Manny Machado Orioles Yankees
Manny Machado #13 of the Baltimore Orioles hits a solo home run against the New York Yankees during the third inning at Yankee Stadium on April 6, 2018 in the Bronx borough of New York City. Adam Hunger/Getty Images

For much of the 2019 MLB offseason, it’s appeared to be somewhat of a long shot that the New York Yankees would sign a star free agent. With both Bryce Harper and Manny Machado still available after players have reported to spring training, however, there is speculation that the Bronx Bombers could land one of the two All-Stars.

If the Yankees do make a splash, it’ll almost certainly be with the acquisition of Machado. New York met with the infielder late in 2018, and even though their offer reportedly isn’t among Machado’s highest, they’ve remained in contact with him.

The Yankees aren’t among the known teams that have met with Harper. It’s possible that they are one of the mystery teams that have gauged the outfielder’s interest, though there doesn’t seem to be a ton of hard evidence pointing in that direction.

New York is among three teams that have met with Machado. Six teams—that we know of—have met with Harper and agent Scott Boras.

Why are the Yankees more interested in signing Machado instead of the superstar that once seemed like the perfect fit for New York and Yankee Stadium?

Machado is a cheaper option

It’s hard to say how much it will take to sign Machado or Harper since it’s clear neither player has gotten their desired contract offer, but it’s a safe bet that teams are willing to pay the outfielder more money. The Washington Nationals reportedly presented Harper with a 10-year, $300 million contract at the end of the regular season. There are rumors that Machado’s biggest offer on the table is a $175 million deal from the Chicago White Sox.

It seems very possible that an offer around $250 million would get Machado in pinstripes. Harper could still ultimately break Giancarlo Stanton’s $325 million deal that set a record in 2014. New York is set to pay Stanton’s salary for the next decade, and they don’t seem very interested in paying anyone else that plays the same position that much money.

Machado is a much better defensive player

You can debate whether Machado or Harper is the better player. Machado has been more consistent in recent seasons, while Harper has been better at his peak with an MVP season. What can’t be argued is that Machado is a better defensive player, and MLB teams have valued defense more than ever in recent years.

Machado is a terrific third baseman with two Gold Gloves and a defensive WAR no worse than 1.0 at the position in every season. Harper is a bad outfielder with a negative defensive WAR in four of the last six years. The Yankees set an MLB record for most home runs in a season in 2018, allowing them to prioritize Machado’s all-around game over Harper’s ability as a slugger.

New York doesn’t need Harper’s star power

As good of a baseball player as Harper is, there’s no question that his superstardom exceeds his actual production on the field. The 26-year-old isn’t close to being the league’s best player, and he hasn’t even had one top-10 MVP finish in the last three years. Some teams, like the San Diego Padres, reportedly prefer Harper to Machado because of the buzz he would generate. As the sport’s most storied franchise and the team that led the AL in attendance last season, the Yankees only have to concern themselves with getting a player that helps them win games.

With Stanton and Aaron Judge on the roster, Harper would arguably be the Yankees’ third-best outfielder. Signing Machado would give New York their best infielder for the 2019 season, and likely for years to come.