The New York Yankees were unable to reach an agreement with a single player while in Nashville and by all accounts made one, maybe two offers. As Yankees general manager Brian Cashman headed home, there were more questions than answers coming out of the Winter Meetings.
Cashman rightly suggested late Thursday that there was time and assured everyone that there was a plan to fill voids in right field, third base (to fill in for Alex Rodriguez while he recuperates from hip surgery) and at catcher.
“I don’t feel like we’re not having a productive winter,” Cashman said. “I feel like we’re being deliberate and we are being slow. Every one of your missed opportunities, that stuff happens. But when the dust settles, we’re going to be a team that people aren’t going to be comfortable playing.”
What’s interesting is that the Yankees allowed certain players to walk without making an offer. Russell Martin (two-years, $17 million) is signed with the Pittsburgh Pirates. Eric Chavez (one-year, $3 million) is heading to Arizona to play for Kirk Gibson and the Diamondbacks. Nate Schierholtz (one-year, $2.25 million) will be hanging with the ivy in Wrigley Field. Each of these players signed deals which the Yankees could well afford and made sense, with Martin’s contract the one in which the Yankees stance to abstain is somewhat understandable.
The Yankees had reportedly failed to offer Jeff Keppinger (three-years, $12 million with the Chicago White Sox), but Cashman roundly disputed that and other sources said the Yankees offer was actually more than what he signed for to play in Chicago’s Southside.
The Bombers did make an offer to former Boston Red Sox fan favorite Kevin Youkilis for one-year, $12 million. He is contemplating two separate offers according to a tweet from FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal worth $16-18 million. One of those offers is believed to be from the Cleveland Indians and rumor has it the Seattle Mariners are also interested in Youkilis. Heading to Cleveland would make some sense for Youkilis as his former manager Terry Francona has taken over the helm with the Indians. So, Youkilis will weigh the chances of the Yankees winning it all in 2013 and re-creating his market value, against the chance to play in an atmosphere of potential growth.
Cashman said he felt that the players that came off the board in which the Yankees showed interest were not necessarily definitions of the signings he was prepared to make. The Wall Street Journal reported that Cashman did not have any authority to make offers anyway. Cashman’s response to that was that he said he knows ”what I can do and what I can’t do.”
The Yankees will be busy for the remainder of the winter with the possibility of trades being their best bet to fill the current voids. They have considered offers on Curtis Granderson, Phil Hughes and Ivan Nova. Unless something bigger transpires, it is hard to believe the Yankees will be able to move Granderson, or will want to, because his production would be hard to match. The idea of moving Hughes makes sense in that he will be a free agent at the conclusion of the 2013 season, so it may be good to deal him while he maintains some value from a positive 2012 season. Nova would be an upside call for another team to make and be the least worrisome for the Yankees to replace.
“I certainly have been busy with a lot of ideas,” Cashman said. “That’s not unusual, that’s part of the process. There’s a lot of time between now and first pitch. There’s no games tomorrow. We’re going to keep going at it, and having patience isn’t a bad thing either.”
There are free agents on the Yankees radar. Among them are 2012 Yankees, Ichiro Suzuki and Raul Ibanez. Trying to land Suzuki and Ibanez makes sense, but the Yankees are obviously going to hold out on those two until they have exhausted the trade market or if the player begins to draw significant interest elsewhere forcing the Yankees to make a decision. Mark Reynolds and Jack Hannahan have been mentioned as potential backup plans at third base if the Yankees can’t sign Youkilis.
The Yankees seem to truly believe in an open competition between Francisco Cervelli, Chris Stewart and Austin Romine for the starting, and possibly backup catcher role. A.J. Pierzynski remains a free agent option, but one with minimal possibility of happening.
No matter what transpires, Cashman is toeing the company line and summarized the Yankees current position this way.
“We have to constantly remind ourselves that we have a lot of talent, and that allows us to be patient — and that patience has helped us a great deal the last number of years. That patience has gotten us a number of players. Our pro scouting department has done a tremendous job of time on short-term January signings, and we’ve benefited from that, so I’m not afraid of January. I’m not afraid of February.”
He may not be afraid, but there are millions of Yankees fans feeling otherwise.