Mariano Rivera has moved rather seamlessly into life as a retired player, and along with that comes the freedom to serve as an armchair general manager.
The former Yankees closer voiced his reaction to the free-agent signings of catcher Brian McCann and outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury, and as he told MLB.com, they’ll help the Yankees in 2014. But Rivera still wants to see some movement on the mound.
“They have made good moves,” Rivera said. “I want to see pitching. I want pitching. Offense is good, but we need pitching. But those two players will be two great acquisitions, two good players, and hopefully they do it here in New York.”
On the pitching front, the Yankees have no sure things in the rotation beyond CC Sabathia and Ivan Nova. They’ve made Hiroki Kuroda an offer to return, and are monitoring developments with Japanese star Masahiro Tanaka. David Phelps, Adam Warren and Michael Pineda are among the others in the mix. They also need bullpen help.
Rivera also touched on the situation with Robinson Cano, pointing out that he had several opportunities over his career to leave the Yankees via free agency (remember, the Red Sox even made a serious bid for his services). Rivera stayed in New York, and he is hoping that Cano does the same.
“I chose to stay home because I grew up here,” Rivera said. “The New York Yankees are the best organization there is in sports, period. Hopefully Cano does the right thing, but I want him to be happy. Whatever he does, I want him to be happy.”
The Yankees will create the tangible proof on Thursday in the Bronx, parading new catcher Brian McCann before a gathering of reporters and photographers to herald the slugger’s first moment wearing pinstripes.
For now, a brief news release has made it official. The Yankees announced on Tuesday that they have signed the 29-year-old McCann to a five-year contract extending through the 2018 season, including a vesting option for the 2019 campaign.
The deal, worth a reported $85 million over the first five years, gives the Yankees a much-needed offensive upgrade behind the plate. A seven-time All-Star, McCann owns a career .277 batting average and leads all Major League catchers in home runs since 2005.
“The singular and unwavering desire of this organization is to construct a team each and every season designed to play meaningful baseball deep into October,” Yankees managing general partner and co-chairperson Hal Steinbrenner said in a statement.
“In Brian McCann, we feel we have made a significant improvement to a key position, while adding a high-character presence to our clubhouse. Our work this offseason has just begun, but we feel this is an important step towards what will be an exciting and rewarding 2014 season for our fans.”
The Yankees and McCann reached agreement on a contract before the Thanksgiving holiday, but the deal was held up from being officially announced until McCann could undergo his physical.
A time has not yet been given for the press conference, which will be carried live by the YES Network.
The Yankees have traded Chris Stewart to the Pirates for a player to be named later. The deal was officially announced on Monday morning.
The soon-to-be-completed signing of free agent catcher Brian McCann displaces Stewart, who served as the Yankees’ starting catcher for most of last season. Stewart had been a prime candidate to be non-tendered in advance of tonight’s 11:59 p.m. ET deadline for arbitration-eligible players.
The Yankees project to have Francisco Cervelli, Austin Romine and J.R. Murphy in camp to compete for a job as McCann’s backup next spring. General manager Brian Cashman has said that he “absolutely” expects to tender a contract to Cervelli, who is also arbitration-eligible.
Stewart turns 32 in February and batted .219 with eight home runs and 25 RBIs in 109 games (97 starts at catcher) for the Yankees in 2013, which seemed to be a bit too much exposure for the career backup. With the Pirates, he’ll once again be backing up Russell Martin.
One last thought: Let’s take another look at the ridiculous double play that Stewart turned against the Red Sox back in July (where was Daniel Nava going, anyway?).
Now that they have agreed to a five-year contract with free agent catcher Brian McCann, the Yankees’ next move could come with outfielder Carlos Beltran, according to the New York Daily News.
The Yankees would love to make progress with Robinson Cano, Hiroki Kuroda and Masahiro Tanaka, their other main targets, but those discussions are held up for a variety of reasons. Thus, Beltran may be one of the next names to come off the board. The Yankees would prefer to give Beltran a two-year contract, while it has been reported that Beltran is looking for a three-year commitment.
