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Empty-handed at Winter Meetings, Yankees ready to deal

Brian CashmanWith a backpack slung over his shoulder, Brian Cashman stood on the sidewalk in front of the Manchester Grand Hyatt and didn’t mince words in recapping his uneventful stay by the surf in San Diego.

“I didn’t do anything,” Cashman said. “We threw a lot of ideas a lot of different ways, but we’ve got a long way between now and Opening Day. We’ll keep our conversations that still are ongoing alive, and just wait and see.”

The Yanks tried to join the frenzy at a wild Winter Meetings, but their experience will be remembered more for who they lost. It was a week in which the Yankees watched David Robertson take a four-year, $46 million deal from the White Sox, then learned that Brandon McCarthy had scored a four-year, $48 million pact from the Dodgers.

In both cases, the Yankees declined to extend a proposal, other than the qualifying offer that Robertson turned down last month. In Robertson’s case, they decided that they’d rather have the package of Andrew Miller on a four-year, $36 million deal and a compensatory Draft pick, giving them a few extra dollars to spend. As for McCarthy, Cashman said that he “figured the market would take him at a level that we couldn’t play on.”

Thus, the Yankees’ needs are exactly what they were five days ago. Here’s a handy recap of how we covered the team’s business at the Winter Meetings:

Andrew MillerDay 1: Miller joined the beat reporters on a conference call and said that he feels capable of handling the closer’s role, though that opportunity did not come up in his talks with the Yankees and he plans to accept any role that manager Joe Girardi hands to him. Now tracking the Yanks’ Hot Stove moves as an interested observer, Miller said he feels that New York’s bullpen already looks formidable on paper.

“I think I can get three outs at any point in the game, wherever that may be,” Miller said. “Whatever it is, it’s fine with me. I want to win. I want to shake hands and high-five at the end of the game more than anything. If I have to get two outs in the sixth, there’s value in that.”

Cashman and the Yankees contingent arrived just before noon and sequestered in their suite for conversations with teams and agents. Sometime during the day, Cashman met with agent Scott Leventhal and told him that the Yankees would not bid on Robertson. Word of Robertson’s agreement with the White Sox then moved through the hotel lobby around midnight.

Joe GirardiDay 2: Girardi checked in at the Winter Meetings and said that even with the loss of Robertson, he believes that his club won’t have trouble holding late leads next season.

“We feel that our bullpen is going to be very strong again,” Girardi said. “We feel like we have a number of great arms. I’m not really worried about that because of the arms we have down there, and I feel like we’ll have a very good bullpen.”

With Miller and Dellin Betances potentially in line to jump into the closer’s role, Girardi also mentioned Justin Thomas, Adam Warren and Shawn Kelley as options to help out in a closer-by-committee situation. The Yanks would prefer to have a set closer by Opening Day. Cashman revealed that he publicly kept the Yankees in Robertson’s mix following the Miller signing to help him maximize his free agent value.

During the week, Cashman confirmed that he spoke to several teams about trades that hit dead ends. Among them — the A’s for Jeff Samardzija, the Dodgers for Dee Gordon, the Tigers for Rick Porcello and the D-backs for Wade Miley. In Porcello’s case, Cashman says that he obviously didn’t have a player like Yoenis Cespedes to offer; in Gordon’s case, the Dodgers were already moving forward in talks with the Marlins.

“I just said, if you see any fits, let me know,” Cashman said.

Prior to last week’s Didi Gregorius trade, the Yanks had also talked to the Phillies about Jimmy Rollins. One minor note from this day – earlier reports that the Yankees hired Marcus Thames as an assistant hitting coach are said to be false, according to Cashman. In fact, Thames was never interviewed. The search to replace Kevin Long and Mick Kelleher is taking a back seat to pursuing trades and free agents.

Scott BorasDay 3: Following the news of Jon Lester choosing the Cubs over the Red Sox, Scott Boras took his annual place as the center of attention at the Winter Meetings (hey, I’m in this photo!) and attempted to dangle Max Scherzer in front of the Yankees’ eyes.

“I can’t predict what the Yankees are going to do,” Boras said, “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 won.”

