NEW YORK – The Yankees view Troy Tulowitzki as their starting shortstop until Didi Gregorius returns from Tommy John surgery this summer.
Still, general manager Brian Cashman won’t rule out trying to sign Manny Machado, one of the top free agents on the market.
And, in his first question-and-answer session of the year, Cashman revealed he has dragged talks to trade Sonny Gray until the Yankees know CC Sabathia will be ready to pitch following surgery to implant a stent in an artery from his heart.
Tulowitzki, a five-time All-Star absent from the major leagues since July 2017, finalized his one-year contract for the major league minimum $555,000 on Friday after passing a physical.
“It doesn’t mean we’re going to get vintage Troy Tulowitzki from the Colorado Rockie years when he was there,” Cashman said, “but it’s exciting to dream on what he might be capable of when his health is there on a consistent basis because he was quite the player for quite a long time.”
Tulowitzki missed last season because of bone spurs in his right and left heels. Gregorius had right elbow surgery on Oct. 17, and Cashman expects him back in June, July or August. New York will evaluate then what role Tulowitzki could play after Gregorius reclaims the position.
Yankees scout JT Stotts attended a workout by Tulowitzki at Long Beach State, and scout Jay Darnell and director of pro scouting Dan Giese attended a second workout. They forwarded video to others in the front office.
“Scouts that I highly respect were very pleased with what they saw and very excited by the workouts that he put himself through in front of them on multiple occasions,” Cashman said. “He really looked athletic. It looked like he had got that bounce back in his step.”
Tulowitzki, who wore No. 2 previously in honor of retired Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter, is expected to discuss his decision publicly early next week. He is owed $20 million for next year by the Blue Jays, $14 million for 2020 and a $4 million buyout of a 2021 team option. Toronto pays all but the big-league minimum in the Yankees deal, which is offset against his 2019 salary.
He joins an infield that has Gleyber Torres at second, Miguel Andujar at third and Luke Voit at first – unless Greg Bird beats Voit out during spring training, Cashman said.
Machado could replace Andujar at third if he signs with New York. Machado visited Yankee Stadium last month and had dinner with team officials.
“I thought it was a real positive experience from our perspective,” Cashman said.
New York’s other news was an update on the health of Sabathia, the 38-year-old left-hander who had a stent inserted on Dec. 11.
“I think we are optimistic that the pending medical evaluations that he’ll have here in January are going to be fruitful and beneficial and positive, which would green light a full return to play as early as when he reports for spring training as you prepares for the season,” Cashman said. “If those follow-up appointments go well, I think we’ll know we’ll be in a much better position to give you an honest answer on opening-day expectations.”
Sabathia is part of a projected rotation that includes Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka, James Paxton and J.A. Happ. Cashman said at the outset of the offseason he planned to trade Sonny Gray, who struggled and was booed by Yankees fans.
“The CC thing, certainly when it developed it slowed down my conversations with intent because we have to see how this played out first,” Cashman said. “And so once he has these follow-up appointments, I’ll be in a much better position to either fully engage moving forward the Sonny Gray conversations that we’ve had or continue to slow-walk it while we make sure that CC is taken care of healthwise first and foremost.”
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