New York Yankees: Brian Cashman

Brian Cashman, Alex RodriguezGene J. Puskar/AP PhotoAlex Rodriguez apologized to Brian Cashman and the Yankees brass. But the feud isn't finished.
NEW YORK -- Alex Rodriguez and his bosses with the New York Yankees have done what they had to do.

They took a meeting together at which the designated villain (A-Rod) presented his humble mea culpa, the aggrieved executives (Randy Levine and Brian Cashman) sternly promised to let bygones be bygones, and they all joined arms and sang a chorus or two of "Kumbaya" under the benevolent gaze of Hal Steinbrenner.

But don’t for a minute believe all is well between Rodriguez and the organization that owes him another $61 million -- and possibly as much as $91 million -- but doesn’t want to have to pay a penny of it.

According to sources who were in the room at Yankee Stadium on Tuesday, and others who were thousands of miles away but are still hooked into what went on, the chances of long-term peace between the Yankees and A-Rod are about as good as the chances of Brian Williams being awarded the Silver Star.

For one thing, although Cashman and Levine -- famously, or infamously, called "the devil" by protestors outside A-Rod's grievance hearing last winter -- accepted A-Rod's apology, at least one of them told Rodriguez in no uncertain terms that there were some actions taken by Rodriguez and his supporters during the hearing that simply would not go away.

(In addition to the "Randy Levine is the Devil" signs, A-Rod also alleged the Yankees pressured him to play with an injured hip and sued team doctor Christopher Ahmad for malpractice.)

For another, the Yankees informed Rodriguez they have no intention of paying the $6 million bonuses in the ancillary contract the two parties agreed to in 2007 when they renegotiated the 10-year, $275 million deal in effect through the 2017 season.

The bonuses are based on A-Rod reaching five home-run milestones: Willie Mays' 660, from which he is just six home runs removed, Babe Ruth’s 714, Hank Aaron's 755, Barry Bonds' 762, and the eventual all-time record, 763, if Rodriguez manages to reach it.

The Yankees' contention will be that they reserve the right to determine what a “milestone" actually is, and will argue that due to A-Rod's 162-game suspension by Major League Baseball in connection with the Biogenesis investigation, his now-tainted home run totals no longer constitute milestones. That would leave it up to A-Rod to grieve the Yankees' decision before an arbitrator, a process that has not served him very well lately.

But a source with knowledge of the language in the ancillary deal -- written to cash in on an expected merchandising and attendance bonanza as A-Rod chased his “milestones" -- told ESPNNewYork.com there was no such provision for the Yankees to wriggle out of paying Rodriguez his dough.

"The numbers themselves constitute the milestones," the source said. "The Yankees can't determine suddenly that in their opinion, 660 or 714 are no longer milestones. That would never stand up in court."

And although it has been reported elsewhere that Rodriguez already agreed not to contest the Yankees' decision, it seems highly unlikely that he would allow the Yankees not to live up to a contract both parties agreed to, nor would the MLBPA be likely to stand down and allow it to happen.

In fact, if A-Rod were smart, he would contest any attempt on the part of the Yankees to not pay him his bonuses by announcing he intends to donate all or part of the money to charity. (The Yankees, of course, could counter by suggesting A-Rod donate all or part of his 2015 salary, $21 million, to charity. See? This could still get deliciously nasty.)

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The truth is, it was an awfully curious meeting that took place in Hal Steinbrenner’s office, hastily convened about a week after A-Rod met with new commissioner Rob Manfred for the third time since the end of the World Series, when his suspension ended. Meanwhile, the Yankees had shown no indication of planning to meet with Rodriguez, pointedly saying publicly that he “would be treated like any other player."

Might it have been Steinbrenner himself who called all the warring parties together in his office, to at least create the illusion that all was sweetness and light again between the Yankees and their troubled, and troublesome, third baseman?

Strange also is that, according to one person in the room, the subject of where and when A-Rod would find himself in the lineup this season never came up, despite the signing of Chase Headley to play third base in 2015 and frequent public statements by the Yankees this winter that Rodriguez's best chance to play at all would come as a right-handed DH.

You’d think at some point that subject might have come up for discussion. But no.

Instead, we are told that A-Rod came in, $61 million hat in hand, apologized to everyone in the room, and docilely agreed as the Yankees told him they would not be paying him bonuses that were contractually stipulated.

You can believe that if you like.

But I am telling you we are not even close to a peaceful resolution in this matter of New York Yankees v. Alexander Emmanuel Rodriguez, and in fact, the fun may only be beginning.


NEW YORK -- On top of the public humiliation, denigration and marginalization the Yankees have already heaped on Alex Rodriguez this offseason, now they want to welsh on his home-run bonus deal, too.

Well, the Yankees should only hope A-Rod hits enough home runs to merit those bonuses, and they should be more than happy to pay them.

But in their seemingly all-consuming desire to “get even" with A-Rod for his foolish and desperate attempts to overturn Major League Baseball's 162-game suspension last winter, the team that is supposed to be all about winning looks like it is about to compromise its own mission statement for the sake of someone’s revenge.

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If the Yankees are really concerned with winning, and improving off the dismal 84-win, 12-games-off-the-pace, Octoberless death march that their 2014 season was, they need Alex Rodriguez to play well.

And yet, this offseason the Yankees have seemed to do everything in their power to insure he will fail.

There can be only one reason for that: The Yankees are holding a grudge, and it could wind up costing them more than mere money.

There are two schools of thought on A-Rod, and both have validity. One is that he is insecure and soft, and will not be able to stand up to the relentless daily scrutiny he will be under this season.

That opinion is borne out by Rodriguez's admission that he turned to steroids in 2001 because of doubts he could live up to his 10-year, $252 million contract with the Texas Rangers, at the time the most lucrative in sports history.

The other school of thought is that A-Rod relishes playing the villain, courting the image and reveling in the attention, however negative, he gets in the media, in opposing stadiums, and often, even in his home ballpark.

That is borne out by events such as the home run he crushed off Ryan Dempster at Fenway Park in 2013 after being hit by a pitch that precipitated a bench-clearing brawl just 10 days after MLB had announced his suspension in the Biogenesis affair. And also by off-field exploits like working out with Barry Bonds, and hanging out with Cousin Yuri.

The Yankees seem to be playing to A-Rod’s insecurities by their public statements about him this offseason, and for a player they know to be prone to distractions, they seem more than willing to distract him. (Ironically, people in the organization were privately critical of Derek Jeter for not publicly supporting A-Rod a few years back when he was getting booed at Yankee Stadium; now, those same people are doing the thing they accused the Captain of doing.)

Certainly, it is understandable to an extent.

You don’t sue the team doctor for malpractice, imply through your emissaries that your own team is sabotaging you and attempting to force you out, or hire protesters carrying placards accusing the team president of being a cohort of Satan and Lucifer without expecting to tick someone off.

But the Yankees have always been pretty good at remembering what their business is, the business of winning ballgames, and they generally didn’t hold bad manners or bad behavior against a player if they still believed he could help them.

