Manny Machado Update: Yankees Owner Finds 'Hustle' Comment 'Troubling'

Manny Machado
Los Angeles Dodgers infielder Manny Machado. Harry How/Getty Images

The New York Yankees are reportedly interested in free agent infielder Manny Machado, but proceeding with caution.

Owner Hal Steinbrenner discussed the team's potential offseason during the MLB owners meetings in Atlanta this week and noted that the franchise is willing to spend after coming in under the luxury tax threshold last season for the first time since the penalty took effect in 2003.

Though the focus will be on starting pitching, the Yankees are also expected to be in play for Machado. However, Steinbrenner acknowledged the infielder's reputation as a dirty player, as well as his admission that he's "not the type of player that's going to be Johnny Hustle" after joggiing out a ground ball during the National League Championship Series, which has created some concerns.

"Certainly, those comments are troubling," Steinbrenner said. He added that the decision would ultimately be up to general manager Brian Cashman to determine whether the team will pursue the infielder.

Shortstop Didi Gregorius is expected to miss at least the first half of the 2019 season after undergoing Tommy John reconstructive surgery to repair an elbow injury that occurred during Game 2 of the American League Division Series.

"If we're interested in any player, we sit down with them face-to-face with their agent and ask them, 'Where did this come from? What context was around the entire interview? What point were you trying to make? How do you justify it?'" Steinbrenner said. "Because that ain't going to sell where we play baseball."

Last month, SNY's Andy Martino reported that the Yankees kept tabs on on Machado throughout the postseason, noting his disinterest in hustling and the growing perception that he's a "dirty player," which has made the organization skeptical about committing to a long-term deal.

Per Martino:

"But as the team watched this postseason, and weighed it against what they already feared about Machado -- that he didn't always run out ground balls, that opponents thought he was a dirty player -- they became even more wary of committing to him for the better part of a decade."

Martino added that the Yankees still intend to monitor interest from other teams in the former All-Star, similar to how they pursued former ace CC Sabathia during free agency 10 years ago, before deciding whether to make a strong offer.

Machado was involved in several controversies during the Dodgers' playoff run this month, which included facing criticism after failing to hustle on a ground ball, to which he responded by saying that he's not "Johnny Hustle."

The 26-year-old also watched what he thought would be a "home run" turn into a long single, stepped on a pair of first basemen while running down the firstbase line and made several questionable slides during the postseason.

Machado also had a lesser-discussed incident in which he threw his bat an an opponent while playing for the Baltimore Orioles in 2014.

Several other teams are reportedly expected to be interested in Machado this offseason, but may also do so with caution. His current team, the Dodgers, have reportedly "seen the warts and blemishes that have been exposed underneath the infielder's wordly talent" and aren't expected to re-sign him this offseason, according to USA Today's Bob Nightengale.

Los Angeles acquired Machado via trade during the All-Star break from the Orioles in exchange for five prospects -- outfielder Yusniel Dias, right-hander Dean Kremer, third baseman Rylan Bannon, right-hander Zach Pop and third baseman Breyvic Valera -- a move many expected to be a "win-now" gamble.

"We viewed Manny Machado as a big difference-maker," Dodgers general manager Farhan Zaidi told ESPN after aquiring the infielder in July.

The Philadelphia Phillies are currently the oddsmakers' favorite to land the former All-Star, although they are also expected to have reservations about the investment, according to CBSSports.

Despite concerns, Machado is coming off another productive season in which he recorded a career-best 146 OPS+, while also hitting 30-plus home runs for the fourth consecutive season.