The Yankees’ path to free agent Manny Machado could go through … Philadelphia?

Andy Martino, | Twitter |

CARLSBAD, Calif. – Spend any time this week around Brian Cashman or the Yankee contingent at the GM meetings, which includes his front office advisors Jean Afterman, Tim Naehring, Jim Hendry and Reggie Jackson, and it’s clear that their minds are far from the Bryce Harper or Manny Machado sweepstakes.

Sure, they’re monitoring the rumors like everyone else, but they haven’t mounted a pursuit of either player. The Yanks are very clearly focused on improving their pitching staff, from signing CC Sabathia to pursuing J.A. Happ, Patrick Corbin, Andrew Miller, Corey Kluber and many others.

But there is one clear pathway to Machado ultimately becoming a Yankee, and it flows through Philadelphia.

This week has brought an increasing sense here that the Phillies will mount an aggressive pursuit of Harper. USA Today even went so far as to proclaim that Harper will sign with the Phils.

If that happens, Machado will be left without his most aggressive suitor. For more than a year, the Phillies have eyed Machado, and many in the industry have predicted that they will go hard after him. That could still happen, but know this: The Phils will not sign both Harper and Machado, despite rumors to the contrary.

So if Harper stands at a podium next month at the winter meetings in Las Vegas — which happens to be his hometown — and buttons up a Phillies jersey, the Yankees will have Machado right where they want him.

Since the beginning of the offseason, Yankee sources have made clear that, while Machado is a great player, they will not pursue him at all costs. This isn’t CC Sabathia in the winter of 2008. But if no other team goes crazy for him? That could be another story.

Even if the Phillies sign Harper, another overly aggressive suitor could emerge for Machado. The White Sox, for example, are reportedly ready to spend. If they go all-in on Manny, they’ll probably get him.

But the Yankees are lurking, ready to pounce if the Machado market doesn’t get ridiculous. With Philly focused on Harper, that seems a little more likely.

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