Clearly, they no longer believe that of A-Rod. But the hard reality is, they are stuck with him for three more seasons and will have to pay him $61 million in salary, whether he plays well, badly, or not at all.

Baseball’s Joint Drug Agreement insures that the Yankees can't wriggle out of the contract -- it stipulates that all punishment for drug offenses must be meted out by the league, which MLB already has -- and numerous sources within and without the organization insist self-proclaimed “finance geek" Hal Steinbrenner would pay off A-Rod and cut him loose.

The only thing left for the Yankees to do, it seems, is to go after the measly $6 million they would have to pay him for catching Willie Mays, who is six home runs ahead of A-Rod, and for catching Babe Ruth, who has a 1927-season lead (60 home runs).

Forget about the other targets on the list -- Hank Aaron is 101 home runs ahead, Bonds 108 ahead and the all-time record 109 ahead, a total Alex Rodriguez probably couldn’t hope to reach in five seasons, let alone three.

But if he can give them 60 home runs over the final three years of the contract, the Yankees would be thrilled to have them. That averages out to 20 a season, which is two more than they got out of their DHs last season, five more than they got out of their third basemen, and more than Chase Headley, who has been handed A-Rod’s old job, has hit in any but one of his eight big league seasons.

And besides, what is $6 million to the New York Yankees? Ashtray money. Half of what they paid to Kevin Youkilis in 2013, who gave them next to nothing, and just slightly less than they will be paying Chris Capuano, who was signed as rotation insurance for 2015.

So rather than trying to squash A-Rod’s bonuses, the Yankees should be doing everything in their power to encourage him to earn them, and hope that he does.

Unless, of course, vengeance has now taking priority over victories.

Admittedly, the whole home run bonus idea was a bad one, conceived in greed by both parties.

The Yankees agreed to the separate marketing contract with Rodriguez -- calling for $6 million bonuses for reaching each of the five home run milestones -- because they expected to reap a box-office and merchandising windfall off suckers buying baseballs, hats and jerseys commemorating the chase of an already tainted home run record.

And A-Rod, who had already earned himself a raise from the most lucrative contract in pro sports history, still wanted to be paid extra for doing what he was being paid for in the first place, namely hitting home runs.

And all this was done despite the fact that GM Brian Cashman had publicly declared he would never negotiate with A-Rod if he exercised the opt-out clause in his original 10-year, $252 million contract, which of course he did.

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Cashman was overruled by a higher authority, who at the time certainly thought the Yankees were getting a bargain at an average salary of $27.5 million, with the possibility of another $30 million tacked on.

Now, suddenly, it’s a bad deal for the Yankees because A-Rod’s “accomplishments" have been tarnished by his unprecedented year-long suspension, and his reported admission of steroid use to MLB last year.

Well, if that’s the case, why didn’t they try to void the bonus clause after the 2009 Sports Illustrated revelations of his steroid use, and his subsequent admissions? Wasn’t his marketability just as tainted then?

The reasons are obvious: For one thing, A-Rod was still a productive player at the time and would in fact help lead the Yankees to the 2009 World Series championship.

For another, aside from the steroid admission, he hadn’t done anything to anger the Yankees the way he did this time.

Now, approaching his 40th birthday and with few, if any friends left in the organization, Alex Rodriguez is seemingly no longer deserving of organizational support.

That may be a valid emotional decision, but it’s clearly a foolish baseball decision.

The Yankees need Alex Rodriguez to hit home runs for them this season, and if he does, they should be more than happy to pay for them.
Nathan Eovaldi, Didi Gregorius, Andrew MillerUSA TODAY Sports, Getty ImagesGoodbye Derek Jeter, hello Nathan Eovaldi, Didi Gregorius and Andrew Miller.
NEW YORK -- For the better part of the past two decades, most Yankees teams arrived in the Bronx fully formed, made up of either longtime Yankees, established veterans (read: stars) from other clubs, or highly-touted and sought-after rookies and imports from other leagues.

Now, there's the 2015 Yankees.

Gone from last year's roster are no fewer than 20 big league-caliber players, including Derek Jeter. In their place will be 14 (relatively) new faces, 13 of which were acquired through free agency or trades, and one of which, Alex Rodriguez, is a very familiar face that hasn’t been seen on a baseball field in more than a year due to a drug suspension.

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Ring out the old, ring in the new. Call it rebuilding, retooling or reloading, it will be a very different Yankees team that takes the field in Tampa for the first full-squad spring training workout on Feb. 27, and who knows what the team will look like by the time it gets to Yankee Stadium on April 6.

“This year will be different, that’s for sure," general manager Brian Cashman said this week. “This spring will be more important than most because there’s a lot of new guys and a lot of guys we don’t know all that much about. There’s a lot of players we have to get to know. Clearly last year there was a big focus on our captain, who’s no longer here. This year the focus will be on all the new guys."

The Yankees are loathe to use the term “rebuilding" -- Goliaths, of course, do not rebuild -- but they can’t run from the reality that with Jeter, the last member of the legendary Core Four, in retirement, this team will have no on-field links (other than manager Joe Girardi) to the glory days of 1996-2000, and less than a handful -- CC Sabathia, Mark Teixeira, Brett Gardner and A-Rod -- to the team that won the 2009 World Series over the Philadelphia Phillies.

“For people to say [the Yankees] are rebuilding with the second-highest payroll, it's silly," said a baseball executive who requested anonymity. “I think every team constantly tries to get better and that's what they’re trying to do."

But have the Yankees actually done that?

In addition to Jeter, the 2015 Yankees will be without David Robertson, who statistically was among the top 10 closers in MLB last year; Hiroki Kuroda, arguably the most consistent starter on their staff the past three seasons; Shawn Kelley, a useful middle reliever; David Phelps, whose versatility was valued by the Yankees both as a starter and a reliever; Francisco Cervelli, a spark plug of a backup catcher; Brandon McCarthy, who performed well as a starter after a midseason trade with the Diamondbacks; Ichiro Suzuki, a future Hall of Famer who stepped into a full-time role when Carlos Beltran got hurt; and Shane Greene, who showed promise as a starter after being thrust into emergency duty due to the rash of injuries to the rotation.

[+] EnlargeChase Headley
Jim McIsaac/Getty ImagesChase Headley will be back at third base, while Alex Rodriguez remains a (very expensive) wild card.
They also parted with Martin Prado, a trade deadline acquisition who had previously been prized by the Yankees for his ability to play several infield positions as well as the outfield.

They have added Nathan Eovaldi, a young right-hander with a big fastball; Andrew Miller, a lefty who has had a phenomenal season-and-a-half as a setup man and closer; Justin Wilson, who is expected to be the main situational lefty out of their bullpen; Didi Gregorius, a young shortstop who is being asked to replace Jeter; and David Carpenter, another live arm for their bullpen, in exchange for young left-hander Manny Banuelos, formerly the jewel of the Yankees' farm system.

