NYY priorities: McCann, Tanaka, Grandy (?)
November, 6, 2013
By Wallace Matthews | ESPNNewYork.com
NEW YORK -- The Yankees holiday shopping season is in full swing, and the proverbial source-with-knowledge enumerated the club's priorities to me today as follows: free-agent catcher Brian McCann, Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka, and their own free-agent, Curtis Granderson.
Huh? What about Robinson Cano?
"Nothing happening there until December,'' said the source, who spoke to ESPNNewYork.com on condition of anonymity.
According to the source, the Yankees have made contact with Cano's representatives since extending him the $14.1 million qualifying offer last week, and made an offer that the club believes is the best one Cano will receive.
Still, while Cano has not officially turned down the qualifier -- players have until Nov. 12 to notify teams of their decisions -- his reps have made it clear to the Yankees that they have no intention of signing anything until they see what else the market has to offer them. It is believed the Yankees offer is for either six or seven years at somewhere between $25 million and $30 million a year. (Owner Hal Steinbrenner has already said the Yankees were "not prepared" to offer Cano the 10 years he is said to be seeking.
"[The Yankees] are prepared to go up a little if necessary," said the source, "but they don't think there's a team out there that will outbid them."
Which brings us back to McCann, the most-sought-after catcher on the free-agent market this year.
The Yankees interest in the former Braves catcher is not news -- our own Andrew Marchand broke it down last week -- but it does confirm that the experiment of trying to get by with a defensive catcher is over, and that the Yankees recognize that they need more offense behind the plate. That means it's back to back-up duty for the Chris Stewarts and Francisco Cervellis of the world.
It might also mean the Yankees will take a look at Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who was not given a qualifying offer by the Red Sox and can be signed without the loss of a draft pick.
Salty's 2013 numbers -- 14 HRs, 63 RBI, .273 BA, .804 OPS -- were comparable to McCann's but not in line with the 30-year-old's average season, which is 21 HRs, 80 RBI, a .277 BA and .823 OPS. Still, he is a switch-hitter (McCann is a lefty), a year younger, and salary history (he made $4.5M last year to McCann's $12 M) indicates he might come cheaper, especially since there is expected to be a strong market for McCann.
As for Tanaka, he is the latest sensational Japanese pitching prospect to be coveted by MLB teams, although he has not officially been posted yet, and in fact, the agreement between MLB and the Japanese league expired and needs to be renegotiated. But after being outbid on Daisuke Matsuzaka a few years back and and passing on Yu Darvish two winters ago, the Yankees seem determined to make a strong push for Tanaka, who was described to me by a Japanese baseball writer who has seen him pitch as "better than Darvish."
Granderson's name on the priority list comes as a bit of a surprise, as does the information that there may be a split within the Yankee ranks about whether or not he will accept the $14.1 million qualifying offer. (The Yankees also gave it to Hiroki Kuroda and say they still have no idea if he even plans to pitch again in 2014).
According to one voice in the Yankees front office, Granderson will accept the offer because of a soft market and the widespread belief around baseball that he strikes out too much and is no more than a 30-HR away from Yankee Stadium. Other team officials, however, believe Granderson will be at least as valuable as Nick Swisher was last year to the Cleveland Indians, who gave him four years at $56 million, or Hunter Pence was this winter to the Giants, who just extended him for five year and $90 million.
Yankees GM Brian Cashman would not confirm interest in any particular free agent, citing tampering regulations, but as always, did not rule out interest in anyone. "We're calling on all free agents, with varying level of interest," he said. "We're going to look at the total pool and decide what's best to try to improve our club. Within our budget constraints, of course."