NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — While teams weigh demands from free agents and the market continues to play itself out, the Yankees lay in wait.
It appears they have not yet begun to spend.
On the day the club made official its five-year, $85 million deal with catcher Brian McCann, managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner issued a cryptic statement that would lead most to believe the Yankees have their irons in many fires. It has already been reported several times that they are talking to a multitude of free agents and are the favorites right now to not only re-sign second baseman Robinson Cano, but also land veteran outfielder Carlos Beltran. However, it appears those moves, if successful, are only part of a more wide-ranging plan.
“The singular and unwavering desire of this organization is to construct a team each and every season designed to play meaningful baseball deep into October,” Steinbrenner said. “In Brian McCann, we feel we have made a significant improvement to a key position, while adding a high-character presence to our clubhouse. Our work this offseason has just begun, but we feel this is an important step towards what will be an exciting and rewarding 2014 season for our fans.”
If you are a Yankees fan, you have to be giddy reading those words, considering the organization had moved away from its philosophy over the last few years, instead signing older players to short-term deals. Now, it appears, they won’t be as rigid in their thinking.
Case in point, McCann. He is 29 and largely thought of as one of the top catchers in the game. A seven-time All-Star and the 2010 All-Star Game MVP, McCann is one of just 11 major league players — and the only catcher — to hit at least 20 home runs in each of the last six seasons. The Yankees made it clear they wanted him and didn’t play games or wait around. It appears they are close to doing the same with Beltran, though there have been reports of a stalemate between the sides over the length of the contract.
According to a report by The Associated Press, the Yankees could spend approximately $80 million this offseason and still get under the $189 million luxury tax threshold. That number could end up being a lot more assuming Alex Rodriguez’s 211-game suspension is upheld, perhaps giving the Bombers as much as $25 million more to work with.
The Yankees have said all along getting in under $189 million is a desire, not a mandate. It’s still too early to tell how close they will come or if they will go over.
That’s because they currently have just two givens in their starting rotation — CC Sabathia and Ivan Nova — and have to patch holes in their bullpen. The Yankees reportedly offered Hiroki Kuroda a one-year deal for slightly more than the $15 million he made last season, but the veteran right-hander generally takes his time making decisions. For what it’s worth, Kuroda tanked badly at the end of last season, winning just one of his last 10 starts, with an ERA north of 5.00. The Yankees may not wait around for him to decide if better options become available.
Assuming Kuroda does not return, and Michael Pineda — who has missed basically the last two seasons due to injury — and David Phelps battle it out for the fifth spot, the Yankees would still have to fill two slots in the rotation. They have made no secret of their interest in 24-year-old right-hander Masahiro Tanaka, who went 20-0 with a 1.27 ERA last season in the Japan Pacific League. However, a negotiating snafu between Major League Baseball and Nippon Japanese Baseball over the posting system has yet to be resolved and it’s unknown if the Yankees will ever get a chance to bid on Tanaka.
Remaining attractive free-agent pitchers on the market include Matt Garza, Ubaldo Jimenez, Ervin Santana and Bartolo Colon, with useful mid-rotation guys like Scott Feldman, Bronson Arroyo and Paul Maholm also available.
The Yankees also need to address the bullpen. With Mariano Rivera’s retirement, it’s not a lock that David Robertson will be the closer in 2014. The Yankees had discussions with Joe Nathan, but he agreed to a two-year deal with Detroit on Tuesday. Top relievers still available on the market include Grant Balfour, Jesse Crain and Joaquin Benoit, among others.
The Yankees may also need to address third base if Rodriguez’s suspension is upheld. On Monday they officially announced their signing of Brendan Ryan, but he’s believed to be more of insurance for aging Derek Jeter at shortstop. The Yankees have been mentioned prominently in discussions with representatives for shortstop Stephen Drew, perhaps with an eye on him shifting to the corner.
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