In addition, they re-signed Chase Headley to be their everyday third baseman; Chris Young to be their fourth outfielder, replacing Ichiro; and -- as yet to be officially announced -- Stephen Drew, who unless displaced by either Jose Pirela or Rob Refsnyder in spring training, becomes the next second baseman to try to follow Robinson Cano. They also added journeyman INF/OF Garrett Jones and a handful of young arms to their bullpen, which right now looks like the strongest unit on the club.

But a year after the Yankees spent nearly a half-billion dollars on four free agents -- Masahiro Tanaka, Jacoby Ellsbury, Beltran and Brian McCann -- there was no big-ticket free agent under the Yankees' holiday tree this winter. Jon Lester, Victor Martinez, Nelson Cruz, Pablo Sandoval and yes, Robertson, all signed elsewhere this winter. Max Scherzer and James Shields are still out there, but the Yankees insist they have no interest in either.

“I think ever since they renewed [Cashman, who received a new three-year contract], he's had some ideas about building the team, getting younger and more versatile, and I think they've done that," said the baseball executive. "Does it work? Who knows? I think the whole season comes down to two questions: The starting pitching and the hitting."

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There’s no question about the latter, especially with Tanaka, Sabathia and Ivan Nova coming off major injuries and Michael Pineda having a history of major shoulder surgery, and the Yankees' bats struggling to produce fewer runs (633) than they had in 25 years. As a result, the team managed just 84 wins, its lowest total since 1995.

But Cashman disputes the notion that this year’s offseason represents any sort of philosophy change by an organization that has always operated under the Big Bang Theory of baseball. He said the reason the Yankees built through barter rather than bucks this season was strictly due to circumstances.

“It’s a by-product of not having a lot of money coming off the payroll, and of having Alex Rodriguez's money coming back on," Cashman said. “Last year we had a lot of money coming off, which is why we signed all those guys. This year and next year, that’s not the case. We’re locked into a number of guys, for better or worse."

Cashman also said an improvement in the Yankees' farm system -- which is much maligned and has not produced a significant everyday player since Gardner, who was drafted 10 years ago -- made it easier for them to make trades this winter.

"We haven’t always had a lot of tradable parts," he said. "Because of our system becoming stronger we had the ability to interact more on the trade market. You can't be too creative when you have no ammunition to shoot."

[+] EnlargeCarlos Beltran
Elsa/Getty ImagesWill the Yanks get more than 109 games and a .233 average from Carlos Beltran in 2015?
But he also hinted owner Hal Steinbrenner may not have been keen on committing another $400 million-plus this winter as he did last year. “The dialogue was, this is the amount of money we have to deal with," he said.

After flirting with the idea of keeping the 2014 payroll below $189 million to avoid paying the luxury tax, the Yankees wound up spending $203 million in 2014, without having to pay Rodriguez's $25 million salary. According to Cot’s Baseball Contracts, the Yankees are committed to about $197 million for 2015, including $21 million for A-Rod.

That should be enough to keep them second on MLB's list, behind the L.A. Dodgers, who in 2014 usurped the Yankees as the biggest-spending team with a $235 million payroll, the first time the Yankees had relinquished the top spot since 1998.

But still, some say the Yankees are spending too little, not too much.

“It’s like they went to an earthquake class in California," said a baseball agent who has dealt with the Yankees. “When you have earthquakes, you can either rebuild your building or find a table to hide under. The Yankees didn’t rebuild their building this winter. They just bought a coffee table to hide under."

It is in any agent's interest, of course, for the Yankees to spend money, and lots of it. But some scouts who spoke to ESPNNewYork.com on condition of anonymity were divided on how effectively the Yankees went about fortifying their roster this winter.

“I like what they did," said one scout. "They are retooling, not rebuilding. [But] even with all the moves, it will come down to the pitching and if Teixeira can carry his weight. Can McCann stay healthy? And where is Beltran's health?"

“I think this is a starting point," said another. “Brian has wanted to get younger and more athletic for a few years but the system hasn’t allowed him to do that. Are they at the top of the perch? No, but this is a step in the right direction."

“The end of the Jeter Era is a significant thing," said a third, a former GM who believes the Yankees' attempt to build a roster out of veterans and young, often unproven players is the right way to go. "You can’t call up only minor leaguers and you can't go just with veterans. You have to combine the two."

 Hal Steinbrenner, Brian CashmanSeth Wenig/AP PhotoHal Steinbrenner's payroll limitations have forced Brian Cashman to get creative.
The agent, however, believes the Yankees should still be conducting themselves like the Yankees, buying up every top free agent, regardless of cost.

"Cashman is acting like he's the GM of the Oakland A's, and Hal can't keep using that $200 million payroll as a shield," he said. "Because of that, the Yankees are not going to be a playoff team this year, and probably not next year either. There's going to be a lot of empty seats in New York this season."

Yankees attendance was slightly up by about 1,500 fans per game in 2014, but is still down by about 300,000 since 2009. At the prices the Yankees charge for tickets, fans have come to expect a winner. Or, at least, a team that gives the appearance it might develop into one.

Cashman admits he can't guarantee the former but he believes he has accomplished the latter.

“We had a whole number of areas to think through and address," he said. "I think that in the position I'm in, you can never be happy. We're always best to be concerned. But I think we've addressed our needs to the best of our abilities. We were able to retain all or most of our high-end prospects. And I think the major league club has been improved."

And Cashman rejects the notion that a wholesale changeover in team personnel will mean a long period of mediocre, October-less seasons.

"I'm not trying to win a beauty contest here," he said. "I'm trying to win ballgames."

Cash: Two hitting coaches better than one

January, 13, 2015
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Alan Cockrell, Jeff Pentland USA TODAY SportsAlan Cockrell (left) will assist Jeff Pentland (right) as Yankees hitting coach this season.
NEW YORK -- After eight years of a single voice (Kevin Long's) advising their hitters, the Yankees will go with a two-headed monster of a hitting coach this season, with Jeff Pentland as the lead voice and Alan Cockrell assisting him.

Yankees GM Brian Cashman said the two-man approach to what used to be a one-man job is the next big thing in baseball: "It’s becoming a trend in the game," he said. "Every single candidate we spoke with either had a No. 2 or felt the game has evolved to the point where you need one. You can’t be in two places at one time, so this way you can have one coach working with guys on the field and the other working in the cage."

Cashman said Pentland and Cockrell were "on the same page" in terms of hitting philosophy, although he did not share exactly what the philosophy is.

But there's no doubt both have ties to the Yankees -- Pentland was Joe Girardi's hitting coach during Girardi's last three seasons with the Cubs, worked as Joe Torre's hitting coach in Los Angeles and in the same capacity for Tony Pena when Pena managed the K.C. Royals. Pentland also has a long association with former Cubs GM Jim Hendry, now a Yankees assistant GM. Cockrell was hired years ago to work at the Yankees' player development complex by roving hitting instructor Gary Denbo -- a favorite of Derek Jeter's -- and later worked with Yankees assistant GM Billy Eppler in Colorado.