Cashman replied: “Good, that means he likes the four we’ve got!” Yankees people still state that they do not plan on issuing another nine-figure pitching contract; industry people are saying they aren’t so sure about that.

By this point, the Yanks had checked in with free agent closers Sergio Romo and Jason Grilli. There was also an Alex Rodriguez update – A-Rod was seen in Miami by strength and conditioning coordinator Matt Krause, who issued a positive report. Rodriguez is heavier than his listed playing weight of 225 pounds, but Cashman said there has been progress.

On the third base front, the Yankees continued to talk to Chase Headley. The switch-hitter is reported to have a four-year, $65 million offer in hand from an undisclosed team, and if that is true, the Yankees are unlikely to match it. Cashman said the Yanks are ready to roll with Martin Prado at third base if it comes to that, giving Rob Refsnyder and Jose Pirela a crack at the second base job. They could also go after the likes of Asdrubal Cabrera or Jed Lowrie. Boras mentioned that Stephen Drew is willing to sign as a second baseman.

Cashman also reaches out to Hiroki Kuroda’s agent, Steve Hilliard, who tells the Yankees that Kuroda has not reached any decisions about 2015. Kuroda is said to be once again entertaining thoughts of retirement, though Cashman has said that he expects Kuroda to pitch next season.

News of McCarthy’s deal with the Dodgers breaks late in the evening. Cashman soon confirms that the Yankees didn’t make him an offer. I file a fun story about Eric Chavez’s new front office/coaching gig.

The Yanks’ only pickup of the meetings? The reported Minor League signing of infielder Nick Noonan, a move that has not been announced by the club.

Day 4: The quiet Winter Meetings conclude with the Yankees idle in the Rule 5 Draft, opting to keep their three vacant 40-man roster spots clear for future trades and free agent signings. They also do not lose any players. Rumors briefly connect the Yanks to free agent Ervin Santana, who signed a four-year deal with the Twins.

The Yanks’ adjoining suites on the 29th floor are vacated; the room service bill is likely substantial. In wrapping up the meetings, assistant GM Billy Eppler said that the Yankees’ attitude has been one of patience rather than frustration.

“You always want to walk out of here with something to show for it, but when you make headway in certain arenas, it makes you feel like you’ve been able to drill down on some things that hopefully will present themselves in the coming days,” Eppler said.

Yankees at the Winter Meetings, Day 3

Things have started to move with more urgency here at the Winter Meetings, with the Jon Lester logjam finally clearing last night. As you know, Lester selected the Cubs and their six-year, $155 million offer over a chance to return to the Red Sox.

The Yankees were never seriously in on Lester, despite speculation that they could make a last-minute pounce (a la Mark Teixeira ’09), but pitching remains at the top of Brian Cashman’s wish list. Yankees people have been said to prefer Max Scherzer over Lester anyway, though it remains to be seen if Hal Steinbrenner can stomach another nine-figure pitching contract after issuing a couple to CC Sabathia and Masahiro Tanaka already.

Brandon McCarthy’s market seemed to pick up a baseline this week when Francisco Liriano inked a three-year, $39 million extension with the Pirates, and if the Yankees could bring McCarthy back for those kinds of numbers, the sense is that they’d jump on that. McCarthy has expressed interest in returning.

On the relief front, the Yankees have talked to the agent for Jason Grilli and could give a serious look to Sergio Romo, who is also reported to have nibbles from the Giants and Tigers. Luke Gregerson – a name the Yankees weren’t really connected to – came off the board early today, with the hurler accepting a three-year deal with the Astros. Houston also inked Pat Neshek.

Even without another move, Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances could do the job, in theory. Cashman said yesterday that he doesn’t know if the Yankees have their 2015 closer on board.

“We’re not a finished product,” Cashman said. “We are having a number of conversations with clubs and agents. Our closer might be on this roster, he might not be here right now. I just don’t know yet.”

Chase Headley’s situation also should come into focus now that the Giants have resolution on their Lester chase; the defending World Series champs were runners-up in the hunt for Lester, Pablo Sandoval and Yasmany Tomas, so they could use a first-place finish on something.

