- Andrew Marchand, ESPN Senior Writer
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NEW YORK -- The New York Yankees have three more holes to fill this offseason as starter Hiroki Kuroda, closer Rafael Soriano and right fielder Nick Swisher did not accept the team's $13.3 million, one-year qualifying offers.
"I'm not surprised whatsoever," Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said. "I expected it."
Under the new collective bargaining agreement, the Yankees will receive a first-round pick if the players sign with another club during free agency. The Yankees are still eligible to retain all three, but are expected only aggressively to pursue Kuroda. The players had until 5 p.m. ET Friday to officially decide.
"I like the fact that we can continue dialogue with everybody that we would like to and still be in position to gain draft picks as a worst-case scenario, which would benefit our farm system as we move forward," Cashman said.
The Yankees have 12 free agents who ended last year on their active roster.
Even before struggling again in October, the feeling on both sides of the negotiations was that Swisher would not return to the Bronx next season. It wasn't that the Yankees or Swisher were unhappy with the relationship. Rather, owner Hal Steinbrenner has stated his goal is to reduce payroll by 10 percent to avoid the luxury tax, making it less likely that the Yankees would want to offer Swisher a multiyear, big-money deal.
Second baseman Robinson Cano, outfielder Curtis Granderson and right-hander Phil Hughes are set to become free agents after the 2013 season, so the Yankees want to maintain as much financial flexibility as possible.
Swisher's skill set of power and patience appeals to the Yankees, but they're still not expected to be players for the 32-year-old in free agency.
Swisher has hit just .169 in 154 postseason at-bats. He was a favorite of the fans during his four years in the Bronx but fell out of favor with the Bleacher Creatures after he said they were too harsh on him during the four-game AL Championship Series sweep by the Detroit Tigers last month.
Kuroda, 37, finished 16-11 with a 3.32 ERA this past season. He made $10 million on a one-year contract. Besides a potential return to the Yankees, teams that already have been linked to Kuroda are his former club, the Los Angeles Dodgers, and the Boston Red Sox. Yankees manager Joe Girardi acknowledged earlier in the week that he has heard Kuroda eventually may want to finish his career in Japan.
The Yankees' rotation is unsettled for next year. After ace CC Sabathia, the team doesn't have its No. 2 or 3 starters from this past season yet signed. Left-hander Andy Pettitte has yet to inform the Yankees of his plans, although immediately after the season he spoke as if he would like to return in 2013.
The Yankees have Hughes and right-hander Ivan Nova as potential starters for next year. Nova, though, fell out of the rotation at the end of this past season.
David Phelps, who had a 3.34 ERA as a rookie, could have a shot at a rotation spot. The Yankees are not counting on right-hander Michael Pineda, who had shoulder surgery and isn't expected to be ready to pitch in major league games until June at the earliest.
Boras has hinted for weeks that Soriano would go on the open market. With Mariano Rivera deciding to return for 2013, Soriano would be pushed back to the seventh- or eighth-inning role with the Yankees. Cashman has basically closed the door on Soriano's return under those circumstances.
"I don't think Soriano would sign here if he's not going to be the closer," Cashman told ESPN New York's Wallace Matthews earlier this month. "And I don't think we would do again what we did before. He's going to want closer money, and I doubt he would want to come back here as a setup man."
Under the provisions of his three-year contract, Soriano was due to make $14 million in 2013, but he decided to opt out of that deal and into free agency. With the struggles of Tigers closer Jose Valverde and Boras' strong working relationship with the franchise's owner, Mike Ilitch, Soriano has been strongly linked to the American League champions. The right-hander turns 33 next month and likely will seek at least a three-year contract.
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