The chase for Manny Machado will define the Yankees offseason

The Yankees have a number of moves they can still make this offseason, but if Brian Cashman doesn’t sign Manny Machado his winter will be a failure.

It’s entirely possible the Yankees can pass on Manny Machado and still win a World Series title in 2019. That’s how much talent Brian Cashman already has on his roster. Despite that fact, the team’s ability to ink the controversial superstar will completely determine whether or not the Yankees’ offseason will be deemed a success or failure.

That makes Wednesday a massive day for the franchise. That’s when Machado will come to the Bronx for face-to-face meetings with the team’s front office. Presumably, that will also give Hal Steinbrenner an opportunity to meet with Machado and assuage any fears he has about the player’s personality or work ethic.

There are, of course, legitimate questions about how Machado might fit in. Didi Gregorius is going to miss a good chunk of next season as he recovers from Tommy John surgery, but Cashman has been adamant that he’s the team’s shortstop of the foreseeable future. Machado could also play third base, but Miguel Andujar played well enough there in 2018 to finish second in Rookie of the Year voting. Questions over his defensive abilities could make replacing him prudent.

None of that matters when it comes to the perception of the Yankees offseason. Fans and pundits expect baseball’s richest and most historic franchise to act like it. That means they have to do whatever it takes to reel in a big fish this winter. Given the team’s apparently lack of interest in Bryce Harper, that leaves Machado as the only viable option.

It didn’t have to be this way for Cashman. He could’ve pulled the trigger on a massive deal to bring an ace like Corey Kluber or Noah Syndergaard to the Bronx. That kind of move would’ve cost the Yankees a fortune in terms of prospects and/or young Major League talent, but it would have gone a long way towards pacifying public pressure to acquire a star. Some observers would even have applauded Cashman for that kind of move as being more fiscally prudent than signing Machado.

Instead, Cashman opted to make a slightly lesser deal for James Paxton. That, combined with re-signing J.A. Happ and CC Sabathia seems to fill up the team’s rotation with five quality starters. The front office is still making noise that acquiring a sixth pitcher might be in the cards, but that seems more like misdirection at this point in the offseason.

That’s precisely why Cashman faces the unfair need to sign Machado now. If he heads into 2019 with Paxton as the centerpiece of upgrading Aaron Boone’s options then questions will persist on whether or not he did enough to break the team’s World Series drought. Signing Machado might be amazingly expensive for the Yankees, but it’s a move Cashman can’t afford not to make.