The Marlins are said to be interested, but not heavily, in Headley, and we still don’t know where that reported four-year, $65 million offer came from. Joel Sherman of the New York Post offers this perspective on Headley’s market:

For what it’s worth, Cashman declined to identify a No. 1 priority on his list of Yankee to-do items.

“My top priority is to solve whatever I can solve, because we have multiple areas of need,” Cashman said.

This and that:

  • Those reports that the Yankees hired Marcus Thames as the assistant hitting coach are false, Cashman said, adding that Thames was not even interviewed for the Yanks’ coaching vacancies. Cashman said that he would have to hire a head hitting coach before entertaining the idea of bringing in an assistant. Finding replacements for Kevin Long and Mick Kelleher has become a lower priority than the trade and free agent market, he said.

    We’ll have more from San Diego later today on

  • Yankees at the Winter Meetings, Day 2

    A significant domino in the Yankees’ offseason plan fell late last night, as David Robertson accepted a four-year, $46 million deal with the White Sox — Mr. “Sweet Home Alabama” opting to make it “Sweet Home Chicago.”

    Robertson isn’t the highest-paid closer in history, falling shy of the mark still held by Jonathan Papelbon, but he certainly will be well-paid on the South Side. Turning down the Yanks’ $15.3 million qualifying offer seems like it was the right move for Robertson, a home-grown Yankee who now leaves the club with only four remaining members from the ’09 World Series club.

    As news of Robertson’s deal moved through the hotel lobby last night, my thoughts flashed back to the final game of the season at Fenway Park, when I asked Robertson if he’d considered the chance that he just took off a Yankees uniform for the final time. I thought there might have been some sentimentality involved for him during those last few innings in the bullpen, but I was wrong.

    “Yeah, I’m not going to discuss that at all,” he replied. “I don’t know what’s going to happen, we’ll just see how things play out.”

    So, this is how it played out — the Yankees had expressed some hope of re-signing Robertson early in the free agent period, tossing him verbal bouquets about his performance in taking over Mariano Rivera’s old job, but that optimism had seemed to wane in recent days. General manager Brian Cashman’s public commentary regarding Robertson essentially had reduced to, “We’ll see.”

    In New York’s eyes, they obtained some insurance for Robertson’s possible departure by inking Andrew Miller to a four-year, $36 million contract late last week, and Dellin Betances is coming back from a dominant All-Star season. There is also some appeal to the compensation pick that the Yanks now have in the 2015 Draft.

    Jack Curry of the YES Network offers this detail:

    So Robertson moves on, leaving the Yankees with a question mark at the closer spot. Miller and Betances would be the likeliest in-house fits, unless the Yanks sign a free agent like Jason Grilli or Sergio Romo, or can trigger a trade. As we wrote in last night’s wrap, pitching is the Yanks’ focus here at the Winter Meetings, though Chase Headley is still available and there have been rumblings that he could pick a team by Thursday.

    Speaking of picking a team, getting that whole Jon Lester logjam cleared up might move a few other things along, though the Yanks don’t necessarily view it that way. The Yankees still haven’t been definitively connected to the “big three” of Lester, Max Scherzer or James Shields, unless we count a few puffs of smoke like this:

    Last week, a few of the reporters were asked to rate the chances of Lester coming to certain teams on a scale of 1-10, where one was near-impossible and 10 was a mortal lock. I put down ‘4’ for the Yankees, even with the absence of any solid link between them — hey, it was only a few years ago that Cashman slipped out the back door of the Bellagio and slapped $161 million on CC Sabathia’s Vallejo, Calif. doorstep.

    The Yanks like to pull off those kinds of stealth moves if they can. The talk has been about waiting for guys like Brandon McCarthy, and that interest does seem sincere. (The Pirates re-signing Francisco Liriano to a three-year, $39 million deal provides a guide for McCarthy’s next contract.) Still… until we see any of the bigger arms holding another team’s hat, I’d prefer to leave the light on for a stunner.

    Today should be a busy day at the Winter Meetings — Cashman is expected to meet the media at some point, and Joe Girardi is scheduled to hold his manager availability session at 6:30 p.m. ET. We’ll have more thoughts and updates here and on later in the day.