According to one baseball insider, Pentland's "communicative skills" are top-notch: "Barry Bonds used to listen to him, and Barry doesn't listen to anybody. And this was when he had his father [Bobby Bonds] and Willie Mays in his ear all the time. Still, he only listened to Jeff."

Said Cashman: "I definitely think I hired the best candidates for the job."

A job which now takes two men to perform.
Willie Randolph Jim McIsaac/Getty ImagesWillie Randolph was a Yankees co-captain, with Ron Guidry, from 1986 to 1988.
Willie Randolph has two World Series rings as a player and four more as a coach on Joe Torre's staff during the Core Four dynasty years. Plus, he managed the Mets to within one pitch of the World Series.

Still, that pedigree wasn't enough for the Yankees to go with Randolph over Joe Espada as the team's infield coach.

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"I was disappointed because I wanted that opportunity to come back to the team that I love and help them get back to a world championship, like I've always done," Randolph said on the phone Monday. "Anytime you put your name in the pot for a job like this, you hope that you get it. So when it doesn't happen, you are a little disappointed."

Randolph, 60, was the one who reached out to Yankees GM Brian Cashman for an interview.

"I'm always doing my due diligence," Randolph said. "I'm always trying to make everyone aware that I would like another opportunity [to get] back in the game that I love."

Cashman called Randolph last week to tell him the team was going in another direction. On the call, Randolph said he thanked Cashman for the time he and Joe Girardi gave him.

"I wished him well," Randolph said.

Randolph was a spring training instructor last year. He said he would consider returning next month, but had not heard yet if the opportunity will be presented.

As far as managing, that is Randolph's ultimate goal. He hasn't gotten the opportunity since the Mets fired him in 2008. Why?

"I have no idea," Randolph said. "My resume sort of speaks for itself, given my track record and everything. I stand by that."

Espada, 39, has served as a special assistant to Cashman the past year. Prior to that, he had been a third-base coach with the Marlins. Espada never played in the majors.

Does Chris signing cap Yanks' offseason?

December, 17, 2014
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Masahiro Tanaka, Max Scherzer, CC Sabathia Getty Images, USA Today SportsWith Masahiro Tanaka and CC Sabathia on the Yankees' payroll for a combined $45 million in 2015, sources say a Max Scherzer deal is unlikely.
NEW YORK -- The Yankees signed a starting pitcher this week, but I think it's safe to surmise Chris Capuano is not what Yankees fans were hoping to find in their Hanukkah gift pile.

And yet, unless there is a seismic shift in the club's thinking, Capuano could be the last major free-agent signing for the Yankees between now and the beginning of spring training on Feb. 20.

That means no Big Game James, as in James Shields, and no Super Max, as in Max Scherzer. (Yes, Hiroki Kuroda is still out there, and according to a Yankees source, has yet to inform the club of whether he wants to pitch again in 2015, a decision he is unlikely to make until January.)

That position was reiterated to me by two baseball insiders with intimate knowledge of the Yankees' operations on Wednesday afternoon. One of them told me via text, "At the moment, I don't see how" the Yankees will be able to sign Scherzer. The other, in a phone conversation, said the Yankees were positively out of the hunt for both Scherzer and Shields, by far the two best pitchers remaining on the board.

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"He's a great pitcher," the source said of Scherzer, "but not even the Yankees can have three $25 [million] to $30 million pitchers on the payroll. You just can't."

This, of course, could be posturing aimed at rattling Scott Boras, Scherzer's agent (lotsa luck with that), but the truth is the Yankees will be paying CC Sabathia and Masahiro Tanaka, both of whom are coming off injuries and neither of whom is a lock to stay healthy enough to pitch 200 innings in 2015, a combined $45 million.

"Long-term deals for pitchers over 30 generally don't work out," one of the sources said. "The only one I can recall that did is Mike Mussina."

That source went on to enumerate the stockpile of arms the Yankees will take to camp -- along with Sabathia and Tanaka, they will have Michael Pineda, who pitched like an ace last season but still has a history of major shoulder surgery in his past; Ivan Nova, who underwent Tommy John surgery and is not expected back until May at the earliest; Capuano, who went 2-3 with a 4.25 ERA in 12 starts for the Yankees after they picked him up in July; and David Phelps and Adam Warren, both of whom worked out of the bullpen most of last season.

The source also mentioned the possibility of Manny Banuelos, who until proven otherwise remains an unkept promise following Tommy John surgery, and the chance GM Brian Cashman might be able to scrape together a trade for a proven starter. Cole Hamels of the Phillies and Jordan Zimmermann of the Washington Nationals are believed to be on the block, but the Yankees have a well-known shortage of tradable parts to offer for them.

Which leaves open the very real possibility that the signing of Capuano, a very average major league starter, will be the last major move of the Yankees' offseason until players become available after spring training cuts.

In that case, the Yankees team that begins the 2015 season would be substantially the team that ended 2014, minus Derek Jeter and David Robertson, but plus Andrew Miller, Didi Gregorius and, of course, Alex Rodriguez, who with the signing of Chase Headley has been reduced to a $21 million DH.

Is that good enough to compete?

"It is what it is," said one of the sources, and you could almost hear the shrug of frustration through the telephone line.

Cash: Yankees better with Didi than Rollins

December, 10, 2014
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SAN DIEGO -- Brian Cashman tried to trade for shortstop Jimmy Rollins earlier in the winter, but Cashman thinks the Yankees are better with Didi Gregorius.

"We eventually wound up with Didi, which is better for us in the long-term, regardless," Cashman said in comparing Gregorius to the older Rollins, who was traded to the Dodgers on Wednesday. "We have an under-control shortstop, and that was a one-year situation at $11 million. It probably worked out for everybody."

As for second base, Cashman talked to the Dodgers about Dee Gordon this week, but there was no match.

"I reached out to L.A. on Dee Gordon and didn't get any traction there," Cashman said. "Earlier in the winter, I did talk to the Phillies about Jimmy Rollins. Those conversations never went to exchanging names. They just said they would want more than we would pay."

[+] EnlargeDidi Gregorius
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty ImagesYanks GM Brian Cashman likes the acquisition of Didi Gregorius for the long-term.
Where they stand now: When Cashman met with the media at 6:15 p.m. PST Wednesday, he had no agreements in place. However, he believes most deals will get done soon, so decisions on Sergio Romo and Chase Headley could happen any minute.

"We are here at the Winter Meetings, and most business gets done before teams depart," Cashman said. "It doesn't mean some big things can't happen, but most stuff, I think, gets done. Trades and free agency. Most of it gets pushed through.

"We are patient. We are not going to do something we are not comfortable with. That does not mean there is not frustration at times during the process, as you are waiting for that wave to break the right way."

Cashman then went all-in on the surfing analogy.

"If we see the right wave, we will get on the board and ride it. But otherwise, we will just sit and wait for the next wave to come."

A-Rod looks good: So said Cashman, who received the report from Matt Krause. Krause visited Alex Rodriguez in Miami. Rodriguez still needs to add a little weight to reach the prescribed goal to start spring training, but besides that, Cashman sounded rosy.

