Manny Machado’s now-infamous “Johnny Hustle” comments and the incident in which appeared to deliberately clip Jesus Aguilar’s foot on a play at first base have made him more of a lightning rod than ever, and there’ll be no shortage of speculation on the degree to which he damaged his free-agent stock (if at all) as the offseason wears on. Asked about Machado’s comments, Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner said it would be “essential” for GM Brian Cashman to have a heart-to-heart with the 26-year-old as part of any legitimate pursuit (link via USA Today’s Bob Nightengale).
Steinbrenner emphasized that regardless of the price tag attached to a player, such comments are “clearly troubling” and “ain’t going to sell where we play baseball.” He also indicated that makeup is crucial when identifying targets and, without specifying names, suggested that some players have already been ruled out by the Yankees because the organization doesn’t feel they’d handle playing in New York well. Machado, Nightengale notes, is not one of that bunch. The YES Network’s Michael Kay agrees with that notion, as he said on-air today that he gets a sense the Yankees are “in on Machado in a serious way” (Twitter link).
Some more Machado chatter in the early stages of free agency…
- Drama aside, Machado is still an ideal target for the Phillies, Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia opines. Salisbury reports that Phillies officials do indeed have some concerns about Machado’s makeup, though he rightly notes that Machado is largely the same player/person he’s always been — even if those ill-timed comments came while playing on the biggest possible stage. Concerns notwithstanding, the Phils are still very much open to pursuing Machado. Salisbury quotes general manager Matt Klentak from last week’s GM Meetings: “If you’re trying to find the young free agent who’s good at everything and a prince in the clubhouse, you’re going to be looking for a long time.”
- The Giants may be an oft-cited speculative landing spot for Bryce Harper, but Alex Pavlovic of NBC Sports Bay Area writes that San Francisco is completely “out” on Machado for more than just financial considerations. Pavlovic notes that it’s true there’s no immediately apparent spot for Machado in San Francisco anyway, though he reports that some throughout the game believe new president of baseball ops Farhan Zaidi will look for a way to move the remainder of Evan Longoria’s contract this winter. Even if that happens, though, Machado would not emerge as an option for the Giants, according to Pavlovic.
- Meanwhile, NBC’s Vinnie Duber takes a look what the oft-suggested fit between the White Sox and Machado. While the Sox undoubtedly have the long-term payroll capacity and an opening at third base, Machado’s preference is to play shortstop, where Tim Anderson made positive strides in 2018 after being signed as a long-term option there. Duber also notes that Machado’s “Johnny Hustle” comments wouldn’t sit well with recently extended manager Rick Renteria, who has previously benched multiple players for failure to adhere to fundamentals such as running out grounders and pop-ups. GM Rick Hahn recently praised the “culture of accountability” that Renteria has created (link via Duber), adding that it’s important for the organization that its players buy into said culture.