    David Robertson “letting it all play out”

    Yankees reliever Shawn Kelley joined me for a phone interview this week, participating in a Thanksgiving feature that will appear on over the holiday. During our conversation, we touched upon the situation with free agent closer David Robertson, who recently turned down a $15.3 million qualifying offer from the Yankees and is reportedly seeking a four-year pact.

    “We’ve talked once in a while; I’ll shoot him a text, or we have a little bullpen group message feed that we keep in touch with,” Kelley said. “Not a lot about baseball, but I’ve texted him personally to see what his thoughts are. Honestly, I think he’s just kind of letting it all play out at this point. Since he turned the qualifying offer down, he might as well hear what the teams have to say and see what the best situation is personally for him.”

    Kelley, who just completed his second season with the Yankees, believes that Robertson has strong feelings about the idea of staying in pinstripes.

    “I know he loves New York, I know he’s close with Mariano (Rivera) and wants to kind of follow in Mariano’s footsteps,” he said. “I’m sure there’s a big part of him that probably wants to stay in New York, but he’s got to do what’s best and see what’s out there. That’s where he’s at in his career right now. I’ll support anything he does. We’re close friends, we always will be and I want what’s best for him and his family.”

    As the top closer available on the open market, Robertson and his representatives made a calculated gamble in declining the Yanks’ qualifying offer. One report suggested that Robertson is seeking “Jonathan Papelbon money,” approaching the $50 million pact that Papelbon signed with the Phillies, and Kelley said he couldn’t resist ribbing Robertson about what he’d turned down.

    “I even texted him, just joking around, and said, ‘Man, did you ever think you’d be turning down $15.3 million?'” Kelley said. “But if you look into the circumstances, there are obviously a lot of reasons why it probably makes more sense. But if you just think about being a little kid and someone said, ‘Hey, I’ll give you $15 million to play one year,’ I think it would’ve been hard to turn down.”

    With an eye toward the Hot Stove, Kelley also likely echoed the reaction of many American League East pitchers after hearing the Red Sox had signed both Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez.

    “I’m thinking their lineup is getting a little tougher; it already did when they got (Yoenis) Cespedes and now Hanley and Pablo,” he said. “That’s going to be a dangerous lineup. I always hope that those free agents sign with National League teams so I don’t really have to face them. That’s part of it and teams are positioning themselves to put together 25 guys that are going to take them to the World Series. It’s not getting any easier in our division.”

    Offseason updates from Yankees manager Joe Girardi

    Yankees manager Joe Girardi was among those on hand this morning at Yankee Stadium, where the Yankees and the USO took over the Great Hall to help produce more than 5,000 gift packs that will be delivered to active servicemen and servicewomen in remote areas of Afghanistan this holiday season.

    Girardi spent about 15 minutes speaking with the media, his first public comments since the end-of-season press conference following the final game of the year. Alex Rodriguez’s preparation and return to the active roster dominated much of the conversation, but there were also other notable topics discussed.

    Here’s a rundown, kicking off with the non-Alex talk:

    On David Robertson turning down the Yankees’ qualifying offer: “David was great for us. You know that you face those situations every time that people have the opportunity to become free agents. He’s been a tremendous pitcher, he has helped us be very successful here and helped us be a World Series club as well. He was great.”

    On the hope to bring back Robertson on longer term deal: “Yeah, I think anytime you’re negotiating and things like this happen, your hope is that the players are always going to come back.”

    On Chase Headley: “He really shored up our defense on that side, played a great third base, grinded out at-bats. Had some big hits for us and showed an extreme amount of toughness and was great in the clubhouse.”

    On Dellin Betances as an option at closer: “Well, obviously, he did a very good job last year. It’s somewhat of a different mentality, but there were days that he had to close the game out in the fifth inning, sixth inning, seventh inning. It’s a step. I think he’s capable of handling it. We have not named a closer, I can’t tell you who we’re going to sign and what we’re going to do, but obviously with what he did last year, you have a lot of belief in him.”

    On Brandon McCarthy: “He pitched really well. We’ve seen him pitch like that before against us. He struggled in Arizona for whatever reason, but he pitched really well for us. … He showed he had the ability to pitch in NY and I think that’s important, too.”