"[Krause] assessed him maybe a month ago, maybe a little longer, [and] he is working hard," Cashman said. "Obviously, he is getting ready for spring training, and he is moving in the right direction.

"Like all our players, he has a report weight that we hope they hit. He is approaching that. He is not at his spring training weight that we desire yet. [But] there is progress."

Thanks, Scott: When told Scott Boras thought the Yankees just need to add Max Scherzer to have a championship rotation, Cashman said, "Good. That means he likes the four we've got."

Cashman didn't indicate if he thought Scherzer would be added to the group.

Cashman won't close door on Scherzer, etc.

December, 9, 2014
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Brian Cashman, Max Scherzer, Joe Girardi USA TODAY Sports, Getty ImagesBrian Cashman won't say he's targeting a big-time starter, but he won't deny it, either. Meanwhile, Joe Girardi is dropping hints.
SAN DIEGO -- With many in baseball thinking the Yankees could be sleeping giants on the big-ticket starters -- most specifically Max Scherzer -- Brian Cashman refuses to squelch the rumors.

"It is not in my best interest to say," Cashman said when asked to describe his level of interest.

Joe Girardi clearly wants to add pitching after the trade of Shane Greene. The Yankees do not have the depth that Girardi wants; especially with the uncertainty surrounding Masahiro Tanaka (elbow), CC Sabathia (knee) and Ivan Nova (elbow), as well as Michael Pineda's lack of one full season with more than 171 innings.

"When I look at our club, I think you have to look at the depth of the rotation," Girardi said.

When Cashman was asked if he could use the money he didn't spend on David Robertson someplace else, Cashman said the question was "too specific" and said it would "compromise my efforts."

After the top four in the rotation, the Yankees have David Phelps and Adam Warren. Warren seems more likely for the bullpen. Bryan Mitchell, Manny Banuelos and Luis Severino are three guys who may make starts for the big league club during 2015.

The Yankees have interest in bringing back Brandon McCarthy. They would consider Hiroki Kuroda, but Cashman has not been in contact with his agent. Kuroda is deciding if he wants to play in the majors, in Japan or retire.

The Yankees' new closer is ... : The Yankees are not ready to declare Andrew Miller or Dellin Betances their next closer.

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"We are not a finished product," Cashman said. "Our closer might be on this roster. He might not be here right now. I just don't know yet."

The Yankees could sign someone like Jason Grilli or Sergio Romo in free agency or trade for a closer. If either Betances or Miller ends up with the last-inning gig, he will enter it with one career save.

While the Yankees think that Betances and Miller have the talent to make the ninth inning work, they don't know it for sure.

"It is hard to say who does and who doesn't," Cashman said of working the ninth compared to the eighth or earlier. "I think we have seen over many years players develop into closers that you might not have expected. You have seen some that you believed had the attributes to close and couldn't. It is a unique spot. It is just one of those things that until you are doing it, you just don't know."

The D-Rob equation: Cashman confirmed much of what was already known about the Yankees' decision to go with Miller plus a draft choice over Robertson.

"The Miller plus the draft pick, for us as we moved forward, was a better buy than having to go all-in on Robertson so we didn't make an offer," Cashman said.

After Miller signed, Cashman said publicly that he could still sign Robertson. But Cashman said that was all done in deference to Robertson, as Cashman did not want to hurt Robertson's free-agent marketplace. Ultimately, Cashman said that once the Yankees signed Miller, then Robertson was off the table.

Di message: What will Girardi tell Derek Jeter's replacement, Didi Gregorius?

"The most important thing for Didi, and I'll stress it, and I'll have all the coaches stress it and the people around him, you just need to be yourself," Girardi said. "You don't need to try to be Derek. I think Robertson did a really good job of filling in for a superstar, a legend, a Yankee legend and was just himself. And we need to pay attention to that and make sure that Didi, 'Hey, go out and play, just do what you do.'"

Dot, dot, dot notes: Cashman checked in on the traded Jeff Samardzija, but there was no match with the A's. ... The Yankees are still in on Chase Headley and Brandon McCarthy, but neither Cashman nor Girardi was expansive on either. ... Girardi said the Yankees are counting on Tanaka to make 32 starts in 2015. ... The Yankees have shelved their coaching search for the moment but do plan on hiring a batting coach and infield coach before spring training. Cashman said they are too busy looking for players right now to figure out the staff. ... What does Girardi think about rookies Rob Refsnyder and/or Jose Pirela manning second base?

"Well, I remember in 1996 we started with a youngster named Derek Jeter," Girardi said. "And really, 1998 is when the youngster Jorge Posada took over. In '96 we had a young setup guy in Mariano Rivera that was pretty good. So it happens. And we need our system to be productive and for our young players to come up and help us out."

Case closed: Yankees didn't need D-Rob

December, 9, 2014
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Dellin Betances, David Robertson, Andrew MillerUSA TODAY Sports, Getty ImagesDavid Robertson is gone, but Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller made him expendable.
NEW YORK -- As soon as the Yankees signed Andrew Miller, David Robertson became a spare part. A very expensive spare part, at that.

That is why no Yankees fan should be surprised by the news out of the winter meetings that late Monday night -- early Tuesday morning in New York -- Robertson had accepted a four-year, $46 million offer from the Chicago White Sox without so much as a formal offer from the organization in which he had grown up.

Simply put, the Yankees liked Robertson. They liked his grit and his gumption and his swing-and-miss slider and his ability to work his way out of often self-imposed jams.

They just didn’t like him to the tune of $12 million a year, which is what it probably would have taken to keep him.

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But more important, with the addition of Miller to go along with Dellin Betances, newcomer Justin Wilson, and returning veterans Shawn Kelley, Adam Warren and David Phelps, Robertson had become extraneous.

No team spends $21 million on two relief pitchers, not even the Yankees, and that’s what it would have cost to retain both Miller and Robertson on the roster.

And for what? To have three closer-caliber pitchers in the bullpen when you really only need one good one?

Right now, the Yankees have two, and if Miller and Betances can even come close to the kind of production they put up last year, Robertson will be little more than a fond memory for Yankees fans except for when the White Sox make their annual visit to the Bronx.

Yes, it’s a gamble, considering the fact that Betances is coming off his first full season both in the bullpen and the major leagues, and that Miller’s brilliance has been limited essentially to the past season and a half, before which he toiled as a decidedly mediocre starter and middle reliever.

But baseball itself is a gamble, and no team ever really knows what it’s getting until the team is out there on the field, and sometimes not even then.

No one in the Yankees organization foresaw the offensive meltdown suffered this year by a lineup boasting Jacoby Ellsbury, Carlos Beltran, Brian McCann, Mark Teixeira and Brett Gardner.

No one could have predicted that Masahiro Tanaka, who seemed to have mastered Major League Baseball with uncommon ease, would succumb to that most common of pitching injuries, the torn UCL.

And certainly no one could have expected that by the All-Star break, four of the five starting pitchers the Yankees left camp with would have been on the DL.

