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Yankees sign Troy Tulowitzki – what does it mean for Manny Machado?

Troy Tulowitzki is joining the New York Yankees. (Terry Foote)

No, Manny Machado didn’t pick his new team on the first day of 2019. However, a move was made that could have implications on where the four-time All-Star ultimately signs.

According to Jeff Passan of ESPN, the New York Yankees have agreed to a one-year deal with five-time All-Star shortstop Troy Tulowitzki. Tulowitzki, after missing the entire 2018 season with bone spurs in both heels, was released by the Toronto Blue Jays in December. Passan says that the plan is for Tulowitzki, 34, to be the Yankees shortstop while Didi Gregorius recovers from Tommy John Surgery. Gregorius, who has developed into a core piece for the Yankees, is expected to miss at least the first few months of the 2019 season, after undergoing said surgery last October.

The Phillies, per Tim Brown of Yahoo Sports, were among nearly half of the league that watched Tulowitzki work out last month. General manager Matt Klentak and manager Gabe Kapler were not part of the contingent that watched Tulowitzki because his workout coincided with when the Phillies were introducing free-agent signing Andrew McCutchen. It’s unclear how interested the Phillies were in Tulowitzki, or whether the organization was just doing due-diligence in watching his workout.

More importantly, Passan says that the Yankees signing Tulowitzki doesn’t affect their pursuit of Manny Machado.

However, there was some thought that the Yankees could pitch Machado on playing shortstop prior to Gregorius’ return. Signing Tulowitzki doesn’t preclude that possibility, though it does make you think the Yankees would prefer to have Machado at third base, a position he won two Gold Glove Awards at, from the get-go. The Tulowitzki signing may be Yankees general manager Brian Cashman symbolically asking Machado just how badly he wants to be a Yankee. Does he want to be a Yankee so badly that he’s willing to take less money? Does he want to be a Yankee so badly that he, like his idol Alex Rodriguez, will shift from his “natural” position of shortstop to third base?

Of course, the Phillies seemingly would be asking Machado to return to third base if they signed him as well. Klentak acquired shortstop Jean Segura from the Seattle Mariners earlier this offseason. The Phillies could sign Machado to play shortstop, move Segura to second base (a position he played in 2016 for the Arizona Diamondbacks) and reassess where they go with Maikel Franco, Cesar Hernandez and Scott Kingery.

But for as much as the Phillies may like Machado, who is still just 26, it’s fair to wonder just how many concessions they’ll make to land his services. George A. King III of The New York Post noted earlier this offseason that there’s some thought that the Phillies may not love the idea of committing to 10 years to sign Machado. But given his desire to play for the Yankees – and that he may not love the city of Philadelphia – the Phillies will almost certainly have to offer Machado 10 years to fend off the Yankees and Chicago White Sox.

One other interesting note: Brown, in his piece on Tulowitzki last month, said that Tulowitzki would “go home before he’s a utility player.” Perhaps he was willing to change his mind to play for the most accomplished franchise in sports history. Perhaps there’s a difference between being a super-utility player and a utility player. But while signing him to a deal for the league minimum doesn’t lock the Yankees into much, they still did sign Tulowitzki to a major league deal. He presumably had major league offers from other teams. It does make you think Tulowitzki’s camp expects that there will be ample playing time for him in the Bronx.


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