That moves the Hot Stove spotlight prominently onto Max Scherzer, a pitcher whom Yankees executives are said to prefer over Lester and fellow free agent James Shields.
The price tag will be steep for Scherzer, who turned down a seven-year, $160 million proposal from the Tigers last year, according to agent Scott Boras. Speaking on Wednesday at the Winter Meetings in San Diego, Boras said that he believes Scherzer would make a lot of sense in the Bronx.
“I think the Yankees have always been — again, that model of having 50 wins and 600 innings [in the rotation] to win has worked very well for them,” Boras said. “You can go back and find when [Roger] Clemens was the No. 1 or [Mike] Mussina was the No. 1, or [Andy] Pettitte. They won a lot of world championships with that formula.
“The idea of them having No. 1 pitchers certainly would add protection to where their current pitchers are, take innings off of them, give them a little bit of an umbrella where you have someone to lead and be the No. 1. I can’t predict what the Yankees are going to do, but I can tell you that a guy like Max fits into their starting rotation to develop a World Series-caliber set that is similar to what they’ve had in the past when they’ve won.”
That’s a case Boras surely will make directly to the Yankees, assuming it has not already been delivered.
Asked specifically this week if he planned to get involved in a chase for a pitcher of Scherzer’s caliber, general manager Brian Cashman kept his words to a minimum, replying, “It’s not in my best interests to say.” Cashman is scheduled to speak with reporters later tonight.
- Boras also noted that Stephen Drew has received interest from clubs about playing second base, and that he is open to that idea. The Yankees have spoken about having prospects Rob Refsnyder and Jose Pirela compete to serve as the Opening Day second baseman in the event that Martin Prado is manning third base.
Asked for his opinion of last week’s Didi Gregorius trade, Boras said:
“It’s not a traditional Yankee placement where they would maybe go out and get a veteran player to replace Derek Jeter. But certainly going out and doing what they’re doing in the bullpen, and other pursuits that could go on this offseason would lead you to be believe that of course they’re trying to compete.”
The Yankees are saying that they have reached their spending limit for the offseason and consider themselves out on free agent shortstop Stephen Drew, according to a person with knowledge of the situation.
Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said last week that the Masahiro Tanaka signing represented the team’s final big splash of the winter, and thus far the organization has been proceeding as though that is the case. Their stance toward Drew has been chilly at best, as the club does not want to commit to a multi-year deal with the 30-year-old infielder, who also has Draft compensation attached because the Red Sox gave him a qualifying offer.
Drew’s name has popped up in connection to the Yankees because of their uncertainty at multiple infield positions. Shortstop Derek Jeter played in just 17 games last year, second baseman Brian Roberts has missed 445 games over the last four seasons and the Yankees are tentatively planning on a third base platoon that will involve Kelly Johnson and Eduardo Nunez.
The New York chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of America is holding its annual awards banquet tonight in Manhattan, and in addition to all of the major award winners from the 2013 season (MVPs, Cy Youngs, Rookies of the Year, etc.), there will be some Yankees flavor to the event.
Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte are being honored with the Toast of the Town award, while David Robertson will be on hand to pick up the Good Guy Award, as voted upon by the chapter’s members. It promises to be a star-studded event, and you can take a peek at the full lineup here.
Here’s Robertson talking with MLB Network about the event and more…
Now, because we’re long overdue for one, here’s a brief run-down on what’s happening in Yankee-land — just in case you’ve tuned out for what turned out to be a very, very busy week:
- Hey, Masahiro Tanaka is a Yankee! It’s hard to imagine you missed that story, but just in case, the price tag was seven years and $155 million, plus the $20 million posting fee to the Rakuten Golden Eagles. Tanaka can opt out after the fourth year of the deal, and said in Japan that his goal is to win a World Series. The Yankees had the top bid, and thus secured the player.
He’ll slide behind CC Sabathia and could be the Yankees’ No. 2 or No. 3 starter to open the season. A brief scouting report, based upon things we’ve heard in our travels: great command, a fastball in the low-to-mid 90’s that can ramp up a few miles per hour more when he gets in tight spots, and a devastating splitter that looks like a fastball before it falls off the table. It’s a true strikeout pitch. You’ll also see a slider, changeup and curveball from him.
He’s been throwing his bullpens with Major League balls to help the adjustment process, and pitching coach Larry Rothschild has been busy watching video of Tanaka’s starts for Rakuten. Tanaka will wear uniform No. 19, so that Chris Stewart jersey you bought last year can be recycled at last. Derek Jeter sounds pumped about the signing, essentially saying that pitching is the key to the kingdom.
- Joe Torre is going into the Hall of Fame with a Yankees cap. Since he’s being enshrined for his managerial career, it’s not like there was much of a debate here. Still, it’ll be good to see the skip get his day in Cooperstown. His speech should be a memorable one.
- Brian Cashman said that much of the heavy lifting is complete, but don’t be surprised if the Yankees make a few extra moves before getting down to Tampa. The bullpen and third base are two of their main areas of concern; they’re comfortable going with what they have, but will pull the trigger on something that makes sense. Third base right now is going to be some mix of Kelly Johnson, Eduardo Nunez, Scott Sizemore, Dean Anna and whoever else they can take a look at this spring. The bullpen could use another arm to get the ball to Robertson in the ninth.
