Bryce Harper
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Report: The Yankees are out on Bryce Harper

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The Yankees are primed to make a splash in the free agent market this offseason, but it’s not yet clear exactly where they’ll be focusing their efforts. A recent report from Steve Phillips of MLB Network suggests that the club “will not be in on [Bryce] Harper” in 2019, but will instead attempt to court fellow free agent Manny Machado.

While the Yankees certainly have the resources to pursue the kind of record-breaking contract Harper is expected to secure, they’re not hurting for outfielders at present. The team declined a $12.5 million club option on veteran outfielder Brett Gardner last Wednesday and re-signed him to a $7.5 million contract that will keep him in the Bronx throughout the 2019 season. With Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Judge, and Aaron Hicks expected to comprise the Yankees’ starting outfield trio next year, it seems unlikely that they’ll choose to devote significant resources to another top-tier outfielder when they have more pressing issues to address — for instance, adding rotation depth and stabilizing their infield. Then again, it’s not as if Gardner’s recent .236-average, 2.5-fWAR performance is standing in the way of them making a run at one of the best players in baseball, either.

As for Machado, Phillips’ report appears to contradict that of SNY’s Andy Martino, who alleged that the Yankees were feeling “lukewarm” toward the infielder following his head-scratching antics during the postseason. As Bill pointed out last week, however, teams have a vested interest in lowering Machado’s asking price, and no one team is expected to abandon their pursuit of the All-Star slugger simply because he exhibited poor temperament and questionable on-field antics this fall.

Pirates hire Ben Cherington as their new general manager

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The Pittsburgh Pirates have hired Ben Cherington as the team’s new general manager. They do so after the general manager meetings ended, but better late than never.

Cherington served as GM of the Boston Red Sox for four years, winning the World Series in 2013, but resigned during the 2015 season after Dave Dombrowski was named Boston’s new president of baseball operations. Which was a defacto demotionn for Cherington who, until then, had the final say in baseball decisions. Dombrowski, of course, was fired late in the season this year. Cherington went on to work for the Toronto Blue Jays as a vice president, but was seen as biding his time for another GM position. Now he has one.

Cherington takes over in Pittsburgh for executive vice president and general manager Neal Huntington, who was fired after a 12 years at the helm. Also fired was team president Frank Coonelly. Travis Williams replaced Coonelly recently. While the Pirates experienced a few years of contention under Huntington and Coonelly, they have slid out of contention in recent years as the club has traded away promising players for little return, all while cutting payroll. There’s a very big rebuilding job ahead of Cherington.

The first move he’ll have to make: hire a manager, as the team still hasn’t replaced Clint Hurdle since he was dismissed in the final weekend of the regular season.