By the time 2019 was just one day old, the New York Yankees had already landed a highly decorated, veteran shortstop via free agency. But while the signing of Troy Tulowitzki, a once-great player limited by injuries to just 66 games the past two seasons, is of minimal importance on its face, the rest of the industry enters the new year wondering what it all means for Manny Machado.

Because Tulowitzki, 34, was released by the Toronto Blue Jays last month, the Yankees could sign the five-time all-star to a one-year deal for the major league minimum, with the Blue Jays on the hook for the rest of his salary — which means, yes, the Blue Jays will be paying Tulowitzki nearly $20 million to wear the uniform of their American League East rivals, assuming the Yankees decide to keep him.

And while the Yankees made it clear the signing of Tulowitzki does not materially alter their pursuit of Machado — the 26-year-old shortstop/third baseman who, along with outfielder Bryce Harper, also 26, is the prized target of this unusual, top-heavy free agent market — at the very least it gives them some negotiating leverage to carry into their future talks with Machado.

The Yankees were in need of a shortstop as Didi Gregorius recovers from October elbow surgery, which is expected to keep him out until at least midseason. And Tulowitzki — himself coming off heel injuries that cost him all of 2018 — was the perfect, low-risk solution. He has made little effort over the years to hide his admiration for the Yankees, having chosen his uniform number — 2 — to honor his idol, Derek Jeter. (He will, of course, need to choose a new number with the Yankees.)

If Tulowitzki proves capable of filling in for Gregorius — and as many as a dozen clubs, the Yankees included, witnessed a December workout organized to showcase his apparent health — the Yankees could still sign Machado to play third base, then either trade Miguel Andujar or shift him to first.

But the mere presence of Tulowitzki also gives the Yankees a clear escape route should they decide they don’t like the direction the Machado market is heading, and can be taken as further evidence that Machado may have to accept a smaller deal than what is available elsewhere to follow his heart to the Bronx.

As baseball comes out of the holiday slowdown, the entire shape of the offseason still hinges, as it has since the free agent market opened in November, on where and when Machado and Harper will sign.

Machado’s market is thought to consist of the Yankees, Philadelphia Phillies and Chicago White Sox — the three teams known to have both the interest and the resources to sign him — while Harper is believed to have the same set of suitors, with the possible additions of the Los Angeles Dodgers and Washington Nationals, under certain economic conditions.

Though neither player appears close to making a decision, the process could accelerate this week.

Machado has already met with the Yankees, Phillies and White Sox in their home cities, while Harper has been meeting with interested teams in his hometown of Las Vegas, including some during the Winter Meetings there last month. NBC Sports Philadelphia reported Wednesday that the Phillies expect to meet with Harper in Las Vegas in the next week or so.

Also Wednesday, ESPN reported that Harper had met multiple times with Nationals representatives in recent weeks, amid rampant industry speculation he could still return to the nation’s capital for something near the 10-year, $300 million offer the Nationals made late last season.

The business of baseball didn’t exactly stop over the holidays, as the Seattle Mariners signed Japanese left-hander Yusei Kikuchi on New Year’s Eve, with a unique contract that guarantees him $56 million over four years, but could go as high as seven years and $109 million if the Mariners exercise a four-year extension after 2021. That leaves lefty Dallas Keuchel as the last remaining free agent option for teams seeking a front-line starting pitcher.

But two months into this offseason’s market, the industry as a whole still appears to be in a high-stakes waiting game, with Machado and Harper as the pivot-points — with the slow-moving market in some ways echoing that of last winter, which strained baseball’s labor relations and resulted in stars such as J.D. Martinez, Eric Hosmer and Jake Arrieta waiting until February or even (in the case of Arrieta) March before signing.

Entering Wednesday, only 50 of the roughly 200 free agents available this winter had signed major league contracts, and only seven of those had received deals for more than two years. The problem with one-year deals, like those increasingly favored by teams, is that they end up dumping more free agents onto the following winter’s market, swelling the supply of available talent.

As superstar hitters still in their primes, Machado and Harper are immune to most of the economic forces and changes in talent-evaluation that have depressed the markets for older free agents in recent offseasons. But the futures of Machado and Harper affect those of everyone else on the marketplace, and with the flipping of the calendar to 2019, it no longer feels so early in the winter.

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