Here’s the plan for Yankees to test the Manny Machado waters

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Word has circulated throughout baseball this season that Manny Machado wants to be a Yankee. He idolized fellow Miami native Alex Rodriguez growing up and would love — like A-Rod — to brand himself with the most historic team in the sport.

Is that true? It has never publicly come out of his mouth, so who knows where the chatter that exists within the game and reality meet.

But if I ran the Yankees, I would find out, especially now with Didi Gregorius likely to miss at least half of next year due to the need for Tommy John surgery.

Early this offseason the Yanks offer the free agent a five-year, $200 million contract — provide the chance to be the first $40 million-a-year on average player (though with Bryce Harper out there, too, who knows how long that will last). He will get proposals for more, likely from the Phillies, possibly from the Cardinals, Braves, Dodgers and others.

But if he really wants to be a Yankee, here is the chance. Give him an out after two years if he wants that and point out that even if he goes the whole five years, Machado would get another shot at free agency after his age-30 season. However, this is the only shot at being a Yankee. At $40 million per. But for five years.

Because here is what the Yankees have to guard against now — overreaction to being ousted by the Red Sox in tandem with the problematic revelation that someone as vital to their 2019 chances as Gregorius is going to miss a lot of time. It is a huge double uppercut to their psyche and status.

Ultimately, though, these kind of decisions are not just 2019 ones. The problem if they follow the standard path, say, and sign Machado for 10 years at $350 million is that kind of contract takes him into baseball old age along with Giancarlo Stanton (who is signed through 2027). And we have seen what has happened to even teams with deep resources when they clog roster spots and payroll with such declining assets.

If a championship could be assured, no problem, you live with the long-term implications. The Yankees signed CC Sabathia, Mark Teixeira and A.J. Burnett for a combined 20 years and $423.5 million following the 2008 season and won it all in 2009. That made it more tolerable when Burnett morphed into a flop and Sabathia and Teixeira endured issues with health and decline as their contracts aged.

But 2008 marked the first time the Yankees missed the playoffs since 1993, they were opening a new stadium in 2009 and Hal Steinbrenner was still in his ownership infancy and susceptible to act out of criticism that he was not following in his father’s throw-your-wallet-at-the-problem playbook. This version of Steinbrenner has proven he will not be swayed by such public rebukes. He has grown deliberated. He is moved by reason not emotion, enough to know that no move guarantees a championship. Only the contracts are guaranteed — for as long as you sign them for.

That does not mean Steinbrenner will not approve a deal for Machado, just that he will not do it because he is overheated about the surprising revelation Gregorius tore an elbow ligament.

Steinbrenner has lived through the back end of long contracts to Sabathia, Teixeira, A-Rod and Jacoby Ellsbury. He recognizes these contracts are not just about the immediate impact, but the long-term viability. Machado is a great five-year gamble and a terrible 10-year one. You know why? Because every player is a terrible 10-year gamble, since so few prove assets throughout the full life of those deals.

Surprises are always possible. Keep in mind that when the Yankees held their scouting meetings where they bring in every important evaluator and voice in the system last year, Stanton was hardly a topic. Heck, he was not much of a topic until they pivoted strongly after failing to secure Shohei Ohtani. The offseason flows script-less, who knows what will occur, who will be available?

The Yanks already are dealing with their first shock — the loss of Gregorius, an instrumental figure for his two-way impact, lefty diversity to their righty-heavy lineup and clubhouse presence. The Yanks have their scouting meetings at the end of this month and, who knows, maybe there is a swell that to replace Gregorius with a lefty bat like Harper’s and they move on him to play left field.

But I have never sensed love for Harper among Yankee decision makers, certainly not like for Machado, who they did try to obtain in July. Also, the Yanks did trade for Stanton in part because they thought adding the big player with the huge contract last offseason would keep them from feeling the pressure to pursue Harper and Machado this coming winter.

Again, though, there is no script. Since then the Red Sox dominated the Yanks in the regular season and playoffs and now Gregorius is out. Brian Cashman noted Friday during his 2018 wrap-up press conference that windows do not stay open forever and the tacit meaning was you have to seize opportunity when it presents itself.

Well, Machado is out there and the Yanks should seize him to play short to open next season and third when Gregorius returns and figure out what to do with Miguel Andujar at that point. But they should only do that if they can balance winning next year without damning their long-term payrolls and rosters. So it is really about how much Machado wants to be a Yankee.

Enough to take five years at $200 million? Then sign him up.

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