Hal Steinbrenner not backing off idea of meeting with Machado

The rest of Major League Baseball is waiting for the Yankees to pounce this offseason, with last week’s acquisition of James Paxton from the Mariners expected to be just the first of several significant moves they make.

Though general manager Brian Cashman has kept his intentions regarding the two premier free agents on the market — Manny Machado and Bryce Harper — close to the vest, Hal Steinbrenner spoke again about Machado in an interview with the YES Network to be aired in full Monday — reiterating his concerns about the shortstop’s admission that he didn’t always hustle.

As Steinbrenner said during the owner’s meetings earlier this month, he wants a meeting with Machado — although the comments to YES were made before Machado attempted to walk back his comments from October this week in an interview with MLB.com.

“There needs to be a sit-down before we’re comfortable,’’ Steinbrenner said. “But again, we’re looking at three or four guys right now, whether [it’s] free agents or potential trades, where makeup issues and work-ethic issues are always a concern.And that’s always a part [for] any person we’re going to bring into this environment.”

How that impacts their pursuit of Machado — or even Harper — remains to be seen.

In an interview with SiriusXM’s MLB Network Radio, Cashman sounded skeptical the Yankees would make a significant run at Harper to play first base, since their outfield is already full.

“People have talked about Bryce Harper being able to play first base,’’ Cashman said. “I don’t know if he can or can’t.I know he’s very athletic, but that’s not necessarily a bet I would recommend placing with the amount of money he’s expected to get. So people are speculating on that. That’s fine.’’

Another possibility remains Japanese lefty Yusei Kikuchi, who Steinbrenner said the Yankees were at least interested in.

On Friday, the Seibu Lions of Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball League announced the 27-year-old would be posted for MLB teams early next month. Teams will be able to begin negotiating for rights to Kikuchi starting Dec. 5.

Even after the Yankees swung the trade for Paxton, Cashman made it clear he needed to further upgrade the rotation — through trades, free agency or both.

Unlike in previous cases involving Japanese players, all 30 teams will be able to negotiate with Kikuchi and his agent, Scott Boras, during a 30-day window. And the fee paid to Seibu will be based on a percentage of the contract Kikuchi signs.

Kikuchi has spent the past eight years with Seibu. He had his best season in 2017, when he finished with a 1.97 ERA and was solid again last year, going 14-4 with a 3.08 ERA.

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