    On the Yankees’ most pressing needs for 2015: “I think there’s some question marks in our starting rotation, No. 1. There’s some questions in our bullpen and there’s some question marks on what our infield is going to be. Those are the big things we need to address. I think our outfield is fairly set, and there’s some health questions that we have. We expect Carlos (Beltran) to be 100 percent, we expect CC (Sabathia) to be 100 percent, we expect (Masahiro) Tanaka to be 100 percent, but you have to prepare in case something goes on, that you have depth.”

    On naming Kevin Long’s replacement as hitting coach:
”There’s no exact timetable. Obviously you’d like to round out your staff, but I’ve managed teams where we didn’t round out our staff until Christmas.”

    On his reaction to Long’s dismissal:
 “He worked very hard for us, and him and I had a very good relationship and talked about a lot of different things concerning the game. Obviously when you don’t win, a lot of times there’s going to be changes. Sometimes it’s in my spot. Sometimes it a coach’s spot. Sometimes it’s in the front office. Sometimes it’s players. It’s part of the business. He had a very good run here and was productive for us.”

    On other health updates:
 “(Martin) Prado is doing well. Gardy (Brett Gardner) is doing well. CC’s been doing well. Carlos has been doing well. All these guys. (Ivan) Nova’s been doing well; very pleased with where he’s at. So, we’re happy, but we’re a long ways away and they’re not on the field yet.”

    On Tanaka: 
”Everything’s OK. But he really hasn’t done much, so it’s hard to say.”

    On Sabathia: 
”He’s been throwing. Everything’s been up and up on him, and he comes in here — I don’t know — three times a week? Three or four times a week? Something like that. Everything’s good. We like where he’s at, but we’re a long ways from April 1 or whenever we open.”

    And now, without further delay, let’s hit the A-Rod content…

    On having spoken to A-Rod: “Yeah, I’ve talked to him. Stayed in touch. He’s working out, trying to prepare himself to be an everyday player next year. Obviously he’s played 40 games in the last two years, I think. We’re going to have to see where he’s at in Spring Training, but he’s working and he’s trying to get prepared.”

    On A-Rod’s position: “We’re preparing him to play third base, but like I said, I think you have to see. Obviously we believe there’s going to be some DH days in there. You’ve got to see where he’s at. I mean, he is going to be 40, he hasn’t played a whole lot in the last couple of years. But our hope is that he comes back and is a very productive player for us.”

    On how many games A-Rod can play: “It’s like with Jeet. I think you have to see how they’re doing physically every day and how they’re responding when they’re playing five, six, seven days in a row and if they can do that. It’s really too early to really predict that.”

    On A-Rod’s mindset: “I think he’s excited to get back on the field. We all know Alex. That’s what he loves to do, he loves to play. He loves to compete. I’m sure he’s excited. It’s getting closer.”

    On A-Rod possibly playing first base: “I just brought it up. I said, on a day that we give Tex a day off, maybe it’s something that we’ll think about. He said we can talk about it, obviously. We’ll talk about it more as the season goes on, but I think you have to see. I think what I want to do is give him a little preparation. Depending on what happens over the winter and the makeup of our club, it could be possible that I might ask you to do that.”

    On seeing A-Rod in person: “No, not yet. We’ve talked on the phone, we text. We’ve e-mailed. We’ve done a lot of things, and it’s been on a pretty regular basis.”

    On A-Rod’s litigation and other legal issues: “I’m not worried about that. My job is worrying about preparing him to play, and making sure that he’s prepared and how he’s doing physically every day.”

    On A-Rod’s workouts so far: “It’s weights. Yeah, he’s doing some (baseball) stuff. We don’t need him to do a whole lot. The normal process is you start throwing in January. There’s no reason to start throwing really early. It’s not going to put him any farther ahead. He’s taken some swings. Right now, it’s physically get your body ready to play 162 games.”

    On how to handle A-Rod’s spring workload: “I think you have to see how he’s physically doing. There’s ways you can be creative, you can send him to Minor League games to give him eight or nine at-bats a day, maybe DH him a little bit more. Until we get there, until I see how he’s doing physically and how he’s responding, it’s really hard to predict. You just try to prepare him best you can.”


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