadeal on the open market.

"He's one heck of a player, and he's been doing it for quite a few years at the best level," Judge said. "He's one of the best — if not the best — defensive third basemen in the game, and now he's probably going to be one of the best defensive shortstops. With what he brings on the offensive side of it, he's the complete package. He's going to be a happy man when it comes to free agency, and picking where he wants to go."

Judge joked that he said the same thing to Stanton too at the All-Star Game.

Aaron Boone was asked about the exchange.

"I don't think he said that," the manager replied. "I'll leave that one alone."

But when asked about recruiting Stanton, the latest superstar Yankee, Boone replied: "Stanton looks very good in pinstripes."

For the last three seasons, Machado, 25, has averaged a .280/.338/.502 batting line with 35 homers, 92 RBIs and 34 doubles. He wasn't available for comment Wednesday, having left before the Orioles opened up their clubhouse postgame.

The Bombers are getting under the $197-million luxury-tax threshold this season and getting a tax reset prior to what should be a 2019 free-agent bonanza, featuring the likes of Machado, Bryce Harper and Clayton Kershaw (if he opts out).

Machado-to-the-Yankees trade rumors swirled during this offseason. But the Yankees would be better off waiting until next offseason to get him for just money, rather than surrendering prospects. And it is believed that Orioles owner Peter Angelos would never trade his franchise player to a hated rival.

Machado grew up an A-Rod fan and wears No. 13 because of his idol. He could follow in A-Rod's footsteps coming to The Bronx, but there are other factors at play.

After all, Mickey Mantle fan Bryce Harper once seemed destined to become a Yankee in 2019, just like Machado. But Judge transformed into one of the best players in the game, and the Bombers executed a blockbuster trade for Stanton.

Just like that, Harper-to-the-Bombers has hit the back burner.

So a similar situation could play out with Machado, contingent on what happens this season with high-ceiling youngsters like Miguel Andujar and Gleyber Torres, neither of whom will need to be paid $20-30 million a year anytime soon.

In 2018, the Yankees will pay homegrown core players Judge, Sanchez, Luis Severino, Bird and Jordan Montgomery a total of just over $3 million. Bird won't be a free agent until 2022. Judge, Sanchez and Severino won't be free agents until 2023. And Montgomery won't be a free agent until 2024.

"I mean, just do the math on that," Boone said in reference to the importance of young, productive and controllable players in today's game. "The flexibility that it allows you to have when you can develop impact players from within and continue to filter guys through the system.

"Because I don't care how much money you have, you can't just have free-agent stars all over the map. You've got to be able to have guys from your system that come up and become a significant part of the core of the club all the time, and we feel like obviously we're in that situation here and we're in a good position going forward."

Meanwhile, there would be questions about where Machado plays, whether he moves back to third or stays at shortstop, and how that affects Didi Gregorius, who has vastly improved as a Yankee.

Could they trade Gregorius, who can be a free agent after the 2019 campaign, for a top-flight pitcher or prospects? Or would they want to keep his left-handed bat for balance in the lineup?

Plus, there is a question of whether Hal Steinbrenner and Brian Cashman would be comfortable making a huge commitment on a deal that could look worse on the back end, similar to A-Rod, Mark Teixeira, CC Sabathia, Jacoby Ellsbury etc. ...

The Philadelphia Phillies could also be a major player for Machado — and Harper — and there will probably be other teams in the mix as well.

Granted, if the Yankees fail to live up to expectations in 2018, who knows.

But those weren't questions Judge was thinking of, as he made his pitch to Machado, hopeful they'll both wear Yankee pinstripes together for a long time.

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