So the Yankees have decided to gamble that what they saw from Betances, and what the Orioles and Red Sox saw from Miller over the past two seasons, is the real deal.

If so, they will be absolutely right to have let Robertson walk, saving some money that could be used on a top-notch starter -- Max Scherzer, anyone? -- and collecting a first-round draft choice in the process.

Because the cold, hard fact is that while Robertson was very good in his first season as a closer, both Miller and Betances were significantly better.

Both had lower ERAs (Miller 2.02, Betances 1.40) than Robertson’s 3.08. Both had higher strikeouts-per-nine-innings ratios than Robertson’s, and Miller’s 14.87 was second only to Aroldis Chapman's ridiculous 17.67 in all of baseball.

Both had higher WARs than Robertson. Both allowed fewer walks per nine and half as many home runs per nine as Robertson. Both held opposing hitters to lower batting averages than Robertson.

In fact, among his own teammates, Robertson’s home run ratio was higher than Kelley’s and Warren’s, and his walk ratio was worse than nine of his teammates, including Vidal Nuno's.

So let’s not overstate what has happened here.

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Robertson was not going to "replace" Mariano Rivera, because nobody can, simply because no one pitcher is likely to string together 17 seasons of the consistency and quality that Mo did between 1997 and 2013.

The Yankees understand that reality, that the only way to "replace" Rivera is with a series of relief pitchers, each of whom may do the job for a year or two.

We saw it in 2012 with Rafael Soriano. We saw it in 2014 with Robertson. We may see it in 2015 with a rotating combination of Miller and Betances, one a lefty, the other a righty, depending on the opponent, the situation, potential pinch hitters, etc.

In fact, even without Robertson, the Yankees have the nucleus of a dominant bullpen if everyone performs to expectations, admittedly a big if.

But aside from the five proven major league pitchers already in their pen, there are members of the Yankees organization who believe that this year's first-round pick, Jacob Lindgren, could be ready to help out next year. So, too, might Manny Banuelos, as he continues his comeback from Tommy John surgery.

And no one should count out the possibility that the Yankees might yet sign a Sergio Romo or a Francisco Rodriguez, at a lot less than it would have cost to keep Robertson, for even more bullpen insurance. One thing Brian Cashman loves to stock up on is arms.

Which is why Robertson suddenly found himself expendable.

The Yankees have decided to part ways with an admittedly very good pitcher, but their bullpen still has two who are potentially great in Miller and Betances.

Clearly, the collective wisdom of the Yankees organization decided that would be more than enough to get the last six outs of a game on most nights.

And the numbers, both on the stat sheet and on the paychecks, say that they’re probably right.

Live from San Diego, It's The Decisions

December, 8, 2014
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Brian CashmanAP Photo/Mark HumphreyThe offseason picture might become clearer to Brian Cashman while he's in San Diego.
SAN DIEGO -- The 70-degree weather and the view of the harbor are not too shabby. Of course, I, like all the other baseball media, executives, etc., will be locked inside the Manchester Grand Hyatt through Thursday, whereas Brian Cashman said the other day: "The Winter Meetings sequester all of us, and it’s the industry’s way of saying, 'Make a decision.'"

So let's go into what will be decided for the Yankees during the sequester.

Coming to a Head: The Yankees have wanted Chase Headley from the start of the winter.

However, they are trying to be smarter so they can avoid eventually being stuck with too much dead weight on their roster. As such, they would love to keep Headley to a three-year deal. They will probably need to go to four to make a deal happen. If Headley can find a five-year contract, I don’t think he will be in the Bronx.

D-Rob, D-Gone: The Yankees would like to keep David Robertson as well, but there are more reasons to believe he will not be back. First, they have no interest in giving him “Papelbon” money. The Yankees would like to keep a contract at three years, so if D-Rob can pick up around four years for $50 million from someone, it probably will not be in the Bronx.

With Andrew Miller already in the fold and Dellin Betances coming back, Cashman seems very willing to use money that could be allocated for Robertson for other areas of the squad.

Lester could be more: The feeling is once Jon Lester comes off the board, the pitching market will open up. Lester, with no first-round pick baggage attached to him because he was traded during the last season, could make a decision shortly.

How does that impact the Yankees? Well, it would not be shocking if they make a late run at Max Scherzer. I'm not saying it's going to happen, But if you have been reading this space, you know we have never ruled it out. The other day, Cashman even seemed to crack the door open slightly.

Given that Scott Boras is his agent, Scherzer could be a guy who doesn't decide by the end of these meetings. But once Lester comes off the board, James Shields could be next, and then a Yankee target, Brandon McCarthy, could sign soon. A lot of things, if not all, should shake out in the next couple days.

Who is on second: Cashman has talked about Martin Prado as third baseman, with the idea of Rob Refsnyder and Jose Pirela fighting it out for second. As exciting as it would be to see Refsnyder and Pirela, this smells a little Bubba Crosby-ish -- as in, Cashman might talk a lot about these guys and then add someone established.

The second-base market is slim. But if the Yankees were to re-sign Headley, Prado would move back to second.

Money, money, money: Hal Steinbrenner has a budget in mind, but Cashman can be creative. By picking up Gregorius, he, in effect, shaved about $11 million off last year's budget. Derek Jeter made $12 million, while Gregorius will be in the half-to-a-million dollar range. Changing the dynamic of the payroll could mean saving up their pennies for Scherzer or another big name.

The unexpected: Cashman probably has had some talks no one even knows about. There also could be some Alex Rodriguez news. Why? Why not? He's A-Rod, and he's due. And maybe the Yankees might even name a hitting coach.

Max deal: Cashman won't rule it out

December, 5, 2014
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Max ScherzerJared Wickerham/Getty ImagesDon't be too surprised if this guy is a Yankee next season.
If the Yankees jump in on big free agents such as Max Scherzer, it should surprise no one.

Privately, the Yankees have talked about not going after any of the Big 3 starters (Scherzer, Jon Lester and James Shields), but anyone who has been following this team knows it would be silly to think their minds are made up.

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With Shane Greene on the way out, the Yankees could re-sign Brandon McCarthy or they could act like the Yankees we all know and give the offseason's largest contract to Scherzer. It can't hurt that Didi Gregorius will make at least $11 million less than Derek Jeter did last year.

"We legitimately have to walk through and consider all avenues and some might be more realistic than others," Brian Cashman said prior to the Gregorius news breaking. "Again, there are certain things that could impact us and we can change our course of action for something we weren't necessarily pursuing earlier. I'm not trying to chase you guys into some big story, I just think we are open to evaluating the market as it evolves and how our efforts evolve as well."

Cashman's basic message was to buckle up.

"The next 10 days, the dynamic of San Diego, the winter meetings, it sequesters everyone in and it is the industry's way of saying, 'God damn it, make a decision,'" Cashman said.
NEW YORK -- Brian Cashman expected not to get much sleep Thursday night. But not because he's worrying about missing out on any big free-agent signings.