Beltran turns 37 in April. The switch-hitter posted a split line of .296/.339/.491 in 145 games for the Cardinals this past season, slugging 24 homers and 84 RBIs. He has expressed interest in joining the Yankees before; through his agent at the time, Scott Boras, Beltran pitched his services to the Bombers at a discounted rate before agreeing with the Mets on a seven-year deal. Beltran is now represented by Dan Lozano.
General manager Brian Cashman has said that the Yankees liked Beltran during that ’04-’05 offseason, but they were already locked in with Bernie Williams as their center fielder at the time, and also felt bogged down by big-money pacts with players like Jason Giambi and Mike Mussina.
Big news coming out of the Bronx this evening…
NEW YORK — The Yankees are on the verge of completing a bold upgrade behind the plate, agreeing to terms on Saturday with free agent catcher Brian McCann on a five-year contract worth at least $85 million.
McCann, widely regarded as the top available catcher in this year’s market, will need to pass a physical before the deal becomes official. The Yankees have not made an announcement regarding the signing.
The deal includes a vesting option for the 2019 season that could push its overall value to $100 million, a source confirmed to MLB.com. It also contains a full no-trade clause.
McCann, who will turn 30 on Feb. 20, spent each of his first nine Major League seasons with the Braves, making seven All-Star teams and winning five Silver Slugger Awards.
In 102 games last season, he hit .256 with 20 home runs, 57 RBIs and a .796 OPS. McCann’s left-handed power stroke figures to fit nicely in Yankee Stadium, restoring some of the punch that the Yankees sorely lacked from their catchers this past season.
New York struggled to find offensive production from their catchers, giving extended playing time to Chris Stewart, Francisco Cervelli and Austin Romine after declining to match the two-year, $17 million contract Russell Martin found with the Pirates.
With general manager Brian Cashman and manager Joe Girardi agreeing to try their defense-first catching alignment, the Yanks’ backstops produced an overall line of .213/.289/.298 with only eight home runs and 43 RBIs.
McCann projects to lean more toward the levels of power production that the Yankees received from Martin and, before him, fan favorite Jorge Posada. McCann has hit at least 20 homers in each of the last six seasons and owns a career split line of .277/.350/.473.
Curtis Granderson may have declined a qualifying offer from the Yankees, but his career in pinstripes is not necessarily complete. Yankees general manager Brian Cashman told the New York Post that Granderson “is a serious part” of the club’s offseason blueprint, and that they could retain the left-handed hitting outfielder.
“We remain interested,” Cashman told the newspaper. “He is not a [fall-back] option.”
Yankees president Randy Levine said this week that Cashman is currently engaged with “five or six” free agents. The club is believed to have had contact with representatives for outfielders Carlos Beltran and Shin-Soo Choo, as Cashman has said that he would like to upgrade an outfield alignment that currently projects to field Alfonso Soriano, Brett Gardner, Vernon Wells and Ichiro Suzuki.
Granderson was limited to 61 games this past season. His agent, Matt Brown, said during the GM Meetings that Granderson is “absolutely open” to coming back to the Yankees; the Mets and White Sox have also been reported to be interested.
There is no going back: Alex Rodriguez has given his statement, on the record. Rodriguez claimed on Wednesday that he is completely innocent of using performance-enhancing drugs, as well as every other allegation that led to Major League Baseball hitting him with an unprecedented 211-game suspension back in August.
Rodriguez’s denials did not come under oath, but instead in the court of public opinion in WFAN’s New York studios. Rodriguez parachuted in for a surprise appearance with host Mike Francesa that lasted nearly 40 minutes, with Rodriguez stating that he “shouldn’t even serve one inning” of a suspension.
The appearance came after Rodriguez stormed out of the hearing room in midtown, slamming a table and kicking a briefcase in a furious response after arbitrator Fredric Horowitz refused to order Commissioner Bud Selig to testify in Rodriguez’s hearing.
“I’m done. I don’t have a chance,” Rodriguez said on WFAN.
