New York Yankees

2019 MLB preview and predictions: How the White Sox stack up against the New York Yankees

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USA TODAY

2019 MLB preview and predictions: How the White Sox stack up against the New York Yankees

As the 2019 season nears and the White Sox get ready to take on the rest of the American League, we're taking a team-by-team look at all 14 of their opponents.

Even though the Boston Red Sox remain stacked and the defending World Series champs and a team that has Mookie Betts and Chris Sale, man, these Yankees look good.

This is a team that won 100 games a season ago, only to get dispatched of by the eventual champions in the ALDS. But they're pretty loaded, too, and did a lot of work this winter to make the roster even better — and better able to compete with the rival Red Sox.

In all seriousness, this is a group set up for a new Yankee dynasty. Aaron Judge missed 50 games last season and so was only able to add 27 homers to the jaw-dropping 52 he hit during his Rookie of the Year season in 2017. He still finished 12th in AL MVP voting in 2018 thanks to a .392 on-base percentage and a .919 OPS. Giancarlo Stanton's first year in The Bronx wasn't a duplicate of his 59-homer, 132-RBI season of 2017. But, hey, 38 homers and 100 RBIs ain't bad.

But it's the guys around those two middle-of-the-lineup menaces that blossomed in 2018 to really make this Yankee team look so dangerous in the present and future. The Bombers boasted the two best rookie position players in the AL in Miguel Andujar and Gleyber Torres, who finished second and third, respectively, in the AL Rookie of the Year vote (if only they could also pitch like Shohei Ohtani). Andujar slashed .297/.328/.537 with 27 homers and 92 RBIs, while Torres slashed .271/.340/.480 with 24 homers and 77 RBIs, not to mention an All-Star appearance. And how about Aaron Hicks? The center fielder extraordinaire busted out his bat in 2018 and smacked 27 home runs to go along with a .366 on-base percentage. Gary Sanchez only played in 89 games but still managed 18 homers in an otherwise woeful offensive season.

The common thread through all of this is youth. The average age of all the guys mentioned so far (Judge, Stanton, Andujar, Torres, Hicks and Sanchez) is 25. Those six players are all under team control through the 2022 season, when Judge and Sanchez become the first to hit free agency.

The Yankees will also get Didi Gregorius back at some point this summer once his recovery from Tommy John surgery is complete. He also hit, you guessed it, 27 home runs last season.

And that's without mentioning anything the Yankees did this offseason, which included bringing in an All-Star caliber starting pitcher in James Paxton, one of the best relievers on the market in Adam Ottavino, a potential steal at shortstop in Troy Tulowitzki and a Swiss Army Knife infielder in DJ LeMahieu, who's fresh off back-to-back Gold Glove seasons with the Colorado Rockies.

There are pitching questions, sure, though not in the bullpen, where the Yankees might boast the game's most fearsome relief corps: Aroldis Chapman, Dellin Betances, Zack Britton, Ottavino and Chad Green. You don't realize how impressive that group is until you see all those names written out in a row. The Yankees could watch every one of their starters last just four innings a game and still be in good shape.

But let's talk about that rotation, which doesn't have the initial impression of a dominant group, like the Red Sox might have. But Paxton is an incredible addition for the Yankees. He was blossoming into an ace with the Seattle Mariners, with a 3.52 ERA over the last three seasons. In 2018, he struck out a career-best 208 batters in a career-high 160.1 innings and finished the year with an 11.7 K/9. He'll team with the solid Masahiro Tanaka and the veteran J.A. Happ, who had a terrific 2.69 ERA after a midseason trade to The Bronx last year.

Of course, the two biggest names in this rotation are both unlikely to be on the roster on Opening Day. Luis Severino has made back-to-back All-Star teams and finished in the top 10 in AL Cy Young voting in each of the last two seasons. He put up a 3.18 ERA with 450 strikeouts in 2017 and 2018. He's the ace of this staff, but he'll miss more than a month recovering from a rotator cuff injury. Meanwhile, CC Sabathia has been solid the last two years, too, with a 3.67 ERA, but he's likely to miss Opening Day after having an angioplasty this offseason.

Even with some starting-pitching questions, though, that's a very long list of reasons why the Yankees are very good. The biggest thing standing in their way, of course, is the Red Sox and to a lesser extent the Houston Astros, the AL's other uber team that has championship expectations. But it's possible the Yankees could be better than all of them. A lineup that's being talked about as the most powerful ever. A bullpen that might be baseball's best. And a host of offseason additions that have bolstered a team that already was in the 100-win category.

A lot of folks grew up hating the Yankees for their perennial dominance, but believe it or not they've won just one championship in the last 18 years. And if they don't reach the Fall Classic this year, it will be an entire decade, the 2010s, without a Yankees pennant. The last time that happened was the 1910s. This is a group that could change all that.