For the fifth consecutive year, the New York Yankees general manager planned to sleep outside in the blustery West 41st Street courtyard of Covenant House as part of an annual nationwide event to raise money to benefit homeless children and adolescents.

"I don't know how any human beings can deal with this on a daily, weekly, monthly basis," Cashman said. "There's no comfort on that ground. Even one night is terrible. With all the elements, with nature. It’s not right. No one should have to live like that."

[+] EnlargeBrian Cashman
Wallace Matthews, ESPNNewYork.comBrian Cashman prepares to sleep outside the West 41st Street courtyard of Covenant House.
Along with dozens of other participants, Cashman was heading out to his concrete bed with just a sleeping bag and his arm for a pillow. "The first year, I didn't get a wink of sleep," he said. "But after Year 1, I brought a sleeping pill with me. I don't know if that's cheating or not."

Cashman, did, however, have a cell phone, his lifeline to the rest of the baseball world. And he did admit that in past years, he has taken calls from agents and even proposed a trade or two.

But Cashman, citing collective bargaining agreement rules prohibiting GMs from discussing free-agent negotiations, could offer no specifics on what he might be able to get done from his chosen spot on the cold pavement. So far this winter, the Yankees have traded Francisco Cervelli for pitcher Justin Wilson, sold the rights to Zelous Wheeler to the Rakuten Golden Eagles, Masahiro Tanaka's former club, and added four minor leaguers -- outfielders Tyler Austin and Mason Williams and right-handers Danny Burawa and Branden Pinder -- to the 40-man roster.

Other than that, all quiet on the free-agent front.

"Lots of calls, lots of texts, but nothing to show for it yet," he said. “It’s certainly taking its time, but it’s been busy. Certainly a lot of conversations. Hopefully they’ll lead somewhere positive.”

In fact, so far the only real movement in the AL East was the Toronto Blue Jays' signing of former Yankee Russell Martin to a five-year, $82 million deal earlier this week -- a move that didn't make Cashman's life any easier.

"Toronto got themselves a hell of a player," Cashman said. "I'm a Russell Martin fan. He's a great leader and a great catcher, there's no doubt about that. I know because we had him. I’d rather it not be them because they’re in our division."

As for the Yankees, Cashman said CBA rules precluded him from even admitting whether the Yankees will be players in the sweepstakes for one of the three elite pitchers on the market -- Jon Lester, Max Scherzer and James Shields -- or commenting on talks, if any, with David Robertson, Brandon McCarthy or Chase Headley, which are three free agents the Yankees are known to be interested in.

“I can restate clearly shortstop, maybe third base; the left side of the infield is definitely a priority," he said. "I think we have good pitching, but there’s obviously some volatility in it because of the health status and health histories of some of them. Those are two areas I would like to focus on. Bullpen, clearly with the Robertson circumstance, is an issue. That’s a handful, right off the bat. I can’t really say if any of the big-ticket items are in play or not in play. I’m just going to say we’re doing everything in our power to improve the club. Ownership has always been very beneficial with the resources to put the team on the field.”

Cashman said he still does not know officially if Hiroki Kuroda will pitch in 2015. He did say, "He's way too talented to give it up and retire," and added he still has yet to speak with Alex Rodriguez, although the two have exchanged texts. He also described Wheeler as "excited" over the opportunity to play full-time -- and earn a big-league paycheck -- in Japan next season.

Cashman hinted that anyone who thinks the Yankees' plan to go into 2015 with the same team as last year, minus Derek Jeter and with Rodriguez, might be making a premature judgment.

“It’s way too early to say what kind of team I’m going to have yet," Cashman said. "We’re not even into December yet. Let me get through mid-January and I’ll get a better feel of what kind of team I’m going to have and compare it to last year’s team. But I definitely have work to do, no doubt about that.”

But first, he had to have a sleepless Thursday night on a concrete floor in Manhattan, which certainly won't make his job any easier on Friday.

"I'll be a cranky Yankee tomorrow," he said.

Cashman: Girardi & I aligned on A-Rod

November, 12, 2014
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Brian Cashman said that he and Joe Girardi are on the same page when it comes to the future of Alex Rodriguez.

So when Cashman said Tuesday he is looking to add an everyday third baseman instead of A-Rod, while Girardi said A-Rod is preparing to play third, it was just about semantics, not subterfuge.

"Joe's job and my job are different jobs," Cashman said at the general managers meetings in Arizona on Wednesday. "Joe as manager has to manage the 25-man roster and his desire to coach them up and put them in the best position to feel good and succeed.

"My job right now is different than Joe's job. I've got to get as much talent to Joe as I possibly can and also approach realistic expectations. So Joe is on the same page. If you are asking specifically if we are on the same page? Absolutely."

If A-Rod is on the team as a reserve, does Cashman think Alex will accept it?

"I hope not," Cashman said. "You don't want players who accept diminished roles. You want 25 guys who are fighting for as much playing time as they can get and earn."

As far as Cashman's communication with Rodriguez, the GM said he received a text from A-Rod on his workouts Tuesday. They did not text about the comments or A-Rod's role.

• Cashman met with Scott Leventhal, David Robertson's agent, Tuesday. We reported today that Robertson is looking for "Papelbon money." Cashman wouldn't say if Leventhal said that to him or not, but he did say he expects Robertson to receive top dollar.

• In regards to just-signed Jose De Paula, Cashman sees the hard-throwing lefty as a possible reserve starter. De Paula does have a minor league option, so Cashman felt he was worthy of a 40-man roster spot because the Yankees will have the flexibility to send De Paula up and down. De Paula looks as if he will be a spare part, at best.

• The Yankees may have an assistant hitting coach this season. It is something they have thought about in the past, but never did with Kevin Long in charge of the batters.

First, though, Cashman said he has to hire a head hitting coach before he decides if a sidekick is necessary.

Cashman: A-Rod will have to win a job

November, 11, 2014
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Day 2 of the GM meetings is at an end, and once again, Topic No. 1 with the New York Yankees GM was a player who hasn't played in nearly a year and a half, and if I have to tell you who that is, you're reading the wrong blog.

"In fairness to us and in fairness to Alex, I don't know what to expect because it’s been a year," Cashman said Tuesday in Phoenix. "I just don’t know. You hope that he can contribute in a significant way, but we’ll have to wait and see how that plays out. In the meantime, I have to look for whatever ways to improve the club and discuss those with ownership, what manifests itself as being available and acquirable, we’ll see."

Translation: As I told you Monday, the Yankees are very much in the market for a third baseman because they can't really count on -- OK, here goes -- Alex Rodriguez.

And not just a backup third baseman, either, someone who can step in on those inevitable days when the soon-to-be 40-year-old A-Rod simply can't go.

“If I signed or traded for a third baseman, then that would be my third baseman," Cashman said. “If I signed a Chase Headley, he would be the starting third baseman. If I traded for a third baseman that was an everyday guy, that would be the move I would be making. If I did that. But I'm not here to state that the Yankees have their definitive third baseman for 2015. I have not done anything like that."