In a statement released on Wednesday, Major League Baseball explained why Selig was not called to testify:
“In the entire history of the Joint Drug Agreement, the commissioner has not testified in a single case. Major League Baseball has the burden of proof in this matter,” the statement read. “MLB selected Rob Manfred as its witness to explain the penalty imposed in this case. Mr. Rodriguez and the Players Association have no right to dictate how Baseball’s case is to proceed any more than Baseball has the right to dictate how their case proceeds. Today’s antics are an obvious attempt to justify Mr. Rodriguez’s continuing refusal to testify under oath.”
Rodriguez was accompanied in WFAN’s studios by attorney Jim McCarroll, who said that Rodriguez will not testify unless Selig does. Rodriguez also released a statement through his representatives, saying that he would no longer participate.
“I am disgusted with this abusive process, designed to ensure that the player fails,” Rodriguez said. “I have sat through 10 days of testimony by felons and liars, sitting quietly through every minute, trying to respect the league and the process. This morning, after Bud Selig refused to come in and testify about his rationale for the unprecedented and totally baseless punishment he hit me with, the arbitrator selected by MLB and the Players Association refused to order Selig to come in and face me. The absurdity and injustice just became too much. I walked out and will not participate any further in this farce.”
In the Francesa interview, Rodriguez repeatedly said “I did nothing,” denying that he used steroids or performance-enhancing drugs supplied by Anthony Bosch or the Biogenesis clinic. Rodriguez briefly discussed his relationship with Bosch during the WFAN interview.
“It was nutrition and it was weight loss,” Rodriguez said. “And Bosch wasn’t the only guy. I traveled the world to see doctors, cutting-edge stuff, but always between the parameters of Major League Baseball. And I have hundreds of e-mails that will be part of evidence, which I can’t get into, that backs me up 100 percent.”
In response to a question from Francesa, Rodriguez acknowledged that he is “angry” at the Yankees, but said that he has a responsibility to the team and does not believe he would have any issues fitting back into the clubhouse.
“I feel like I should be there Opening Day,” Rodriguez said.
In a brief aside, Rodriguez also denied that he gave a signed baseball to two female fans during the 2012 American League Championship Series, as was widely reported. Rodriguez said that if he had done so, it certainly would have been captured by one of the many television cameras perched around Yankee Stadium.
The Major League Baseball Players Association released a statement following Rodriguez’s exit from the hearing room, disagreeing with Horowitz’s decision to excuse Selig from testifying.
“The MLBPA believes that every player has the right under our arbitration process to directly confront his accuser. We argued strenuously to the arbitrator in Alex’s case that the commissioner should be required to appear and testify. While we respectfully disagree with the arbitrator’s ruling, we will abide by it as we continue to vigorously challenge Alex’s suspension within the context of this hearing,” the statement read.
Another of Rodriguez’s lawyers, Joseph Tacopina, appeared on ESPN Radio and told host Michael Kay that further litigation may be in the future. Rodriguez has already sued MLB and Selig in state court, as well as a lawsuit against Yankees team physician Dr. Christopher Ahmad that alleges medical malpractice.
Rodriguez said during the WFAN interview that he is so upset at the situation that “right now, I can’t even think straight.” Rodriguez said that he would return home to spend time with his daughters. The hearing is scheduled to resume on Thursday without Rodriguez’s presence.
I opened the door this morning to learn that the New York Post spent their night having a bit of fun with Photoshop, dressing Robinson Cano in the orange and blue of a Mets uniform.
Quite the sight, isn’t it? Of course, I can still remember seeing Bernie Williams painted into a Mets uniform on the back cover of a tabloid somewhere around ’99 or 2000 – headline: “PICTURE THIS.” That never quite came to fruition.
In any event, this Cano business is a compelling story. Cano’s representatives reportedly requested a meeting with the Mets last night at a “posh” Manhattan hotel; Jay-Z was there, as was agent Brodie Van Wagenen, but the Post reports that Cano did not attend the dinner. Mets COO Jeff Wilpon, GM Sandy Alderson and assistant GM John Ricco are said to have represented the ballclub.