2018 record: 100-62, second place in AL East

Offseason additions: James Paxton, Troy Tulowitzki, Adam Ottavino, DJ LeMahieu

Offseason departures: David Robertson, Andrew McCutchen, Lance Lynn, Neil Walker

X-factor: While Tulowitzki drew the headlines for his accomplished career, the large amount of money the Toronto Blue Jays gave him to leave Canada and pair of spring home runs he hit, the more meaningful infield addition for the Yankees might end up being LeMahieu. He won three of the last five Gold Gloves handed out to National League second basemen. He's just three years removed from an NL batting crown. He's fresh off a career-high 15 home runs. And he's just one of a host of middle infielders who will contribute to this squad, alongside Tulowitzki, Torres and Gregorius.

Projected lineup:

1. Aaron Hicks, CF
2. Aaron Judge, RF
3. Giancarlo Stanton, DH
4. Gary Sanchez, C
5. Miguel Andujar, 3B
6. Gleyber Torres, 2B
7. Luke Voit, 1B
8. Troy Tulowitzki, SS
9. Brett Gardner, LF

Projected rotation:

1. Masahiro Tanaka
2. James Paxton
3. J.A. Happ
4. Domingo German
5. Luis Cessa
*CC Sabathia
*Luis Severino

*pitchers might not be in Opening Day rotation but are expected back after the season begins

Prediction: First place in AL East, wild card

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New rumor in Manny Machado sweepstakes: White Sox have competition from Yankees, who have supposedly made $220 million offer

New rumor in Manny Machado sweepstakes: White Sox have competition from Yankees, who have supposedly made $220 million offer

The White Sox are no longer the only team whose offer to Manny Machado has been thrown into the public arena.

They stood alone in that category, with various reports detailing their offer as being worth seven years and somewhere around $200 million. Those numbers got more specific, with $175 million over seven years being the most recent example, though Machado's agent, Dan Lozano, rushed to call that figure inaccurate. The high end, reports of a contract worth $250 million, got shot down by a flurry of follow-up reports within hours.

Well, add another team to the list. Former general manager Jim Duquette appeared on SNY on Saturday morning and said he heard that the New York Yankees have made an offer to Machado worth $220 million.

"It's been very difficult to find out a lot of this because the agents, both Dan Lozano and Scott Boras for (Bryce) Harper, are keeping it real tight. But what I've been told here recently was that the Yankees' offer — a lot of times these are out there and they're not necessarily in writing but they're hypothetical — was somewhere in that seven-year, eight-year range for $220 million," he said. "The problem is, there's a lot of teams that are in that range, also, and it doesn't really distinguish them from others. I do hear there's another club that's gone further than that.

"It's not much different than what we were thinking earlier in the winter in terms of, I don't think the Yankees are going to be the highest bidder, even though they're willing to make an aggressive offer. That's an aggressive offer. Machado's going to have other options that are probably higher in other cities, including Philly and other places, and he's going to make a decision."

Duquette made sure to emphasize that he wasn't exactly reporting something but merely passing along something he heard, which makes this far from the most concrete information ever presented.

But given the dearth of information surrounding offers to the two biggest names on the free-agent market, this is somewhat notable, especially as the figure Duquette relayed is $45 million more than the most recently reported number associated with the White Sox offer.

Throughout the offseason, the Yankees have been an ongoing mystery when it comes to their desire to add Machado at all. Machado supposedly prefers to play in The Bronx, the team he grew up rooting for, and he did travel there on his free-agent tour in December. But the Yankees have carried on with their offseason while Machado, and Harper, for that matter, have stalled on their decision making. They've spent quite a bit on bullpen upgrades and filled up an already crowded infield with free agents Troy Tulowitzki and D.J. LeMahieu. All that seemed to take them out of the Machado sweepstakes.

But the Yankees are the Yankees, and owner Hal Steinbrenner sparked new speculation that they might not yet be out of the sweepstakes with comments Friday at the owners meetings in Orlando.

"I don’t think it’s ever done," he told reporters. "Look, if somebody comes — I haven’t changed — I mean if somebody comes to me with a suggestion or a proposal, I’m going to seriously consider it right up until Opening Day or after. That’s part of my leave-no-stone-unturned (policy), right?"

The White Sox continue to be described as the most likely landing spot for Machado. But the Yankees could provide even stiffer competition than the Philadelphia Phillies or San Diego Padres, given Machado's supposed preference to play there.

That being said, even $220 million might be nowhere near the type of contract Lozano is trying to get for his client, with a report out just Friday saying that he's looking for at least $300 million. That same report, from The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal, described the White Sox preferred approach and their desire not to get into a bidding war with other clubs.

The White Sox remain confident in their future-focused pitch highlighting their loaded farm system and what kind of winning that core could do over the next decade. But the Yankees can offer a vastly greater opportunity to win championships in the immediate. After winning 100 games last season, they could very well be the preseason World Series favorite. And given Duquette's prediction that the Yankees won't end up the highest bidder, it's possible the White Sox offer the richer contract in the end. Though it was reported earlier this offseason that if the money was equal, Machado would prefer to sign with the Yankees. The Phillies, according to Rosenthal, are confident they can outbid anyone, but they have a simultaneous pursuit of Harper to worry about, too.

