The free agency of Bryce Harper and Manny Machado presents the Yankees with a rare opportunity to add a pair of generational talents to the fold in a single offseason. All 30 teams have this same opportunity, but for the Yankees, doing so would allow them to run a virtual All-Star team out onto the field every single day.
This wouldn’t be a first for the Bombers. In fact, their last championship team in 2009 was an actual All-Star team. All eight starting position players, their principal designated hitter, three members of the rotation, and three key relievers had been selected as All-Stars at some point during their careers. More importantly, almost all of them performed at that level during the magical championship run.
The winter before the 2009 campaign, Mark Teixeira was added to the roster via free agency. The coveted switch-hitting first baseman joined Robinson Cano, Derek Jeter, and Alex Rodriguez to form the now-famous infield. Throughout their careers, the quartet combined to win 15 Gold Gloves, 23 Silver Slugger Awards, and earn 39 All-Star nods.
Catcher Jorge Posada was a five-time All-Star who won five Silver Slugger Awards. Outfielders Johnny Damon, Melky Cabrera, and Nick Swisher combined to earn four All-Star selections, while primary designated hitter Hideki Matsui was a two-time All-Star.
The Yankees postseason starting rotation that year consisted of CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, and Andy Pettitte, who combined to earn 10 All-Star nods. The three-headed bullpen monster to close out games was Phil Hughes, David Robertson, and Mariano Rivera, who combined to earn 15 All-Star star selections. All totaled, the 15 players earned 75 All-Star selections during their careers.
I was privileged to play Major League Baseball for a long time and with a lot of talented players. But when I look back at this picture, man, it’s just special.
I was so fortunate to be a part of this historic @yankees infield. pic.twitter.com/m8YI9GjILd
— Alex Rodriguez (@AROD) January 6, 2019
Although earning an All-Star nod is certainly an honor, the selection process is sometimes controversial. Players are pretty much judged by what they do during the first half of the season, in addition to name recognition and past performance. In the case of the 2009 Yankees, the group mostly earned the “All-Star team” designation based on their performances during that season.
In the AL MVP voting, Teixeira finished second, Jeter third, and A-Rod 10th. Further down the ballot, Mo finished 14th, Cano 17th, and Sabathia 21st. CC also placed fourth in the Cy Young Award voting.
Posada was one of only three AL catchers to club 20 homers and drive in at least 80 runs, and MVP-winner Joe Mauer was the only one to produce a higher OPS. The outfield/DH quintet of Melky, Swisher, Damon, Gardner, and Matsui combined to produce 12.3 WAR, with the latter claiming World Series MVP honors. Suffice to say, the team was loaded.
So what about the 2019 Yankees? Check out this potential Opening Day lineup if they sign both Harper and Machado.
Potential Opening Day lineup for 2019 Yankees
|1||Aaron Hicks||CF||4.9 (2018)|
|2||Aaron Judge||RF||7.2 (2017)|
|3||Manny Machado||SS||5.7 (2015)|
|4||Bryce Harper||DH||9.1 (2015)|
|5||Giancarlo Stanton||LF||6.6 (2017)|
|6||Miguel Andujar||3B||4.6 (2018)|
|7||Gleyber Torres||2B||2.9 (2018)|
|8||Luke Voit||1B||2.0 (2018)|
|9||Gary Sanchez||C||4.1 (2017)|
Stats courtesy of baseball-reference.com. Table by Brett Borzelli
The group features two former MVP Award winners in Stanton and Harper, as well as two top finishers in Judge and Machado. Three others — Sanchez, Torres, and Andujar — were Rookie of the Year finalists, and the two remaining players appear to be on the rise. Hicks’ 4.7 WAR was the fifth-highest among AL outfielders in 2018, behind MVP Mookie Betts, runner-up Mike Trout, Mitch Haniger, and Judge. Voit produced 2.0 oWAR in only 39 games — or about one-quarter of a season.
Perhaps the most exciting part of this is that all of these players are still under thirty, while most haven’t even turned 28 yet. It is arguable that each still has his best years ahead of him.
The main question is: Will the Yankees sign Harper and/or Machado? With both players reported to favor signing with the Bombers over other suitors, it appears that the issue just comes down to whether the club wants them and is willing to pay. Hold onto your hats; we’ll find out soon enough.