The timing is curious, considering Alderson said last week at the GM Meetings that he couldn’t see his club giving out a $100 million contract this winter. That seemed to rule the Mets out for the likes of Shin-Soo Choo and Jacoby Ellsbury. Cano, as you well know, has set the bar highest of all the free agents with a 10-year, $305 million asking price.
And then there’s this tidbit that Anthony DiComo tucked into his writeup:
Over his first three offseasons as Mets GM, Alderson has not given out a free-agent contract larger than Frank Francisco’s recently-expired two-year, $12 million pact.
Considering the Dodgers and Magic Johnson said very early that they will not get involved in bidding for Cano, preferring to back their Brinks trucks up to keep Clayton Kershaw happy, it makes sense that Cano’s side is looking to press another team against the Yankees to drive up the price.
No better place to start than right across town. I wonder who picked up the check?
The bags are packed and baseball is moving out of the JW Marriott Orlando Grande Lakes, signaling the conclusion of the General Managers’ Meetings and Owners Meetings for 2013-14.
Yankees managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner, team president Randy Levine and chief operating officer Lonn Trost were on hand for meetings this morning with Commissioner Bud Selig. Yankees GM Brian Cashman was also present for the conference, and said that he is looking forward to getting back to New York.
Cashman and the Yankees met with several agents and spoke to other GMs during their time here in Orlando, but there does not appear to be an imminent deal at this time. It is still early in the winter, and the GM Meetings are typically used as an information-gathering session and a jumping-off point for talks.
“As little as I have to report right now, it’s a necessary evil to walk through this process in the front end,” Cashman said.
Asked if he had made any offers to free agents while he was here, Cashman replied: “I wouldn’t say.”
The baseball world is now free to scatter, but we’re not done with Orlando for 2013: the Winter Meetings will be held Dec. 9-12 at the Walt Disney World Swan & Dolphin resort.
Yankees GM Brian Cashman held court this afternoon here at the General Managers’ meetings in Orlando and said that he remains interested in all options to improve the club’s bullpen, including looking at closers.
Mariano Rivera obviously isn’t coming back (though it looks like we’ll see him next spring — more on that later), but Cashman indicated that the Yankees haven’t decided that David Robertson is a lock to elevate from the eighth inning to the ninth inning.
“I’m not sure if Robertson is capable yet. He’s never done that before,” Cashman said. “I think he’s earned the right to take a shot at it, and he very well may be the guy. But we’re not anointing him the guy. We’ll wait to see how our winter plays out and how Spring Training works out. Then Joe [Girardi] and Larry [Rothschild] will determine at some point at the end of Spring Training who our closer is.”
For what it’s worth, Robertson said at the end of the season that he wasn’t taking anything for granted:
“I don’t feel like any of the passing of the torch has been done, because I don’t know what’s going to happen next year,” Robertson said. “I haven’t been told anything.”
More quick hits from today’s session at the GM Meetings:
Cashman said that he has “whispered to a club here or there when I can” since arriving in Orlando. He plans to stay at the meetings until Thursday.
A source said that the Yankees have serious interest in outfielders Shin-Soo Choo and Carlos Beltran. Cashman said that he needs to explore adding an outfielder, but that likely falls behind piecing together 400 innings for the rotation on the priority list.
“If Granderson accepted [the qualifying offer], I would’ve been excited and happy and it would have been solved,” Cashman said. “I have more pressing needs than outfield. In terms of a priority list, that’s not as big a priority as some other aspects of the club. That doesn’t mean I won’t be talking to the outfielders either.”
As far as free agent catching: “We will explore if we can improve offensively at that position and see where that’ll take us. There’s some that interest us. Most don’t.” Cashman added that he’ll “absolutely” tender a contract to Francisco Cervelli.
As Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News first reported, the Yankees will be playing split-squad games against the Marlins in Panama on March 15 and 16.
The D-backs haven’t officially requested permission to speak with Mike Harkey about their pitching coach job, but they’re expected to. Cashman said he’ll grant permission, as it’s a promotion over Harkey’s current bullpen coach job.