Things seem to be getting a bit more complicated for the White Sox, who certainly remain committed to bringing in a premium talent to advance their rebuilding project. Whether that happens this offseason or next offseason hinges on Machado and Harper's decisions, which just days from the start of spring training have yet to be made. And now, maybe, there's the Yankees to worry about.

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What's Manny Machado waiting for? More money? Or the Yankees?

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USA TODAY

What's Manny Machado waiting for? More money? Or the Yankees?

Manny Machado's free-agent saga has dragged on seemingly forever, and certain White Sox fans who once desperately wanted him in black pinstripes now get agitated by every tweet that mentions his name.

Such is life in the 2018-19 baseball offseason.

Well, there's still no Machado decision, but there is another Machado update, this one a 1-2 punch from the New York Post's Joel Sherman and MLB Network's Jon Heyman.

First, Sherman took a look at whether Machado — or the other mega free agent the baseball world is waiting on, Bryce Harper — would be willing to punt a massive-money contract to next offseason rather than accept one of the lower-than-expected bids this winter. The prospect of Machado or Harper taking a one-year deal would have seemed ludicrous mere months ago, when they were both expected to receive decade-long deals worth $300 million or more. Well, those apparently haven't materialized, at least in Machado's case, with the only reported offer being the one he got from the White Sox, reportedly worth $175 million over seven years.

But Sherman laid out some interesting points in favor of Machado doing such a thing. It could allow Machado to test out a team before committing himself to one for the better part of the next decade, especially when the three teams going after him — the White Sox, Philadelphia Phillies and San Diego Padres — are focused on future success rather than simply being a contender in 2019. That doesn't apply quite as much to the Phillies, who probably feel Machado would make them a contender for the upcoming season. But the White Sox and Padres, even with Machado, wouldn't figure to be playoff teams in 2019.

Sherman also mentions how a one-year deal could also better position Machado to land with his preferred team, the New York Yankees, on a long-term deal. While the Yankees' infield is crowded now, there are questions about Miguel Andujar's ability to be the third baseman of the future there, and the Rookie of the Year runner up has had his name mentioned in trade rumors throughout the offseason. Troy Tulowitzki is on a one-year deal for 2019. And Didi Gregorius, the team's starting shortstop on the mend from Tommy John surgery, is slated to hit free agency next offseason. In other words, the Yankees could have much bigger need for Machado after the 2019 season than they do ahead of it.

Of course, a one-year deal for Machado would make no sense at all for the White Sox, who are entirely focused on competing in the long term. Acquiring Machado for one season, a season in which the team is not expected to contend for a championship, with no guarantee that he'd stick around once the contention window fully opens, is pointless and does nothing to accomplish any of the franchise's long-term goals. So even if it would be a potentially attractive move for Machado, it'd likely be a non-starter for Rick Hahn and his front office.

Then there's the other part of this update, from Heyman, who tweeted that Machado might not be happy with the offers he's received so far this offseason.

As mentioned, the only one of those we've heard supposed details about is the one from the White Sox, who reportedly offer a seven-year contract worth $175 million. It's worth noting that Machado's agent, Dan Lozano, issued a formal statement calling those reported details wrong. But a bunch of reports contradicted one that the White Sox offer was worth $250 million over eight years. So it's no surprise that Machado's camp might not have received the offers it was expected he would get when the offseason began.

Heyman added that Machado might simply be waiting to see if the Yankees will come calling. They played host to Machado during his free-agent tour in December, but they've been considered out of the running for his services since signing infielders Tulowitzki and D.J. LeMahieu and spending big dollars on free-agent relief pitchers Zach Britton and Adam Ottavino. But if Machado's desire to play in The Bronx is as strong as has been reported, maybe he'd be willing to take a less-than-ideal offer from the Yankees before he would take one from other suitors such as the White Sox.

Of course, the Yankees may not be feeling the union as much as Machado is:

So what does this mean for the White Sox? They could currently be the highest bidder. It's been reported that Machado will go to the highest bidder above all else. Of course, the White Sox believe themselves to be strong in the "all else" category, too, providing something that no other team can: the ability to team with Miami friends Yonder Alonso (also Machado's brother-in-law) and Jon Jay.

But Machado's continued dragging out of this process might not be good news. Is his camp so unhappy with the White Sox offer that it will take another to get him to the South Side? Or does he so badly want to play for a team not currently pursuing him that he'll wait as long as possible to see if they'll jump in? The White Sox want Machado now, but does that make any difference? If everything with the White Sox offer and the opinion Machado has of the organization was good, wouldn't he already be on the team?

As has been the case through this entire process, it seems we don't know what's really going on. What we do know: Still no decision from Machado. Or Harper, for that matter. We're just a week away from spring training, and the offseason keeps on dragging on.

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