So what does that mean for Rodriguez, who is under contract until 2017 and is owed a minimum of $61 million, a number that could swell by another $30 million, in $6 million increments, every time he reaches a contractual home run milestone?

"He’s going to compete for at-bats and for a position," Cashman said. "The position would be third, and obviously DH and that’s it. Maybe some time at first base. He may be eventually the everyday third baseman, he may be the everyday DH; I just don’t know. I'm going to do everything in my power to drum up some opportunities that are realistic and present them to ownership that may or may not involve third base. I don’t know. It’s very early in the process."

Earlier in the day, at an event at Yankee Stadium, manager Joe Girardi repeated that he had spoken to Rodriguez about possibly playing first base. According to Girardi, Rodriguez replied, "We'll talk about it," which is not the same as "We'll try it."

But it certainly looks like for the first time in two decades, Alex Rodriguez will be coming to spring training without a job.

"That has nothing to do with devaluing Alex or disrespecting Alex or anything of that nature," Cashman said. "It’s just a fair assessment of the unknown. You can’t quantify the unknown right now until you get him out there on a consistent basis to see if he can actually remain on the field, stay healthy, be productive and be that middle-of-the-lineup threat and force that we’ve all come to see for years gone by. We certainly hope for significant contributions, but as you enter that process from a general manager’s standpoint, you enter that process with expectations low and hoping for the best."

Cashman also revisited a bunch of topics he had already addressed Monday, including the signing of Chris Young and the Yankees' continuing interest in Stephen Drew, and said he had yet to meet with Scott Leventhal, the agent for closer David Robertson, who Monday rejected the $15.3 million qualifying offer and opted for free agency.

"You know what I always say," Cashman said. "NTR. Nothing to report."

Nothing but the fact after 20 years and 652 home runs, Alex Rodriguez is being asked to prove all over again that he belongs in the starting lineup of a major league baseball team.

Cashman: 'We'll have a closer in 2015'

November, 10, 2014
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Whether the Yankees closer will be David Robertson, Dellin Betances or someone else, well, that he's not so sure about.

Yankees GM Brian Cashman spoke for about 20 minutes after the first session of the GM meetings Monday evening in Phoenix, and as he usually does, he touched on a multitude of subjects, from his newly grown goatee to his ongoing search for coaches to replace Kevin Long and Mick Kelleher.

But the No. 1 topic of discussion was -- no, not Alex Rodriguez -- Robertson, who informed the Yankees earlier in the day he was rejecting the $15.3 million qualifying offer and would seek a longer-term deal as a free agent.

That doesn't mean, of course, that D-Rob's days in pinstripes are over; it appears the Yankees are still interested in negotiating with him and plan to meet with his agent, Scott Leventhal, this week in Phoenix.

[+] EnlargeDavid Robertson
AP Photo/Julie JacobsonThe Yankees would love to turn to David Robertson as their closer next season, but he's no shoe-in.
But with Betances coming off a dominant rookie season and ready to step in if negotiations go south, and with a first-round draft pick coming to the Yankees should Robertson choose to sign elsewhere, anything can happen.

"I would have no clue what his market value is going to be," Cashman said. "Certainly, they’ll have an idea. They turned down the qualifying offer based on a lot of parameters, I’m sure, [and] some discussions they’ve already had. It’s hard to tell."

Cashman went on to enumerate the Yankees' other needs this winter -- namely, a shortstop to replace the retired Derek Jeter, a third baseman to back up or possibly replace the returning Alex Rodriguez and a starting pitcher to replace the (possibly) retiring Hiroki Kuroda. He also said something about having to "see what kind of money we have," as if such mundane concerns ever really trouble the New York Yankees.

But the bottom line, as everyone connected with the Yankees seems to like to say, is it's no slam dunk that Robertson will be back next season -- no more than it was for Robinson Cano, who admittedly commanded a lot more years and dollars than D-Rob will.

"Right now, we don’t have to name a closer for 2015 yet," Cashman said. "Let’s wait and see how the negotiations take with David before I start trying to worry about who that is going to have to be. We’ll have somebody closing games out in 2015. We hope whoever it is is the best candidate possible. We have some people you can give that opportunity to if we’re forced to internally, but let’s wait and see where the conversations take with David first and go from there.”

Among other subjects Cashman discussed:

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On the health of Masahiro Tanaka: "Tanaka’s a question mark ... typically, the problems occur in the throwing program, when they get back on the mound in the rehab process. If you can get through that, and the rehab games, he should be okay. Obviously, he got through two major league starts. So that gives us hope. But there’s no guarantee."

On Kuroda's future: "I’ve talked to his agent. Kuroda’s process is he takes the early portion of the winter to relax and get his mind clear, and then at some point, kicks in about making a decision about playing -- playing in the states, playing in Japan. I think he’s probably still going through that mental cleansing process. But I’d be surprised if he doesn’t play."

On the possibility of pursuing Chase Headley as a free agent: “We’ve had a brief conversation. Chase is on our radar, but I think he’ll be on a lot of radars just like Robertson, just like [Brandon] McCarthy. These guys have all put themselves in a position to have successful conversations this winter. We’ll be a part of the process; whether we’re the ones they re-up with or not, I can't predict. We’re certainly looking forward to continuing the dialogue.”

On why the Yankees re-signed Chris Young: "[Yankees stats analysts] Steve Martone and Mike Fishman pushed for me to sign Chris. They felt, from an analytical standpoint, his year wasn’t as bad as it played out, that there was a potential bounce-back situation with it. We signed him up on what we think is a fair-market value, fourth-outfielder type contract. We wanted a right-handed bat with power, which doesn’t exist much in the game anymore, it seems like. He fit that category. Our coaches are comfortable with him, [and] he played well in the small sample that we had him in September, so he certainly earned the right to come back, and I’m glad that we both were able to find common ground.”

On the expectations for CC Sabathia: "Sabathia’s supposed to be fine. He had a knee cleanup. It’s just really, can he ever regain pitching at the front end of the rotation versus what we saw in the last year and a half? But he’ll be healthy."

On the candidates for next year's second base job: "[Rob] Refsnyder and [Jose] Pirela are going to take a shot in second base, if that’s the direction we choose. With [Martin] Prado’s versatility to play the outfield, second and third, it gives us a lot of flexibility."

And of course, on everyone's favorite third baseman-in-exile: "I’m not going to comment. There’s a lot of, obviously, new information since I spoke to you guys last, at least new from my perspective. I’ve seen the articles, but I’m not going to comment on that."

So what does the GM expect from his team in 2015?

"I do believe we have a chance, if we make a couple moves like we did in-season, if we can run into a few things we can target that will make us better, I think we can be right back in the playoff mix."

SPONSORED HEADLINES

TEAM LEADERS

WINS LEADER
Masahiro Tanaka
WINS ERA SO IP
13 2.77 141 136
OTHER LEADERS
BAJ. Ellsbury .271
HRB. McCann 23
RBIB. McCann 75
RB. Gardner 87
OPSB. Gardner .749
ERAH. Kuroda 3.71
SOH. Kuroda 146