Gary Sanchez and Mason Williams cracked the list of MLB.com’s Top 100 prospects. They had three in the Top 100 last year, as Tyler Austin dropped off the list. … Left-hander David Huff was sold to the Giants. He came off the 40-man roster to make room for Tanaka. … Hockey is happening at Yankee Stadium. Good weather for it. … Rupert Murdoch is preparing to take majority control of the YES Network, with the Steinbrenners retaining a 20 percent stake. … And I’ve got to bust out a suit tonight. That’s twice in a week, which is a lot for me.
I had a nice chat with Mark Teixeira recently for a holiday feature about his childhood Christmas memories, a story you can read here. Of course, we also talked a little baseball. Here are some of the highlights:
On the Yankees’ offseason so far:
“I’m really happy with the moves. We had plenty of holes to fill, unfortunately, but when you can go get Brian McCann, Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran before Christmas – even guys like Brian Roberts and Kelly Johnson, I think can be huge pickups for us. I’ve played against Brian for 11 years; I’ve played with Kelly in Atlanta, so I know what kind of quality guys they are. They’re going to fit in great with our clubhouse. I think they’re going to do a great job on the field as well. I’m really excited.”
On his rehab from right wrist surgery:
“I’m close to 100 percent. I feel like I’m healed. I wish I was a little bit looser; my wrist is going to be tight for a while because of the way the surgery was performed. They had to kind of tighten everything up to make it secure. It’s still a little bit tight, but that’s why I’m doing rehab every day and doing exercises every day. I’ll start swinging a bat in January and that will also help loosen it up.”
On if there are any doubts about being ready for Opening Day:
“I don’t have any doubts. I have to prove to myself that I’m 100 percent and I hope I’ll be 100 percent next month. You won’t really know until you go out and play that first game in Spring Training. When someone throws a 95 mph fastball in on your hands, if I can turn on that pitch and have no tightness or no pain, then I know I’m OK.”
On his Yankees wishes for 2014:
“I would love for us to round out our pitching staff, both in the starting rotation and the bullpen. If we add a couple more pieces, I think we go into 2014 with a great shot. I know Cash has worked really hard and I give him a lot of credit for what he’s done so far. I wouldn’t mind unwrapping a present after Christmas with a couple more guys on the pitching staff and we’ll be ready to roll.”
On expecting the ’14 Yankees to be a championship-caliber club:
“That’s obvious. Even based on last year, I don’t think anybody’s expectations have changed. I’d be remiss to talk about the last time the Yankees didn’t make the playoffs, what happened in that next season. Hopefully that happens again. I’m very confident that we’re going to go into the season with high hopes and we’ll see what happens.”
The Yankees have had a busy two days here at the Winter Meetings, but thus far they have not been able to cross the finish line on any deals. General manager Brian Cashman is hopeful that they will leave Walt Disney World with at least one player in the fold, but he also understands that it is just as likely they’ll be able to continue conversations once the team contingent returns to New York.
Here’s a rundown of quick hits from yesterday’s coverage:
- Plenty of teams are calling about Brett Gardner. The Yankees are listening, but not shopping him. Cashman said he has also received calls on Ivan Nova, Gary Sanchez and J.R. Murphy. The Yankees like having two players who could patrol center field in Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury.
- The Yankees are moving on from Robinson Cano. Joe Girardi acknowledged that Cano wasn’t happy batting second last year. Cashman said that for $240 million, he would have done the same thing.
- Joe Torre is about to have his number retired. New Mets outfielder Curtis Granderson took a good-natured swipe at his former team.
- The Yankees have checked in with free agent third baseman Mark Reynolds. Cashman said he could see a right-handed batter platooning with Kelly Johnson at third base, but the Yankees also could play Johnson at second base or in the outfield.
- A starting pitcher is more likely to be signed via free agency than acquired by trade. The top free agent starters are currently judged to be Matt Garza, Ervin Santana and Ubaldo Jimenez. Like the rest of the league, the Yankees are waiting for clarity on the Masahiro Tanaka situation. Girardi named David Phelps, Adam Warren, Michael Pineda and Vidal Nuno as rotation candidates.
- The Yankees asked the Reds about Homer Bailey, and were told no.
- Cashman refused to speak to the Carlos Beltran situation, as Beltran’s contract is still not official. Speaking in general terms, Cashman said that the Yankees like the flexibility of a power switch-hitting combination like they’ve been accustomed to with Bernie Williams/Jorge Posada or Nick Swisher/Mark Teixeira.
- Having a healthy Teixeira back at first base upgrades the Yankees, Cashman said. He still sees question marks at second base, third base and shortstop, though Joe Girardi said that Derek Jeter is “having a normal offseason” and “feels great.”
- Girardi said that he is “not sure” how Ichiro Suzuki will be used. The Yankees would move Ichiro, who is due $6.5 million in 2014. The Giants aren’t a fit.
- The Yankees are looking for bullpen help, both righties and lefties. They’re in touch with Boone Logan. Girardi sees David Robertson, Shawn Kelley and Preston Claiborne in the pen right now.
- Michael Pineda is coming in healthy and will compete for a rotation spot. Gil Patterson saw him a month ago in the Dominican and reported that Pineda is “in great shape,” Cashman said.
- Manny Banuelos, if healthy, is expected to be at Triple-A.