By Sweeny Murti
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There are still some I’s to dot and T’s to cross, and apparently (I’m told) some Jay Z concerts to schedule around, but soon enough Robinson Cano’s mega-contract with Seattle will become official.
But it is clearly a done deal and the Yankees are moving on from Cano, thanks to a 10-year deal that they weren’t willing to match, let alone better.
Addressing the Cano contract Tuesday in Orlando, Brian Cashman was asked if he is surprised that a team is still willing to give out a 10-year contract after all that’s happened the last few years with such deals:
Cashman said the Yankees’ reluctance to go more than seven years was about “comfort level.” And he added that Cano “had 240 million reasons why he should have gone to Seattle, and if I was him I would have done the same thing.”
Some other notes from Cashman’s media briefing Tuesday:
*The Yanks are still looking for a 2B/3B type and are trying to bring the lineup “back to the top two or three offenses in the game. We need more work there.”
*Kelly Johnson can play either 2B or 3B and even some OF. The left-handed batter offers “power and flexibility.” He is “more of a bat than a defender.” However there is a “comfort level knowing we have improved depth.”
*The Yankees have spoken to the agent for Mark Reynolds, who finished last year with the Yankees. Cashman acknowledged that he’s “talking to everybody … at some point I just gotta make sure I’m better than what I was dealing with (in 2013). We had a lot of hard triers, but at some point we need to improve on the results.”
*Cashman has been very active in trying to acquire players any way he can. “I have thrown (out) a lot of trade proposals, (had a) number of conversations with free agents. I just don’t know if it’s going to lead anywhere. That’s why we’re here.”
*Asked about the search for a starting pitcher via trade or the free-agent market, Cashman said, “Signing one might be easier than trading for one, it’s just that we are trying to find the right one.”
*The right one might end up being Masahiro Tanaka, but as of Tuesday afternoon Cashman said he had not yet received any notice about finalizing the Japanese posting system.
*On the DH situation: “We’ll have a lot of candidates. There will be no set outfield if everything shakes out the way the winter should go. I think (manager) Joe (Girardi) will utilize the DH category to give everybody a rest.”
*Filling the leadership void on the Yankees will be a tough one, because Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte were so good at it. “The leadership that Mariano and Andy brought — that stuff is not replaceable. They were invested as players and they were invested in their teammates. Not everybody is wired that way. They were different than most players.”
*Cashman has definitely heard from interested teams regarding Brett Gardner, but it’s not a given the Yankees will trade him. “We didn’t sign Ellsbury to allow us to trade Gardner. Everybody’s made phone calls on Gardy. We have an obligation to hear what everybody’s interests may be, but we’re not shopping Gardy.”
*Cashman said he is getting calls from teams asking not only about Gardner, but also Ivan Nova, Gary Sanchez and J.R. Murphy. Cashman said he ran into Gardner’s agent here in Orlando and Gardner was interested to know if he would be playing center field or not. Cashman’s answer was “We’ll see.” He says they have not talked about alignment yet, but he’s happy to have two players that can handle center field, much like he had with Gardner and Curtis Granderson.
*A column by Joel Sherman in Tuesday’s New York Post suggested that other teams are down on the Yankees’ top outfield prospects after they struggled this past season in the minors. He specifically talking about Mason Williams, Slade Heathcott and Tyler Austin. Cashman acknowledged that “their most recent seasons have not increased their trade value.”
*Michael Pineda will enter spring training healthy and will compete for a rotation spot. “He’s healthy but he’s still a question because of where he’s coming from. I hope we see everything we want to see. We hope to get what we traded for, we just have to wait and play it out.”
*Manny Banuelos will likely start the year at Triple-A.
*On Granderson: “The Mets got a good player. I really wished I would have been able to see him this past year put up more numbers. I appreciate the time we had with him. He’ll help the Mets. Good man to boot, real good man.”
*Cashman was very happy to see Joe Torre elected unanimously to the Hall of Fame and says the Yankees will absolutely retire Torre’s number in the near future. “We haven’t given it out for a reason. At some point that’ll happen, no doubt about it. Clearly it’s already unofficially happened.”
TALK ABOUT A WELCOMING PARTY
Lloyd McClendon is the new manager of the Mariners. As if getting the job wasn’t enough to make him happy, he now gets a brand new superstar in his lineup in Cano. Here is what McClendon had to say about the new $240 million man.
What kind of conversations have you had with Cano?
McClendon: “Robbie and I have talked several times since our initial meeting last Thursday. He’s extremely happy to be a Mariner. He’s excited about the up-and-coming year and things that he can provide and will provide. Like I told him, we’ll talk more on Thursday or Friday of this coming week and try to put our heads together on a couple of things.”
Is it a given that he bats three for you and anchors the lineup?
McClendon: “He can bat wherever he wants to bat. I told him, I said in the office, I said that couch over there is mine and that one’s yours. But if you’d like to have that one, you can have that one, too. He’s a special talent. Look, there is no sense in fooling ourselves. But he’s also a team player. He’s a very special and unique person. I think he’s willing to do whatever needs to be done to help us get better really fast.”
Most times a new manager is given some sort of rebuilding project. What kind of a luxury is it to know that you were given a $240 million player right away, too?
McClendon: “Obviously, that is important talent. You can have all the managerial skills in the world, if you don’t have talent, it really doesn’t make a difference. The players make the manager; the manager doesn’t make the player. I can obviously complement them and try to bring the best out of them. But Chuck Tanner told me a long time ago donkeys don’t win the Kentucky Derby. Thoroughbreds do. You’ve got to have thoroughbreds out there.”
How much does a guy like that help the younger guys take pressure off them or maybe somebody they can watch or look up to?
McClendon: “I think his presence alone is going to inspire the younger players that we have. I’ve always said this about great players, guys like Barry Bonds, Andre Dawson, the guy that just sat here that I used to protect in that Cubs lineup, they make other players around them better. I think Robinson has that unique talent to make other guys around him better. I think you’ll see that.”
Robbie has played on a team his whole career where he’s not been the biggest star with Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez and these other stars there. Do you worry about a guy signing this kind of contract and coming in and have pressure to be more than what he’s been?
McClendon: “No, my conversation with Robbie is I wanted him to be Robbie. Robbie is pretty damn good. He doesn’t have to be more than that. I can tell you this. When we went in to play the Yankees, the guy that we were most concerned about was Robinson Cano. So I don’t know about star power, but I do know about player power, and he was the best on that team.”
It’s hard for a younger player in the Yankees to come up and express themselves as a leader as Robbie even to this point in his career has been one of the younger players on the team. Did you get the sense he wants to be a leader on your team?
McClendon: “I hear that all the time. Who is going to be your leader? I hope he leads on the field. I’ll do the cheerleading and leading in the clubhouse. But I want guys on the field that can hit three‑run homers. Drive in a run from second base with two outs and two strikes in the ninth inning. Those to me are the guys that lead by example on the field. I don’t need guys to lead in the clubhouse. I’ll do that. I need the guys to do it on the field.”
Follow Sweeny Murti @YankeesWFAN.
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