Cone: “Free agents do not need to apply here”
While he was there, Cone delivered a few thoughts on the state of the Yankees, who have been relatively quiet so far this offseason. Cone believes that the Yankees are very serious about the $189 million payroll target for the 2014 season, and as such, he seems to expect that there won’t be much moving and shaking on the free agent market for Brian Cashman and company this winter.
He probably has a point; the Yankees look much more inclined to try for one-year contracts, and reportedly never made an offer to also named the revamped Blue Jays as his favorite in the American League East. Here are some of the highlights from the group interview Cone conducted in the Great Hall; it’s good reading…
On what the Yankees need to do this winter:
“They’re a little hamstrung right now because of the payroll issue. Obviously they’re serious about that, they’re going to get under that threshold next year. They need the veteran pitchers to come back. They need [Hiroki] Kuroda and [Andy] Pettitte to say yes. That helps a lot. Then they can concentrate on replacing [Nick] Swisher, finding the right combination – whether it’s Ichiro [Suzuki], finding the right mix in that outfield. If Pettitte says no and Kuroda says no, that just leaves some gaping holes in the rotation, so then Cashman’s got more work to do. He’s already got a tough job this winter, but if he’s got rotation problems, it’s going to be that much more difficult.”
On the impact of the $189 million objective:
“It’s shaking up the free agent market, that’s for sure – not just this year, but a couple of years; probably since ’09 or ’08. A lot of agents are out there waiting for the Yankees to get back in the game and they’re not in the game. It may take a couple of more years. I think most people realize this is probably a one-year thing with the Yankees so they can reset the tax rate. If they get under one year then maybe the Yankees will be back in play again. Free agents do not need to apply here, as far as right now.”
On the mindset of the Yankees under Hal Steinbrenner:
“I think they’re hungry to win, but I think it’s a different philosophy. There are more metrics being used, more analysis on the back end. There’s definitely a different way of going about business. I still think the hunger to win is there. Obviously there’s a glitch in the road here with the payroll. They really do need to get under the threshold to reset the tax rate. They’re serious about it, there’s no doubt it’s going to happen, so for a year or two here they’re going to have to get creative.
“I’m sure revenue is an issue for them, but they make money on the YES Network. They have a lot of sources of revenue. Honestly, I think it’s more about the brand with them; protecting the brand. Winning is a big part of that, without a doubt. They really need to get creative in terms of their roster for a year or two, even though it’s hard to feel sorry for the Yankees at $189 million. No one is ever going to feel sorry for the Yankees. They do have some contracts that obviously they have to contend with.”
On the changing of the Yankees’ philosophy since George Steinbrenner:
“Definitely, the philosophy has changed. George, he would have been the one knocking on the door of some of these free agents. He would have been on Albert Pujols last year. He would’ve been in on some of the big free agents. That’s just not the case right now. Not to say that they won’t do that in the future, but they’re going to be very careful about which guys they choose, and how far out they go on long term deals.”
On if George Steinbrenner would have tried to get under $189 million:
“He probably would’ve. It’s hard to say. If there’s somebody like Albert Pujols out there, that’s the kind of guy George would’ve loved to have had here. It would’ve been interesting to see him resist somebody like him. George was a good businessman too, he would’ve got the numbers and understood it was a one-year thing and they just needed to reset for one year to get under the threshold, then they could go back again and be active.”
On the Yankees’ 2012 postseason:
“The fact that they were a little too one-dimensional with home runs hurt them, although Ichiro did give them a spark at the end. That’s why the fans reacted to Ichiro so strongly, he’s such a popular guy. Yankees fans loved the fact that he was here and gave them a different dimension. Maybe with [Brett] Gardner coming back, maybe they can get that dimension back. Two years ago they had it; [Curtis] Granderson actually ran the bases better two years ago along with Gardner. They weren’t quite as one dimensional two years ago as they were last year.”